New York subpoenas every Catholic diocese in state

St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese in Pennsylvania, which was rocked by revelations of decades of abuse by priests

New York prosecutors are subpoenaing each Catholic diocese in the state as part of investigations into clerical abuse after at least 1,000 victims were recently identified in neighboring Pennsylvania.

All eight Catholic dioceses have either been or are in the process of being subpoenaed by New York's state attorney general, confirmed Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference.

There are an estimated seven million Catholics across New York, which is the fourth most populous state in the country.

Prosecutors are investigating whether and how Catholic dioceses and other church entities potentially covered up allegations of sexual abuse of children.

New York has also set up a clerical abuse hotline and online complaints form, and on Thursday urged victims, witnesses and anyone else with any information on abusive clergy to come forward.

All allegations will be reviewed, and victims' and witnesses' identities will be protected, officials said.

The announcement comes just over three weeks after a grand jury revealed that more than 300 priests abused at least 1,000 children across seven decades in Pennsylvania and that the Catholic Church engaged in a systematic cover-up.

"The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover ups," said New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood.

"Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well -- and we are going to do everything in our power to bring them the justice they deserve," she added, urging "all victims and anyone else with information to contact our hotline."

Underwood wants New York to tighten the law, allowing victims to file civil suits until the age 50 and to seek criminal charges until the age of 28.

Currently, victims can only file civil cases or seek criminal charges for most types of child sexual abuse until the age of 23.

There is no time limit on bringing criminal charges for the most serious child sex crimes in New York, but only if those crimes occurred in 2001 or later.

The Pennsylvania report was the most comprehensive to date in the United States since The Boston Globe exposed church abuse in 2002 in Massachusetts.

It increased calls to tighten laws across US states, giving victims more time to come forward to seek redress, and for bishops to be held accountable.