AG Needs Power To Prosecute Predator Priests

Many of the Roman Catholic priests accused by a Pennsylvania grand jury of molesting hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children since the 1940s cannot be brought to justice. Some are dead. For most of those still alive, statutes of limitations have passed, meaning they cannot be prosecuted.

Allegations of sexual abuse by the priests are disturbing enough. But the grand jury’s other conclusion, that some church officials covered up for the predator priests, is worse.

Surely, if the evidence is solid, some means can be found of holding those officials accountable.

Even worse than the complicity of some church officials are the grand jury’s findings that some police and prosecutors knew of sex abuse allegations — but did not investigate them, out of “deference” to the church.

Those law enforcement officers and officials should be punished, too.

No doubt the very scope of the grand jury report will cause some to doubt its accuracy. But if even a fraction is true, some means of getting justice simply must be found.

Twenty-seven of the priests mentioned in the Pennsylvania grand jury report have ties to New York, including one priest alleged to have abused girls at Peak ‘n Peek in 1978-79. A spokeswoman for Barbara Underwood, New York’s attorney general for the rest of this year, told The Buffalo News that the state Attorney General’s office doesn’t have the authority to investigate a diocese for its handling of sexual abuse allegations.

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature really want to lead on the issue of priest sex abuse, creating a mechanism in state law allowing the Attorney General’s office to investigate these crimes — as has been done in Pennsylvania — is a good first step. Surely, no reasonable person can argue against the need for an investigation by a grand jury. Such an investigation is likely the only way to know just how far and wide the abuse scandal truly reaches.


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