Catholic officials in Brooklyn agree to an independent oversight of clergy sex abuse allegations

NEW YORK (AP) — An independent monitor will oversee the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn's handling of sexual abuse allegations under a settlement between the diocese and New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The agreement announced Tuesday will address “years of mismanaging clergy sexual abuse cases,” James said.

Investigators with the attorney general's office found that officials with the diocese failed to comply with their own sex abuse policies put in place after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002.

In one case, the attorney general said, a priest who admitted that he had repeatedly sexually abused minors was defrocked in 2007 but requested confidentiality. The diocese kept the abuse secret until 2017 when it announced for the first time that this priest had been credibly accused of and admitted to abusing children. The priest worked as a professor at two universities in the intervening decade.

Another priest was transferred from parish to parish after diocesan officials learned of problems with his conduct in the 1990s, James said. A nun who was the principal of a school in the diocese quit her job in 2000 because she had witnessed the priest behaving inappropriately with young boys, but the diocese only issued a warning. The priest was not removed from duty or barred from interacting with minors until 2018, James said.

As part of the settlement, the diocese has agreed to strengthen its procedures for handling allegations of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct, including publicly posting an explanation of the complaint and investigation process.

An independent, secular monitor who will oversee the diocese’s compliance with the enhanced policies and procedures and will issue an annual report on the diocese’s handling of sexual abuse cases.

Officials with the diocese, which includes the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, said they have cooperated with investigators and have worked to prevent future instances of abuse by clergy.

Brooklyn Bishop Robert Brennan, who has led the diocese since 2021, said in a statement, “While the Church should have been a sanctuary, I am deeply sorry that it was a place of trauma for the victims of clergy sexual abuse. I pray God’s healing power will sustain them.”

The attorney general's office began investigating eight of New York's Catholic dioceses in September 2018. A settlement with the Diocese of Buffalo was announced in October 2022. Investigations into the other dioceses, including those in Rochester, Albany and Syracuse, are ongoing, James said.