Lawyer Calls on Catholic Church to Release "Secret" Records in Rochester Priest Scandal
By Sean Lahman
Democrat & Chronicle
June 6, 2018
|Mitchell Garabedian, Boston attorney who has represented over 3000 victims of clergy abuse, Robert Hoatson, former priest and founder of Road to Recovery, a victimOs support organization, and James Faluszczak, survivor of abuse and former priest, hold a press conference on Diocese of Rochester priests accused of abuse outside the Diocese of Rochester on Flower City Park in Rochester Wednesday, June 6, 2018.|
Saying it is time for "the church to stop these evil acts" a Boston attorney who has spent decades representing victims of sexual abuse called on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester and its Bishop to release records it may hold concerning allegations of sexual abuse of children by clergy.
Mitchell Garabedian stood on the steps of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester on Wednesday and named eight priests from the Rochester diocese who are accused of sexually abusing minor children. A group of 15 men and two women, now grown, say they were abused by these priests when they were children.
Garabedian said the incidents took place between 1950 and 1978 when the alleged perpetrators were assigned to churches in the Rochester diocese. He said the victims, all of whom approached him within the past six months, are now between the ages of 52 and 77.
"And as you can see from the assignment sheets from the official Catholic directory, these priests were transferred from parish to parish, which is typical of a diocese, or archdiocese or the Catholic Church," said Garabedian.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Diocese of Rochester said it had been in correspondence with Garabedian's law firm regarding the priests being accused.
"The Diocese has invited participation in a process of investigation and resolution," the statement said. "We have had little or no response."
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Garabedian called on Bishop Salvatore Matano to release any records he has about allegations of sexual abuse against priests, including so-called "secret files," so the public can know who the accused priests are and what their supervisors did to respond to allegations.
"The question always remains how far up the chain did sexual abuse go, and how many supervisors allowed this sexual abuse to go on time and time again," he said.
Garabedian said the pattern of coverup left no doubt in his mind that the sexual abuse of children by priests was still happening in Rochester.
"As we speak today, there's no doubt in my mind that innocent children within the Diocese of Rochester are being sexually abused," he said "because we're dealing with an entity that has covered up sexual abuse for decades upon decades. There's no reason for them to stop now."
Three of the accused priests had been publicly identified in the past. Allegations of misconduct by Eugene Emo, David P. Simon, and Francis H. Vogt were reported by the local press and the accusations were acknowledged by the Diocese. Emo and Simon were removed from their ministry and Vogt has since died.
But allegations against five of the priests accused Wednesday had not been previously reported. They include:
Thomas J. Valenti
Gary P. Shaw
Richard J. Orlando
G. Stuart Hogan
Charles J. McCarthy
In its statement, the Diocese said an allegation against Father Valenti "was investigated, reviewed and determined to be unsubstantiated."
The Diocese said it has "never received any complaints of clergy sexual abuse against a minor" regarding the other four men.
Valenti is currently serving as the parochial administrator at Blessed Trinity St Patrick's parish in Owego (Tioga County). He served at Blessed Sacrament from 1978-1980 and at St Louis' in Pittsford from 1984-1989.
Garabedian said allegations of abuse against Valenti began when he was a deacon and continued after he became a priest at St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Ontario, Wayne County, in 1976.
He also called for Valenti to resign.
Shaw began his ministry at St. John's church in Clyde in 1973. Garabedian said allegations against him concern his time at St. Margaret Mary in Irondequoit, where he served from 1974-1977.
According to the Diocese, Shaw resigned from the ministry in 1977.
Orlando served at a series of churches in Rochester, including St. Francis Xavier's, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, St. Anthony of Padua and Holy Rosary as well as St. Helen church in Gates. He retired from St. Michael in Lyons, Wayne County, in 1993 and died in 2006.
Hogan served at Sacred Heart Cathedral from 1924 to 1931 and then at a succession of churches outside of Monroe County. He retired from St. Gregory Church in Marion in 1965 and died in 1985.
