New York State Sues Diocese Of Buffalo Over Alleged Sex Abuse Cover Up

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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New York State Attorney General Letitia James sued the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo over allegations that its leadership covered up the decades-long sexual abuse of minors, numerous sources reported.

More than two dozen diocesan priests were credibly accused of sexual abuse, a two-year investigation reportedly found, and were not referred to the Vatican for potential removal from the clergy, ABC News reported Monday.

Bishop Richard J. Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz are also being sued over their alleged protection of priests who were accused of abuse by allowing them to retire or go on medical leave instead of facing laicization by the Vatican.

“When trust is broken with spiritual leaders, it can lead to a crisis of faith,” James said in a statement. “For years, the Diocese of Buffalo and its leadership failed to protect children from sexual abuse.”

“Individuals who are victims of abuse deserve to have their claims timely investigated and determined, and the Buffalo Diocese refused to give them that chance.”

Malone resigned from his positions in 2019 after a Vatican investigation, and the state is also seeking to prohibit him and Grosz from serving in a secular capacity in charitable organizations in the state. Grosz resigned in March 2020, when he reached the mandatory retirement age for bishops, according to ABC.

A spokesperson from the Diocese of Buffalo told ABC that they are reviewing the lawsuit, and affirmed a zero tolerance policy for child sex abuse or any sexual harassment by any “clergy, employee or volunteer.”

 “The Diocese has put in place rigorous policies and protocols governing required behavior as well as a code of conduct which all clergy are expected to abide by,” the statement continues, “Moreover, the Diocese has committed to full cooperation with all civil authorities in both the reporting and investigation of alleged crimes and complaints.”

The U.S. attorney in Buffalo served a subpoena to the diocese in 2018, opening an investigation into whether diocesan clergy took children across state lines for sexual purposes, which would constitute child trafficking. 

That investigation, along with federal subpoenas served to seven Pennsylvania dioceses, marked the first time the federal government has investigated the Catholic Church for sexual abuse cases.

Buffalo’s Catholic Church also faced pressure from its parishioners, in addition to the federal investigation, as many of them called for Malone to resign in light of an investigative report that revealed Malone knowingly allowed a predatory priest to remain in ministry. 

The diocese filed for bankruptcy after New York State’s Child Victims Act was passed in 2019 and suspended the statue of limitations to allow sex abuse victims to pursue decades-old abuse allegations against adults. The Buffalo diocese, along with the Diocese of Rochester, reportedly cited the Child Victims Act as a reason for filing for bankruptcy due to the financial burden of litigation. 

Malone became the center of the sex abuse scandal in 2018 when his former secretary Siobhan O’Connor leaked internal church documents about abusive priests that Malone concealed.