CATHOLIC CHURCH UNDER FIRE: Cardinal hires judge to review sex abuse policies, claims report

NEW YORK (AP) — 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.

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.


Karen Matthews of the Associated Press contributed to the contents of this report. 

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BANNON SPEAKS: Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon tells all to 60 Minutes; Says Hillary’s ‘Not very bright’

New York, N.Y. — In an unapologetic CBS interview on Sunday night’s “60 Minutes”, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon took on everyone from his former boss to defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. During his first interview since leaving the White House, Bannon raged against “pearl-clutching mainstream media,” his former West Wing colleagues and even the Roman Catholic Church.

Speaking to interviewer Charlie Rose (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-breitbart-steve-bannon-declares-war-on-the-gop/), Bannon said the president’s biggest enemies aren’t Democrats, but some of his fellow Republicans, and alleged that some in the GOP are “trying to nullify the 2016 election.”

“They do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented,” Bannon told Rose. “It’s very obvious.”

“Oh, Mitch McConnell when we first met him, I mean, he was– he was– he– he said, I think in one of the first meetings– in Trump Tower with the president– as we’re wrapping up, he basically says, ‘I don’t want to hear any more of this ‘drain the swamp’ talk,’” Bannon said after Rose asked him for an example.

“He says, ‘I can’t– I can’t hire any smart people,’ because everybody’s all over him for reporting requirements and– and the pay, et cetera, and the scrutiny. You know, ‘You gotta back off that.’ The ‘drain the swamp’ thing was– is Mitch McConnell was day one did not want to– did not want to go there. Wanted us to back off.”

Asked if he wound now be “going to war” against establishment members of the GOP who are out to do the president harm, Bannon replied, “absolutely”.

But despite his obvious protection of Trump, Bannon’s former boss could not escape criticism of his own. When asked about the president’s decision to fire former FBI head James Comey, a visibly frustrated Bannon called the decision the “biggest mistake in modern political history”.

Had Comey not been fired, said Bannon, the Justice Department investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia’s election interference would not have been handed over to the special counsel Robert Meuller.

“We would not have the Mueller investigation and the breadth that clearly Mr. Mueller is going for,” said Bannon.

The chairman of Breitbart News also clarified the ongoing controversy over his leaving his role in the president’s administration, which many claimed was due to being fired.

Not true, said Bannon, saying his intent all along has been to be the president’s “wingman outside for the entire time” he is in office.

“Our purpose is to support Donald Trump,” he said. “I cannot take the fight to who we have to take the fight to when I’m an adviser to the president as a federal government employee.”

Speaking out on the president’s controversial decision to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program put in place by former president Barack Obama, Bannon warned his fellow Republicans they may have to be prepared to face a “civil war”.

“I’m worried about losing the House now because of this,” Bannon said over the battle on what to do with about 800,000 immigrants known as “Dreamers”. “If this goes all the way down to its logical conclusion, in February and March it will be a civil war inside the Republican Party and to me, doing that in the springboard of primary season for 2018 is extremely unwise.”

On that same topic, Bannon also slammed the Catholic Church for its stance on supporting the rights of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States.

“The bishops have been terrible about this,” Bannon said of church leaders.
“You know why? Because unable to really to come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches.”

On the president’s former political rival Hillary Clinton, Bannon said he could sum up his opinion of her in a single statement: “Hillary Clinton’s not very bright”.

Slamming Clinton for a speech she gave while campaigning last year attempting to connect the “alt-right” and white supremacists to the Trump campaign, Bannon called her comments “nonsense.”

“Everybody says she’s so smart, so much smarter than Donald Trump. She doesn’t really have a grasp . . . on what’s important and what’s not, and that’s what’s essential in a leader. Donald Trump has a grasp on what’s important and what’s marginalia.”

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