NEW YORK CITY — The archbishop of New York has announced the appointment of an archdiocesan special counsel who will be tasked with an independent review of protocols for responding to allegations of sexual abuse.
At a news conference Sept. 20, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that retired federal Judge Barbara Jones will undertake “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, deacon or a bishop.”
“I have promised her complete access to our records, personnel and to me personally,” Cardinal Dolan said.
The cardinal said that, in recent months, clergy members, Catholics and other community members have conveyed to him the importance of “accountability, transparency and action.”
“I also hear them honestly say to me something that stings me very much: ‘Cardinal Dolan, we’ve been so let down that we’re beginning to lose trust in you bishops.’”
“If I lose the trust of my people and this community, I don’t have a lot left,” Cardinal Dolan said.
He said that Jones would “conduct an independent, scrupulous review to see if there are gaps, if there are things we should be doing and are not, and, hopefully, to affirm that we are doing our best to live up to the promises we bishops made to our people in 2002.”
Jones has also been asked to “enhance and strengthen our protocols for accusations of inappropriate behavior by anyone abusing his or her position of authority,” he added. She will also be tasked with reviewing policies and protocols related to workplace sexual abuse and harassment.
“Even our many critics do admit we’ve made a lot of progress in dealing with abuse of minors; now, we need to be certain we are doing the same for responding to allegations of abuses of position and power.”
During the news conference, Jones told Cardinal Dolan that she is “ready to help,” adding that “the cardinal has told me to leave no stone unturned.”
“My review will focus on the efficacy of [archdiocesan] programs and whether the archdiocese has followed its existing protocols in addressing reports of abuse. Where I see deficiencies or gaps or noncompliance with current procedures, I will identify them to the cardinal for his review and remediation.”
In her work for the Archdiocese of New York, “I will also review the procedures followed in every new case of abuse to ensure that the archdiocese has followed its protocols. I will make the results of those reviews available to the cardinal before he makes a final adjudication in each case,” Jones said.
Jones has a long record of investigating complex organizations. She began her legal career in the Organized Crime and Racketeering Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, serving as a part of the agency’s Manhattan Strike Force in the 1970s. She was an assistant U.S. attorney in New York from 1977 to 1987, leading an organized crime unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, before becoming a high-ranking prosecutor in the New York District Attorney’s Office.
In 1995, Jones was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She retired from the court in 2013.
During her time on the bench, Jones presided over U.S. v. Windsor, a case that challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In a 2012 decision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones found that definition violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“I approach this importance assignment with an open mind and an understanding of the scope and scale of the issues that challenge the archdiocese. I have already begun an initial review of the archdiocese’s past efforts,” Jones said Thursday.
“Based upon this review, I certainly see a robust infrastructure in place with the archdiocese, but my job now will be to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing programs and policies in that infrastructure.”
Cardinal Dolan told reporters that he has asked Jones to provide a public report on her findings at the conclusion of her work.
“The cardinal has asked me to be rigorous in my examination and to call out deficiencies as I see them. He has assured me that he will take appropriate action as expeditiously as possible, based upon my recommendations,” she added.
“I would not have taken this assignment without these assurances.”