A clipping from The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. - Roman Catholic church officials and state law enforcement authorities are investigating claims that some children were physically and sexually abused at a now-defunct orphanage that was run by a religious order.

The allegations, which date back to the 1960s, were made after three people recently came forward and claimed they were treated harshly at St. Joseph's Village in Rockleigh. The facility, operated by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, opened in 1958 and closed in 1973.

The three accusers, who live in different states and met over time through the Internet, have separately implicated several people - nuns, a priest, lay people, and a police officer - who they say abused them. Many of those people are now dead, officials said.

"The sisters have been investigating this vigorously," Marianna Thompson, an official with the Paterson Diocese and a spokeswoman for the nuns, told The Record of Bergen County for Thursday's editions.

The Archdiocese of Newark is also investigating because the accusations involve a late priest who had served in its jurisdiction and was a chaplain at the orphanage.

John Hagerty, a spokesman for the state Division of Criminal Justice, confirmed that his office was reviewing the allegations. He described the probe as an "information gathering" and said it was unlikely that authorities would bring the case to a grand jury because the statute of limitations has expired.