On Sept. 6, New Jersey officials announced the creation of a special task force to investigate both the alleged sex abuse by members of the clergy within the dioceses of New Jersey and alleged cover-up by the Catholic Church.
The Setonian reported last week that Seton Hall University has hired Newark law firm Gibbons P.C. to independently investigate sex abuse allegations that “may have involved seminarians” at its seminaries.
According to interim president, Dr. Mary Meehan, since the New Jersey grand jury will focus on the sexual abuse of minors while Seton Hall’s investigation involves adults, she does not anticipate the investigations overlapping. She did say, however, that SHU will cooperate in every way if requested by the grand jury.
“We are committed to transparency, and remain focused on the care, compassion, and respect for all victims of abuse,” Meehan said.
The creation of this task force comes in light of a Pennsylvania grand jury detailing the abuse children suffered for decades at the hands of Catholic priests, which The Setonian previously reported on.
According to NJ.com, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said that Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino will head the newly formed task force, which will be comprised of a team of prosecutors and detectives from both county prosecutor’s offices and the State Division of Criminal Justice. This announcement also means that New Jersey’s dioceses will be required to turn over any documentation of priest sex abuse allegations and possible settlements. The task force will also be looking into existing agreements between state law enforcement and the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey.
“We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here,” he said of the grand jury reports in Pennsylvania. “If it did, we will take action against those responsible.”
Last week, The Setonian reported that State Sen. Joseph Vitale had urged Grewal to embark on this investigation. NJ.com reported that this is what “he had long hoped to see from the state.”
Also according to NJ.com. other states that are starting their own investigations into priest sex abuse allegations include New York, Missouri and Illinois.
As of Sept. 12, Pope Francis has called a global meeting of Catholic bishops to discuss how to prevent future sexual abuse in the church, according to USA Today. It is believed to be the first time this has happened. The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 21-24
Isabel Soisson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.