NY attorney Robert Friedman discusses how the diocese covered up sexual abuse by priests.
Good Morning. I am Bob Friedman attorney with Friedman & Ranzenhofer, PC. Welcome to the November 24th , 2020 edition of the Legal Survival Channel: Today’s Legal News You Can Use.
New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo (“Diocese”) yesterday for allegedly sheltering more than two dozen priests who were accused of sexually abusing minors and vulnerable adults. The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, followed a two-year investigation by her office, which found that allegations of abuse by Catholic priests in Buffalo were either inadequately investigated or covered up for years.
Although leaders in the Diocese found allegations of improper sexual conduct by priests to be credible, accused priests in the Diocese were protected from public disclosure and permitted to retire or go on medical leave, rather than face referral to the Vatican for possible removal from the priesthood.
It is alleged that the supposed cover-up resulted in waste or misuse of charitable assets by supporting priests whom the Diocese considered to have committed sexual abuse, and a failure to provide victims with public vindication of their claims. It also drew on the personnel histories of 25 priests, most of whom were not referred for removal from the priesthood, a step only the Vatican is authorized to take.
The lawsuit, filed under New York’s civil laws governing, nonprofit charitable corporations, religious corporations and charitable assets names as defendants the Diocese and former leaders Bishop Emeritus Richard Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, as well as Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, who was appointed in December 2019 by Pope Francis to serve as the Diocese’s apostolic administrator and serves as interim leader of the diocese.
Following media reports of widespread sexual abuse of minors by priests, the U.S. Conference of Bishops in 2002 adopted specific policies and procedures that required dioceses to conduct proper investigations. James’ office said that both Malone and Grosz voted to adopted the policies, and the Diocese publicly announced that it had complied with them. However, during the course of its investigation, the attorney general’s office found that both men failed to live up to those promises by refusing to take swift action when faced with credible claims of abuse.
The Diocese has publicly admitted that it found substantiated allegations of improper sexual conduct against 78 diocesan priests, and in February filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid mounting civil cases under the New York Child Victims Act which allows abuse survivors to file lawsuits related to older claims that would otherwise be barred by statutes of limitations. New York lawmakers this past summer extended the look-back window through Aug. 14, 2021. The suit seeks an order requiring compliance with mandatory sexual abuse policies and procedures and the appointment of an independent compliance auditor to ensure the diocese’s adherence to the policies.
If you are a victim of clergy sex abuse, contact Child Victims Act attorneys Friedman & Ranzenhofer, for a free confidential consultation at 716.542.5444.