Cardinal Timothy Dolan appointed a retired judge on Thursday to independently review the way the Archdiocese of New York has been handling the sexual abuse cases involving Catholic priests and church workers.
Conceding that this has been a “summer of hell” for the Roman Catholic Church, Dolan also admitted that the recent revelations that bishops in Pennsylvania turned a blind eye on pedophile priests and the sex scandal involving Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has left his flock “bewildered, frustrated and angry.”
“Autumn can’t come fast enough,” Dolan said at a press conference.
So, Dolan said, he has tapped Judge Barbara Jones to do "an exhaustive study of our policies, procedures and protocols on how we deal with any accusation that comes to us about an alleged abuse of a young person by a priest, a deacon or a bishop. I’ve promised her complete access to our records, personnel and to me personally.”
Dolan said the church has taken several steps to address the pedophile priest scandal but he knows "many don't believe me."
"So I’m asking you please to conduct an independent, scrupulous review to see if indeed there are gaps," he said, turning to Jones.
Jones, who was recently tasked with reviewing documents seized by the FBI from President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, said Dolan promised her "unfettered access" to church documents and personnel.
"The cardinal has told me to leave no stone unturned," she said. "I would not have taken this assignment without those assurances." Jones spent nearly 17 years as a federal judge in the Southern District of New York.
Dolan's announcement came a day after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops established a hotline to field complaints about sexual abuse of minor and harassment of adults that will be monitored by a third party.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has also set up a clergy abuse hotline and an online complaint form that victims and tipsters can use to identify pedophile priests.
Underwood has also launched a civil investigation into allegations that the New York archdiocese covered up the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and church workers.
“The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover-ups in the dioceses," Underwood said in an earlier statement. "Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well."
Underwood was referring to a scathing report released last month by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro that revealed decades of child abuse allegations against 301 accused “predator priests” involving more than 1,000 child victims.
It revealed that just two of the priests were charged with crimes because Pennsylvania prosecutors were hamstrung by the state's statute of limitations laws.
New York also has statute of limitations laws that victims of clergy abuse say protect pedophile priests from criminal prosecution and protect the church from civil suits.