New York Archdiocese changes abuse plan
In a departure from earlier policy, the Archdiocese of New York announced on Wednesday that it will report sexual abuse allegations directly to prosecutors without first conducting an internal review.
"When the archdiocese has reason to suspect that a priest has sexually abused a minor, it will report the complaint to the appropriate district attorney's office without review by any advisory committee," the policy says.
The archdiocese serves 2.4 million Catholics in parts of New York City and in seven suburban counties.
Under a previous policy that went into effect on 8 April, complaints brought to the church were to be reviewed by a panel of church officials and lay members, who would then decide which allegations to report to authorities. The policy encouraged accusers to go to the authorities.
The neighbouring Brooklyn and Rockville Centre dioceses have also agreed to forward allegations against priests without first conducting their own screening. All three dioceses - serving a total of about 4.5 million Catholics - have revised their policies on several occasions in recent months.
Moving incrementally, they have gone from handing over nothing to prosecutors, to handing over information on past cases, to agreeing to hand over all new allegations.
Fr Tom Reese, editor of America, the Jesuits' national Catholic magazine, said a trend is under way in the American church to do away with review boards.
"I think that what we see happening is that the bishops are deciding that simply because nobody trusts them anymore, they are turning over everything to the prosecutors and then it's up to the prosecutors to decide what is credible," he said.
Archdiocese Releases Addendum to its Abuse Policy (Media Release 15/5/02)
Archdiocese of New York
17 May 2002