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New York subpoenas Catholic dioceses in sex abuse probe: source

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York’s attorney general issued civil subpoenas on Thursday to all eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state as part of a sex abuse investigation, a law enforcement source said.

FILE PHOTO: People take part in the Eucharistic adoration ceremony during The Catholic Underground event at The Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel in New York, September 5, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The subpoenas are part of an ongoing civil investigation by Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office into how dioceses reviewed and may have covered up allegations of sexual abuse of minors, said the source, who asked not to be identified.

In August, Underwood sought to partner with district attorneys, the only entities with the power to convene grand juries in the state, to investigate possible crimes.

There is no time limit under New York state’s statute of limitations for so-called Class A felonies such as rape.

“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 a statement on Thursday, announcing New York’s investigation.

The Archdiocese of New York said in a statement it had received the subpoena and was eager to work with Underwood in the investigation. It said that since 2002, it has shared information with the office concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

“Not only do we provide any information they seek, they also notify us as well when they learn of an allegation of abuse, so that, even if they cannot bring criminal charges, we might investigate and remove from ministry any cleric who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse,” said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York.

The Diocese of Buffalo said in a statement that it would cooperate with any investigation by the New York State attorney general or district attorney.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said on Thursday that his office was creating a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members within the state’s Catholic dioceses.

Last month of a grand jury report on a two-year investigation into abuse in Pennsylvania said that at least 1,000 people, mostly children, had been sexually abused by some 300 clergymen over the past 70 years.

Grewal said he was troubled by that report. “We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here,” he said in a statement. “If it did, we will take action against those responsible.”

Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker