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Editorial: Follow Pennsylvania's lead on clergy abuse

If Pennsylvania can do it, why can’t New York? In the name of long-delayed justice and of helping/pushing the Catholic Church to fully confront the terrible sins it committed, the state needs to investigate the scope of child sexual abuse within the church and the hierarchy’s actions in covering it up.

In Pennsylvania, residents now have an insightful and intensely disturbing picture of abhorrent criminal conduct: the rampant sexual abuse of children by a significant minority of priests and, at least as shocking, the church’s determined efforts to persuade victims not to report the crimes and, unbelievably, police not to investigate them.

That’s called conspiracy. It’s also called evil.

The Pennsylvania report was produced by a grand jury created by the state attorney general. It uncovered child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over 70 years. It covered six of the state’s eight dioceses – the other two had been previously investigated – and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims. Bishops and other church leaders covered it up, the grand jury reported.

If anything, the issue is likely to be more prevalent in New York, a much larger state with a significantly higher proportion of Catholic residents – 31 percent to Pennsylvania’s 24 percent, according to New Yorkers of all faiths need to know what happened here.

We already know that similar abuses occurred in this state, including Western New York. What residents of the state don’t have is the kind of broad, formal accounting that is a necessary part of understanding and atonement. How many children were victimized by men of the cloth? How often, and in what ways, did church leaders cover it up and, in so doing, create more victims?

New Yorkers need to know this. The church needs to confront it. The greater number of Catholics in this state may make that work more politically sensitive, but it also makes it more necessary.

The New York Attorney General’s Office is organized differently from Pennsylvania’s. It needs a referral to launch this kind of investigation. That’s what needs to happen. Only a statewide investigation can begin to make this right.

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