In January 2019, the New York State Legislature passed the “Child Victims Act.” It gives adult survivors of child sexual abuse a window of time in which to file civil lawsuits against their abusers, and or any public or private institution that may have been involved in allowing the abuse to take place.
Specifically, the new law allows child victims to file civil lawsuits until they reach the age of 55 (when it was previously to age 23), and criminal lawsuits until the age of 28. The bill also includes a one-year window allowing victims of any age to bring claims against their abusers.
A few months following the passage of this act, the Archdiocese of New York—the nation’s second-largest Roman Catholic Archdiocese—released a list of 120 clergy members who had been “credibly accused” of sexually abusing a minor, possessing child pornography, or who were the subject of a claim that was deemed eligible for compensation.
Review Board Checks Abuse Claims Against Specific Criteria
About three-quarters of the accused clergy were ordained between 1908 and 1969, with most ordained in the 1950s and 1960s. The list—which contains names, dates of ordination and current status—includes priests, deacons, and bishops who were incardinated in the Archdiocese of New York, but doesn’t include any priests belonging to religious orders or institutes.
The bulk of the alleged abuse took place in the 1970s and 1980s. None of the individuals on the list remain active in the ministry. Many have died, and some were defrocked.
A review board determines “credible abuse” by checking the claims against the following criteria:
- Allegations are found credible and substantiated
- The accused was laicized or permanently removed from ministry
- The accused admitted the allegation or was convicted of a crime in connection with the allegation
- A civil settlement resulted from the allegation
Church Allows Priest to Continue Ministry After Allegations of Abuse
One of the priests on the list was Rev. Donald G. Timone. He was ordained in 1960 and suspended in 2018. He retired in 2009 but was continuing to celebrate mass in New York and California, even after two settlements were awarded in 2017 to victims who had previously accused him of abuse. As part of the settlement agreement, the victims had to agree to release the archdiocese from future legal claims.
Despite the archdiocese’s “zero-tolerance” policy concerning child sexual abuse, Father Timone was allowed to continue in the ministry even after the settlements were awarded. The New York Times noted that the archdiocese knew about at least two abuse allegations against Timone since 2002 when he was suspended pending an investigation, but the Church review board didn’t substantiate the accusation then.
Another name on the list was Theodore McCarrick, who had previously served as a priest in New York and then went on to become cardinal and archbishop of Washington, D.C. He was expelled from the priesthood in February 2019 after the Vatican found him guilty of sexual abuse.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.