From The New York Times:
The New York attorney general, Letitia James, on Monday accused the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and three bishops connected to it of engaging in a years-long cover-up of sexual abuse by priests in violation of church policy and state law.
The lawsuit is the first state legal action against the Catholic Church in New York since a new wave of abuse investigations began in 2018, and it is the culmination of just one of eight inquiries, one for each Catholic diocese in the state. The other seven inquiries are ongoing and could yield further lawsuits.
The lawsuit represents what prosecutors believe is a novel legal strategy: The state will attempt to use civil laws, in particular those governing religious charities and their fiduciaries, to sue a Catholic diocese for failing to follow church policies enacted in 2002, after a series of investigative reports by The Boston Globe thrust the sex abuse scandal into public view.
It also may also raise questions about religious liberty: In addition to restitution and changes in the way the diocese handles sexual abuse claims, the lawsuit seeks to ban two bishops from management roles in any charitable organization — a demand that may draw pushback from those who believe this encroaches into church autonomy.
The attorney general said its investigation found that the diocese and its two former top leaders, Bishop Richard J. Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz, used bureaucratic maneuvers to shelter more than two dozen priests accused of harming children.
Ms. James said in a statement that the prosecution aimed to right both a breach of trust and “a crisis of faith.”
“For years, the Diocese of Buffalo and its leadership failed to protect children from sexual abuse,” she said. “Instead, they chose to protect the very priests who were credibly accused of these atrocious acts. Individuals who are victims of abuse deserve to have their claims justly and timely investigated and determined, and the Buffalo Diocese refused to give them that chance.”
Greg Tucker, a spokesman for the diocese, said it was reviewing the lawsuit and was committed to working with the civil authorities to investigate “alleged crimes and complaints.”
“In the meantime, we wish to reiterate that there is zero tolerance for sexual abuse of a minor or of sexual harassment of an adult in the Diocese of Buffalo by any member of the clergy, employee or volunteer,” he said. “The diocese has put in place rigorous policies and protocols governing required behavior as well as a code of conduct which all clergy are expected to abide by.”