New York Cardinal Dolan says independent judge will review church response to sex abuse cases

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archdiocese of New York, said his flock is calling the last few months the “summer of hell.”

Dolan held a press conference on Thursday with a two-fold purpose: to assuage the widespread anger surrounding the sexual abuse crisis and to show what’s being done.

He acknowledged a severe loss of trust among parishioners and announced a new initiative meant to create “accountability.”

“If I lost the trust of my people and this community, I don't have a lot left,” Dolan said, “they want transparency, accountability and action.”

Dolan introduced a new special counsel and independent reviewer, former judge Barbara Jones, whose legal firm will not only hold priests accountable but also bishops who’ve been seen as part of a culture that has covered up for accused priests.

The announcement comes as the church struggles over how to deal with a growing number of sex abuse cases and allegations that they covered it up.

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. In Pennsylvania, a recent grand jury report detailed widespread abuse and systematic cover-up by church officials there.

The appointment of Jones 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.

"I approach this important assignment with an open mind and understanding of the scope and scale of the issues that challenge the Archdiocese," Jones said.

The special counsel has been on the job for about 10 days now but Jones said the archbishop has promised her firm complete access to its records -- and total independence.

Includes reporting by The Associated Press.