Report reveals new ‘credible and substantiated’ claims of sex abuse by Catholic clergy in New York

October 15, 2018

Report reveals new ‘credible and substantiated’ claims of sex abuse by Catholic clergy in New York Yevhen Prozhyrko / Shutterstock

The embattled Catholic Church just got more bad news.

A new report from the Archdiocese of New York indicates that it has “credible and substantiated” claims of sexual abuse of minors against four monsignors and one priest.

Among the accused is well-known Monsignor Charles Coen, a former Staten Island pastor and renowned Irish musician.

More clergy accused of sexual abuse

News of the findings was first announced to parishioners of Staten Island churches like Blessed Sacrament and St. Joseph-St. Thomas in September as part of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), which was formed in 2017 “to promote healing and bring closure by providing compensation to victim-survivors of abuse by priests or deacons of the archdiocese.”

“During the IRCP process, allegations of abuse were brought against Msgr. Charles Coen, who served at Saint Joseph-Saint Thomas from 1976 to 1986,” a bulletin announcing the news read.

When not acting as a member of the clergy, Coen, who is originally from Dublin, Ireland, taught Irish music to children. He also gained recognition among New York’s traditional Irish music scene for playing the concertina, flute, and tin whistle, and for singing a capella, or unaccompanied.

In addition to Coen, others accused in the recent report include Monsignor John Meehan, a former pastor of St. Mary’s R.C. Church in Mount Vernon; Monsignor William Williams, the former regional vicar of Ulster County and pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Saugerties; Monsignor Francis Boyle, the former head of Blessed Sacrament R.C. Church in West Brighton; and Rev. Robert Jeffers, a former chaplain of both the Bronx Lebanon Hospital and St. Augustine’s R.C. Church in the Bronx.

“The Lay Review Board has concluded that the allegations were credible and substantiated,” the report read.

As a temporary penalty, the report noted that Coen has been suspended and is no longer allowed to present himself as a priest. Although the diocese left Coen’s final penalty up to The Vatican, they have reassured their followers that “it is certain that Msgr. Coen will never serve as a priest again.”

Similar penalties were given to the other clergy mentioned in the report, all of whom are retired.

Restoring the church’s image

In America and around the world, allegations of child sex abuse by clergymen have seriously injured the reputation of the Catholic Church. Since its inception, the church has attempted to handle this pattern of abuse from within, conducting its own investigations — but some followers are unconvinced that these efforts are genuine, and are instead calling for independent investigations by law enforcement agencies.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis, who has come under attack in recent weeks for his handling of allegations of abuse, has shown no sign of advocating for independent investigations.

Church officials are expected to hold further meetings to discuss the widespread abuse scandal in the coming months.


Robert Ayers

Robert Ayers is a writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac University and a JD from the University of Connecticut.