Cardinal Appoints Former Judge To Review Church Sex Abuse Policies
Former judge in the U.S District Court for the Southern District of New York, Barbara S. Jone, and Archbishop of New York Cardinal, Timothy Dolan, speak during a news conference in Manhattan, New York, Sept. 20, 2018. Reuters/Jeenah Moon

On Thursday, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York appointed a former federal judge to review its procedures and protocols amidst growing dissatisfaction with the way it handled sexual abuse allegations against members within the clergy.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan talked about how many Catholics informed him of being let down by the church’s hierarchy after a “summer of hell,” as he announced the appointment of Barbara Jones. Jones, 71, who was present alongside the cardinal at a news conference Thursday.

“Based upon this review I certainly see a robust infrastructure in place with the archdiocese," Jones said. “But my job now will be to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing programs and policies in that infrastructure.”

She added she already started an initial review of the archdiocese efforts going back over 25 years.

The past few months were tumultuous for churches all over the country, especially after a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing the widespread sexual abuse by members of the clergy and their systematic cover-ups was published early August. The accusations of sexual abuse against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, DC., added to the growing dissatisfaction.

A few weeks ago, the New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced a criminal investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of children and cover-ups within Catholic dioceses in the state. She issued summons to all eight Catholic dioceses in the state for documents containing information about the same, and how they were investigated and handled by the church.

Cardinal Dolan did not talk about the state investigation when he made the announcement Thursday but talked about pressure from followers.

“If I lost the trust of my people and this community, I don’t have a lot left,” he said at the news conference.

He told Jones, a former district judge for the Southern District of New York, that her “careful review and hard questions will help my good people renew their trust in the church they love and the leaders they want to believe.”

"I look forward to receiving your recommendations and your insights and I pledge that I’ll take them all with the utmost seriousness — and I want you to hold my feet to the fire if you feel that I’m not following through on the recommendations that you make," Dolan told Jones, a report on NBC New York said.

The Manhattan-based archdiocese is simultaneously opposing proposed changes to New York laws which would ease time constraints on civil lawsuits, making it easier for people who were abused a long while ago to come forward and sue the church.

Meanwhile, the church is trying to convince its followers that it was serious about reform with the announcement, a report on the Associated Press said.

Two years ago, the archdiocese announced it was starting an independently administered compensation fund for victims of clergy sex abuse willing to drop lawsuits against the church. According to reports, about $60 million was paid out so far. The idea was copied by other dioceses across the country.

Even with criticisms against the church for allegedly covering up sexual abuse cases, four men reached a $27.5 million settlement with the diocese of Brooklyn earlier this week. They alleged they were sexually abused when they were children by a teacher at a Catholic church.

According to advocates of the survivors of clergy sexual abuse, any effort from the church authorities to curb abuse might not produce meaningful results.

“If there is a chance of making it transparent and accountable, it will be thanks to the efforts of Attorney General Underwood, not an investigator paid by the cardinal,” Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the Massachusetts-based, said. “Although we don’t doubt Ms. Jones’ sincerity, we’ve yet to see one of these internal reviews produce significant systemic change or even damaging revelations.”

The New York Archdiocese is the nation’s second-largest archdiocese after Los Angeles.