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Six Priests In Syracuse Diocese Charged After Child Victims Act Window Opens

Tom Myers for Church.Org
Flickr Creative Commons

The flood of child sexual abuse cases filed under a new state law focused on Syracuse Thursday.  A law firm that has been investigating cases of abuse in the Catholic Church has filed six cases against priests and the Diocese.

Attorney Jeff Anderson said statewide 262 cases have been filed, identifying 162 offenders, 60 of whom had never been made public before.

  "How many more are there here in the Diocese of Sryacuse and across the state yet to be revealed," said Anderson. "And every time a survivor, his or her secret is revealed, the offender is identified. The institution that made some concious choices are held accountable in a way they neve rhave before."

The Child Victims Act suspended statutes of limitations in a one-year window that started Wednesday, opening up the possibility for new lawsuits.  Anderson said his firm has found files kept by many Dioceses across that have allowed for new lawsuits and names of alleged abusers to be made public.

"They maintain files in the chancery offices, the offices of each bishop, in each diocese, that are secret files," said Anderson. "They're called archival files, or confidential files. And the Vatican requires every bishop to keep those files. And if a priest is reported to have abused a child, the Bishop is required to keep that secret, and to place that in a confidential file for his eyes only."

Anderson said that priests in these files were often removed from parishes and then recycled through the system to avoid scandal. Attorney Cynthia LaFave has handled the cases of some local survivors, who she said because of the new law have shifted power.

"Because priests who had the ultimate power over these children," said LaFave. "And respected them not only because they were taught to, but because their parents respected them so much. And they were told they could not tell the secrets while it was happening. They are now being freed of that burden."

They’re asking the church to work with them to change policies in order to protect children from future abuse.  Syracuse Bishop Douglas Lucia, in aletter to people in the Diocese said he knew this was coming and said they would again suffer the “pain of a sacred trust violated.”  He adds recent programs for victims’ assistance, compensation, and protection of children will help guard against further abuse.  

Read more of Bishop Lucia's letter below:

"I think it is vital also to not forget the important strides this local Church has been taking in this area in trying to acknowledge its failures and seeking to ensure that our children are safe, including all that is being done for the Protection of Children and Young Adults and for Victims Assistance by the Diocese of Syracuse. An important component has been the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) which invited victims through an independent process to be compensated for their hurt and suffering. Although we know that a program cannot take away the pain of abuse, it has been a means of reparation for harm done.

I know this might not be what one might think a first letter of a new bishop to his new family should be, but I have always considered myself a realist. This is where we are at on our journey as Church and so I ask myself and you, brothers and sisters, how can we make the light of Christ more real and let it cast out the darkness? For me, that is the mission ahead and so I rely on your prayers and assure you of mine."


This story has been updated to correct the location of St Peter's church.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.
Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.