Church officials: Victims with pre-2002 deals free to speak

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Catholic Church officials say abuse victims required to remain silent by settlement agreements can speak publicly about their ordeals.

The New Jersey Catholic Conference said Tuesday the church has no objection. It came after state Sen. Joe Vitale called on the church to release abuse victims from confidentiality agreements.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has barred such agreements since 2002 unless a victim requests confidentiality.

The New Jersey conference says Newark Archbishop Cardinal Joseph Tobin and the state’s bishops won’t object if victims come forward.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal launched a criminal probe into abuse. He says a victim hotline has been “ringing off the hook.”

This follows a Pennsylvania grand jury report that uncovered more than 1,000 children had been abused over decades by about 300 priests.

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