NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The Catholic church in New Jersey will release the names of priests credibly accused of abusing children early next year, in conjunction with the state attorney general's office's investigation, the church's highest-ranking cleric announced Monday.
Archbishop Cardinal Joseph Tobin, head of the Archdiocese of Newark, also announced the church will establish a fund to compensate victims of clergy abuse in New Jersey, including in cases where the legal statute of limitations has expired.
The fund will be established by the Newark archdiocese as well as the dioceses of Camden, Paterson, Trenton and Metuchen. It also will pay for counseling for those who have been victimized, according to the announcement.
New Jersey's attorney general launched a task force in September to investigate the clergy abuse scandal. That investigation came on the heels of a lengthy grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania that concluded more than 1,000 children had been abused over a span of decades by about 300 priests.
The task force will have the power to subpoena evidence and present it to a grand jury. Investigators will probe whether the state's dioceses have complied with a 2002 memorandum of understanding that abuse complaints would be reported to law enforcement.
The New Jersey Catholic Conference, which represents the state's bishops on policy matters, has said it is fully cooperating and is confident the dioceses are in compliance with the memorandum
After the launch of the task force, an abuse victim hotline established by the state received so many calls that more staff had to be added, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said at the time.
That same month, the New Jersey Catholic Conference said sex abuse victims required to keep quiet by settlement agreements can speak publicly about their ordeals.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has barred such agreements since 2002 unless a victim requests confidentiality. Victims who had signed deals before 2002 can now come forward, the New Jersey conference said. It's unclear how many of the agreements were made before 2002.