Some 600 lawsuits have been filed against the Brooklyn Diocese of the Catholic Church since New York State passed the Child Protection Act in 2019 until the end of 2020.
This is almost a fifth of all such lawsuits against religious organizations and individual clerics in New York State. 571 complaints against the diocese were filed in the first 17 months of the law, of which 532 were filed against religiously-controlled educational institutions and 302 against alleged rapists, of whom 230 are clergy. These figures are cited in a report by Jeff Anderson and Associates, a law firm representing 127 plaintiffs in Brooklyn and Queens (figures for the current year have not yet been released).
The largest number of lawsuits was brought against the defrocked priest Romano Ferrero (18 from 1958 to 1991). Among Brooklyn institutions, the largest number of lawsuits – seven – are against Bishop Laughlin High School. In five of them, priest George Zatarga, who died in 2011, appears as the plaintiff.
The Child Protection Act, enacted in August 2019, now gave adult victims of sexual assault one year to initiate retroactive lawsuits (regardless of the date of the assault) in order to bypass the statute of limitations. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Governor Cuomo extended this “window” until August 14 this year.
“The Diocese of Brooklyn takes every such complaint with the utmost seriousness and cooperates fully with the investigating authorities,” said a spokesman for the Diocese. “While most of these misconduct took place many years ago, this does not take away from the accused the right to have their cases dealt with in accordance with the law.”