NEWARK — The Roman Catholic church in New Jersey has announced it will identify church officials accused of sexual abuse, and establish a fund for victims of abuse in response to a nationwide crisis surrounding the church.

The announcement came from the Archdiocese in Newark, but the proposed actions wwould  also apply to the Dioceses of Camden, Trenton, Paterson and Metuchen.

The Dioceses announced that early next year they will release the names "of all priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors." This effort will also be done in conjunction with a task force established by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

The task force is headed by former Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino, and is authorized to present evidence to a grand jury. It also has the power to subpoena. When the task force was announced in September, the New Jersey Catholic Conference hailed the decision as a good first step.

"New Jersey's Catholics believe every parent and child deserve a safe environment to learn from and explore their faith," the group said at the time. "This means that all spaces where teaching, worship, and ministry take place must be free from fear. There will be no compromise on this principle. This is essential."

The church will also establish the Victim Compensation and Counseling Program, according to the diocese. The goal of the program, according to the Archdiocese, is to "provide the resources to compensate those victims of child sexual abuse by clergy and employees of the Dioceses in New Jersey whose financial claims are legally barred by New Jersey's statute of limitations."

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin said the program will also "assure that victims who have not received any financial compensation will be paid, regardless of whether their claims meet the time requirements of the statue of limitations." Even before the program, the Catholic Church has already paid around $50 million in settlements to victims of abuse in the state so far.

"The program also will be a resource to provide permanent funding for necessary counseling to those who have been victimized," the church said. "Such counseling so often is needed to help inn the healing of those who have been harmed."

The steps taken by the state's churches come long after other steps announced by neighboring states. Even before the task force in New Jersey was established, it was announced that a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania found that more than 1,000 children had been sexually abused by around 300 priests in that state. New York also announced it would subpoena the state's eight Catholic dioceses as part of a probe into sexual abuse allegations as well.

Reports of possible sexual abuse have reached to the very top of the church at the state and national levels after Pope Francis removed former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the priesthood. McCarrick had been accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy, among others, leading to Francis accepting his resignation and ordering him to conduct a "life of prayer and penance."

The church also established a hotline to report allegations against members of the clergy at 855-363-6548.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report. 

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