Barbara S. Jones, a former judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, has been appointed the archdiocese’s special counsel and independent reviewer to study how the archdiocese deals with any accusation about an alleged abuse of a young person by a priest, deacon or bishop.
She will also help to enhance and strengthen the archdiocese’s protocols for accusations of inappropriate behavior by anyone abusing his or her position of authority.
Cardinal Dolan announced the appointment of Ms. Jones, and introduced her at a Sept. 20 press conference at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan.
“Accountability, transparency, action and trust,” the cardinal said, reflecting on what he has heard his people and clergy, as well as the wider community, call for regarding the Church’s clergy abuse crisis.
Of Ms. Jones, who has served as federal judge and a prosecutor, the cardinal said, “Many of you know her already, I understand, as her efforts in law enforcement, jurisprudence and community reform are acclaimed.”
She is a partner at the international law firm Bracewell.
“I’ve asked Judge Jones to help me and this archdiocese, and I’m sure grateful she’s accepted,” the cardinal said. “I’ve promised her complete access to our records, personnel and to me personally.”
Cardinal Dolan explained that he has entrusted Ms. Jones to conduct “an independent, scrupulous review to see if indeed there are gaps, if there are things we should be doing and are not, and hopefully to affirm that we’re doing our best to live up to the promises we bishops made to our people way back in 2002.”
The cardinal also asked Ms. Jones to confirm his belief and hope that the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, that he says has “resulted in a sense of fair resolution and compensation with almost 300 victim-survivors in this archdiocese alone,” and has subsequently been adopted by other dioceses in the state, “is indeed an effective initiative in service to the victims.”
He acknowledged that the IRCP “has also helped us uncover previously unknown cases of misbehaving priests, like Theodore McCarrick, who are now permanently removed from ministry.”
The cardinal said he is eager to propose the program for all institutions—church, state, private, educational, to adopt in outreach to the victim-survivors.
“Our attention and sensitivity as a state and wider community must be to the victim-survivors, not to institutions, and I’m hoping that you find that the IRCP is a good model,” the cardinal said.
He said he looked forward to receiving Ms. Jones’ recommendations and insights, and pledged he would take them all with “utmost seriousness.”
“And I want you to hold my feet to the fire if you feel that I’m not following through on the recommendations that you make,” the cardinal said.
“And most of all,” the cardinal concluded, “I’m praying that your careful review and hard questions will help my good people renew their trust in the Church they love and in the leaders they want to believe.”
Ms. Jones, in her remarks, said, “The cardinal has told me to leave no stone unturned and to provide him directly with the results of our work. For my part, the cardinal has my commitment that I will provide him my unvarnished view of all that I see. And I look forward to working with him in this endeavor.”
She explained that her review would focus on the effectiveness of the programs, and whether the archdiocese has followed its existing protocols in addressing reports of abuse.
“Where I see deficiencies or gaps, or non-compliance with current procedures, I will identify them to the cardinal for his review and remediation.
“He has assured me that he will take appropriate action as expeditiously as possible, based upon my recommendations,” Ms. Jones said. She said she would not have taken the assignment without those assurances.
Ms. Jones will also review the procedures followed in each new case of alleged abuse to ensure that the archdiocese has followed its protocols.
In addition, Ms. Jones said, the cardinal has asked her to examine “the current procedures and policies in the archdiocese regarding sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.”
To that end, she will review current workplace policies and protocols, and where recommendations are needed to enhance their effectiveness, she will make those recommendations to the cardinal.
“I approach this important assignment with an open mind,” Ms. Jones said, “and an understanding of the scope and scale of the issues that challenge the archdiocese.”
She said she has begun an initial review of the archdiocese’s past effort, some dating back over 25 years.
“Based upon this review, I certainly see a robust infrastructure in place with the archdiocese. But my job now will be to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing programs and policies in that infrastructure, and identify deficiencies and recommend changes or wholly new policies and procedures.”
Ms. Jones also underscored the assurance given her that she and her team at Bracewell “will have complete independence and unfettered access to all information, documents and personnel that we need.”