N.J. attorney general forms task force to investigate Catholic sex abuse, cover-ups

More than 300 priests accused of abuse in Pennsylvania

Steve Tawa
September 06, 2018 - 4:39 pm
Christ the King Church on June 4, 2014, in University City, Mo.

Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT/Sipa USA

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TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — In response to the scathing allegations in Pennsylvania's grand jury report on Catholic priest abuse, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is forming a task force to investigate similar instances of sexual abuse and cover-ups. 

Grewal said the task force will be lead by former Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino. Grewal is authorizing the team of detectives and prosecutors to present evidence to a state grand jury, including through the use of subpoenas to compel testimony and the production of documents.

To help identify potential victims, Grewal also has established a dedicated hotline to report allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, as well as any efforts by their superiors to cover up such abuse. The hotline — 855-363-6548 — will be staffed by trained professionals and operated on a 24/7 basis. 

A similar investigation lead a Pennsylvania grand jury to reveal the names of more than 300 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse. The panel believed predator priests preyed on more than 1,000 children over a 70-year period. The grand jury said abuse was covered up and allowed to go on for years, with no public accountability.

The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General's noted there was a surge in calls to its clergy abuse hotline after the grand jury report.

RELATED: Shapiro: The Vatican knew of a cover-up involving abusive priests

Grewal said he was troubled to read the allegations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, one that was far more widespread than many thought. 

Grewal added that "no person is above the law, and no institution is immune from accountability."

There are more than 3.5 million Catholics registered in seven dioceses throughout New Jersey.