New York state sues Buffalo diocese over priest misconduct

Northeast

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and a former bishop, alleging they failed to protect children and adults from predatory priests by covering up allegations of sexual misconduct that were not properly investigated.

The lawsuit against the diocese, former Bishop Richard Malone and former Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz follows a two-year investigation that found church leaders sheltered accused priests by letting them retire or go on medical leave, rather than follow mandated procedures that would subject them to possible removal from the priesthood by the Vatican.

“For years, the Diocese of Buffalo and its leadership failed to protect children from sexual abuse,” James said in a news release. “Instead, they chose to protect the very priests who were credibly accused of these atrocious acts.”

The diocese has recently acknowledged substantiated allegations of improper sexual conduct against 78 diocesan priests, James said. Of them, more than two dozen — while eventually removed from ministry — were not referred to the Vatican for a trial, according to the civil complaint filed in New York County Supreme Court.

“Instead, diocese leadership granted the priests protection from public disclosure, resulting in the misuse or waste 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,” the news release said.

The diocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The complaint asks a judge to require the diocese’s interim leader, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, to comply with mandatory policies and procedures. It also seeks the appointment of an independent compliance auditor to monitor the western New York diocese’s compliance with sexual abuse policies and procedures.

Malone resigned from upstate New York’s largest diocese in December 2019 amid mounting calls for his ouster from his staff, priests and public over his handling of allegations of clergy sexual misconduct. Grosz resigned upon reaching the retirement age of 75 in March.

The lawsuit seeks restitution and to bar them from serving in a fiduciary role in any nonprofit or charitable organization in New York state.

The state’s investigation began in September 2018. Investigations into the conduct of other New York dioceses are ongoing.

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