Cardinal hires former federal judge to review church sex abuse policies

Published 8:22 pm Thursday, September 20, 2018

NEW YORK — Hoping to restore the faith of those disillusioned by how the Catholic church has handled sexual abuse allegations, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York appointed a former federal judge Thursday to review its procedures and protocols.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced the appointment of Barbara Jones, saying many Catholics had told him they were feeling let down by the church’s hierarchy in the wake of several recent high-profile developments. Those include a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing widespread sexual abuse and systematic cover-up by church officials there.

“If I lost the trust of my people and this community, I don’t have a lot left,” Dolan said.

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He said to Jones, “I’m praying that your careful review and hard questions will help my good people renew their trust in the church they love and the leaders they want to believe.”

Two years ago, the Manhattan-based archdiocese, the nation’s second-biggest after Los Angeles, announced a compensation fund for victims of clergy sex abuse willing to forego lawsuits. It has paid out about $60 million so far.

The appointment comes two weeks after New York’s attorney general announced that she was doing a comprehensive investigation of how the church and its leaders handled abuse allegations across the state, as other states have also undertaken since the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Jones, 71, who has repeatedly served in roles calling for an outside independent monitor or arbiter, said she has already begun an initial review of archdiocese efforts going back over 25 years.

“Based upon this review I certainly see a robust infrastructure in place with the archdiocese,” she said. “But my job now will be to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing programs and policies in that infrastructure.”

Jones said her purview would not just focus on abuse against children, but would also include looking at policies on workplace harassment impacting adults.

Jones, who left the Manhattan federal bench in 2013, finished her work only weeks ago as a court-appointed special master identifying items subject to attorney-client privilege from over 4 million items seized in raids on President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Jones was an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan and chief assistant to former Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau before she was appointed to the bench in 1995 by President Bill Clinton. As a federal prosecutor, she served as chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force Unit.

After leaving the bench, she joined the law firm Bracewell, where she has specialized in white collar defense and internal investigations.

In 2014, she said former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice could play football again after concluding that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had made an “abuse of discretion” in suspending Rice indefinitely after video emerged of him hitting his wife in an elevator.

She also has served on a panel conducting a full-scale review of the New York City Police Department’s discipline policies and was appointed as an independent external reviewer at the University of Michigan to decide student disciplinary actions under the school’s policy and procedures on student sexual and gender based misconduct.