Diocese Sought to Prevent Survivors from Putting Top Officials Under Oath and Getting the Diocese’s Secret Abuse Files
(New York, NY) – Today, Justice Steven Jaeger of Nassau County Supreme Court denied the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s motion to stay all child sex abuse lawsuits brought against the Diocese under the Child Victims Act (CVA). The Diocese’s motion sought to have all proceedings against it stalled while it asked a higher court to rule the CVA unconstitutional. This would have stopped all discovery against the Diocese, meaning that top officials would have been able to avoid testifying under oath and the Diocese would be able to continue to hide its secret documents about child sex abuse in the Diocese.
In denying the Diocese’s motion, Justice Jaeger ruled that the Diocese’s appeal of the constitutionality of the CVA “lacks merit” and that the survivors would be prejudiced by a stay.
“This decision is a green light for all survivors in New York and paves the way for survivors to uncover the truth and reclaim some of their power,” said attorney Jeff Anderson.
The Diocese’s latest attempt to halt the CVA lawsuits follows the Bishop’s strategy of putting up every conceivable roadblock to intimidate and discourage survivors from coming forward.
Battleground for Survivor Rights in New York State
In August of 2019, the New York CVA opened a one-year look-back window allowing survivors to bring claims for child sex abuse. While hundreds of claims against the Catholic Dioceses have been brought across New York State, the bulk of New York Bishops’ efforts to defeat the law has been taking place on Long Island.
- On May 13, Nassau County Court Supreme Court denied the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s attempt to throw out 44 lawsuits filed under New York’s Child Victims Act.
- On May 15, a parish of the Rockville Centre Diocese filed a notice of appeal challenging Judge Jaeger’s order allowing a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to proceed under the pseudonym “ARK3 Doe”. “This appeal is a bald-faced scare tactic to discourage survivors from coming forward,” said Anderson.
- On May 29, the Diocese of Rockville Centre joined several parishes in filing notices of appeal challenging the Nassau County Supreme Court decision that allowed childhood sexual abuse cases filed under the Child Victims Act to proceed.
“The Diocese of Rockville Centre is opting for scorched earth litigation against the survivors of childhood sexual abuse,” said Anderson. “Bishop Barres should come clean about the atrocities committed against children in this Diocese and immediately seek ways to help survivors heal instead of inflicting more pain through the legal process.”
The Suffolk Grand Jury Report
The Diocese of Rockville Centre is the only Catholic Diocese in New York to not release an official list of clerics credibly accused of sexual abuse.
On February 10, 2003, the Suffolk County Grand Jury released a report following an investigation into the Diocese. The Grand Jury examined personnel records of the diocese’s priests, including secret archive files of 43 priests. The Grand Jury concluded that “officials in the Diocese failed in their responsibility to protect children” and “ignored complaints about the sexually abusive behavior of priests.”
“The Suffolk County Grand Jury issued its report about the Diocese over 17 years ago. It is still absolutely horrifying to read,” said attorney Pat Stoneking. “The report describes abuse and rape of children spanning decades. Even worse, these terrible acts were committed by the most trusted figures in a Catholic child’s life, only to be covered up by the Diocese so more children would suffer. The Grand Jury repeatedly describes how the Diocese was consistently more concerned about its reputation than it was ever concerned about the children suffering at the hands of all of these priests. It is time for that to change.”