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New sex abuse lawsuits against Catholic priests could push NY dioceses to bankruptcy

the Roman Catholic Church
Sacred Heart Cathedral
the Catholic Church
the state Assembly
James, Vernon & Weeks
Leander James
The Diocese of Albany
Independent Mediation Assistance Program
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the Irish Christian Brothers
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Matthew Leonard
Carlos Ortiz
O’Hara Carney
Peter Conroy
Letitia James
J. Michael Reck
John Heathwood
Albert Cason
Robert O'Neill
Robert Hoatson
Andrew Cuomo
Seth Wenig
Rev. Cason
Ronald Benjamin
Leander James
Mitchell Garabedian
Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Douglas Mandalero
Robert Lunn
James Faluszczak
Jeffrey Anderson
Bernard Carges
Daniel Condon
Donald Bolton
Ronald Frederick
Sean Lahman
Steve Orr
Virginia Butler
Josh Shapiro
Sandra Doorley

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He did this to me, and it’s been following me my whole life,” said Carney, who is 60 years old.How priest abuse lawsuits could push NY's Catholic dioceses into bankruptcyEarlier this week she signed the paperwork authorizing a lawsuit be filed against Conroy and the Jesuits.“I just want acknowledgment,” said Carney, who added she hopes legal action will hold Conroy and his order to account, alleviate some of the anguish that she and her family feel and support the people who have worked to bring the church’s secrets to light.The church’s reconciliation program is private, though victims are free to speak about their cases. But New York’s limitations for claims of child sexual abuse were among the most severe in the country.Consider what happened with three high-profile civil actions filed against the Rochester diocese and its clergy:Rev. Albert Cason (1972 photo) (Photo: File photo)In each of those cases, lawyers had what they believed was credible evidence that the plaintiffs had been sexually abused and left deeply scarred.But they never had the opportunity to present that evidence in court. Officials of the Catholic Church resisted the proposal until it was amended to make clear that victims of abuse in any milieu, not just the church, could bring suit.It was adopted almost unanimously by the state Assembly and Senate in January, and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Feb. 14.The group of men who say they were abused by Rev. Cason, including the plaintiffs of the failed suit in 2002, also are considering going back to court, according to their lawyer, Ronald Benjamin of Binghamton.The 10 men who sued Rev. O’Neill intend to bring fresh litigation against the churches where O’Neill worked and against the Rochester diocese."The new law makes it possible to revive that case. More victims have come forward since 2002 and may join the litigation, he said.The long-awaited liberalization of New York’s statute of limitations for child sexual abuse has brought lawyers who specialize in such cases flocking to the state.Firms are holding news conferences and flooding the airwaves, newspapers and the internet with advertisements soliciting clients. "For those sexual abuse victims who have unfortunately taken their own lives because of the trauma of being sexually abused, you have not been forgotten."It was in part a concern about being overwhelmed by a tsunami of lawsuits that prompted Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who oversees New York’s eight dioceses, to propose an alternative.“With the Child Victims Act coming and pressure mounting and mounting, I think Cardinal Dolan ...and the bishops saw their own constituencies were against them on the issue and they had to do something,” James said.The Diocese of Albany was the first diocese in the state — and one of the first in the nation — to establish an Independent Mediation Assistance Program in 2004. Only two priests working in the Rochester diocese have been publicly accused of committing acts of abuse in the last 20 years.The reconciliation programs are run by independent lawyers paid by the dioceses to decide whether there is credible evidence the claimant suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a priest or other church official.If they find the claim credible, the administrators offer financial compensation. Jeffrey Anderson, another well-known lawyer, named 112 at a Manhattan news conference last week.Lawyers who make a practice of suing the church say they are aware of many more, including some who worked in the Rochester diocese.James said several involved other priests who have not been publicly identified as abusers before.One such name came to light last week, when James said the first victim to receive a settlement under Rochester’s reconciliation program had been abused decades ago by the Rev. Bernard Carges. They obtained more than 500,000 pages of never-before seen material from the diocese.The grand jury did not bring any criminal charges but did recommend changes to state law, including the creation of a window for civil suits such as the one incorporated in New York’s Child Victims Act.The intent of the New York Attorney General’s investigation is to learn “how the dioceses and other church entities … reviewed and potentially covered up allegations of extensive sexual abuse of minors.”The office plans to name abusive priests in the same way Pennsylvania did, according to Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley, who participated in a conference call about the investigation.The probe is not using a grand jury to compel testimony as far as is known, though the office has subpoenaed records from all eight of the state’s dioceses dating back to 1950.Morgan Rubin, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, declined to comment on the investigation.But Leander James, who has spent decades trying to wrest documents from the church, said he believes investigators likely obtained “sub-secreto” files — the paper kept under lock and key in each diocese that document abuse by clergy and church officials’ handling of it.These records, James said, are what will make the investigation a “game-changer.”

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