Garabedian said the allegations against Hogan concern his time at St. Gregory.
McCarthy was an assistant at St Bridget’s and Holy Rosary parishes from 1947 to 1960. He was serving at St. Andrew on Portland Avenue when he died in 1971. Garabedian said it was while McCarthy was at St. Andrew that he allegedly abused a child.
Garabedian is a Boston attorney who rose to prominence representing survivors of sexual abuse by priests there in the 1990s and 2000s. He was portrayed by actor Stanley Tucci in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight, which chronicled the case. To date, his firm has represented more than 1,000 victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
He has recently worked with people in Syracuse and Buffalo who made similar allegations there.
"It is time for the victims to try to heal and it is time for the church to stop these evil acts," he said.
Garabedian was joined by Robert M. Hoatson, founder and president of Road to Recovery, a non-profit organization that assists victims of sexual abuse and their families.
Robert.jpg Robert Hoatson, former priest and founder of Road to Recovery, a victimOs support organization, takes a moment as he talks during a press conference on Diocese of Rochester priests accused of abuse outside the Diocese of Rochester on Flower City Park in Rochester Wednesday, June 6, 2018. (Photo: SHAWN DOWD/@sdowdphoto/, SHAWN DOWD/@sdowdphoto/staff)
At the press conference, Hoatson, a former Catholic priest, echoed the call for Bishop Matano to release any information he holds about allegations against local priests.
"If not for the 17 very courageous and harmed people who came forward, we would not be here today," he said. "And yet we have an entity here in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester with all the resources to make information available so that people can heal."
Also standing with Garabedian was James Faluszczak, a former priest in Erie, Pennsylvania who is helping childhood sexual abuse victims in the Buffalo area. He said he was also a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and called for other victims to come forward.
"What I say to other victims is that you are not alone," he said. "Even if it may feel as though your soul has been murdered, you are not alone and there are people waiting to help you."
Garabedian said he has spoken to diocese officials, who have requested to have their own investigators speak to the alleged victims and possibly try to resolve the cases through arbitration or mediation.
He called the diocese response "callous, typical of the Diocese of Rochester and not pastoral in any sense of the word."
In the statement from the Diocese, Bishop Matano expressed his prayers for the victims of sexual abuse.
"I again wish to re-state to the victims and all the faithful my deep sorrow, regret and empathy for those who have suffered so grievously the sin of sexual abuse," Matano said. "I continue to offer fervent prayers for those who have been hurt and betrayed, and I ask all the faithful to join with me in these prayers."
The Diocese says it treats all claims of abuse seriously and has done so for decades.Its statement outlined the steps taken when a claim is made to the church.
"Upon receiving notification of any such claim, regardless when it occurred, the Diocese, in addition to promptly notifying appropriate civil authorities, conducts its own investigation, which is reviewed by an independent Review Board of experts in law, child protection, law enforcement and psychology."
The Diocese has retained Robert J. Lunn, a retired State Supreme Court justice, to oversee cases and make an independent determination.
"Justice Lunn will review all required documentation relating to the claim, evaluate the merits on a case-by-case basis and make a final decision regarding appropriate compensation for the victim, the statement said. "The Diocese has agreed to accept his determination without appeal."
The Diocese also said it encourages victims of clergy sexual abuse to contact civil authorities.
History of priest abuse in Rochester
In June of 2012, the diocese published a list of priests who had been the subject of "credible allegations" of sexual abuse within the previous ten years.
In a column that accompanied the list's publication, then-Bishop Matthew Clark apologized to abuse victims and praised the efforts of the diocese to stamp out sexual abuse.
"I take this step to further the cause of openness and transparency in this critical issue, to create a resource and a checkpoint for any victim who might come forward, to assist the process of restoring trust and to help victims in their healing," Clark wrote.
Clark also promised to update that list "if and when any new credible allegations of abuse are presented."
But nearly six years later, no new names have been added. The list at the diocese web site has remained largely unaltered since its original publication on June 6, 2012.
In response to an inquiry from the Democrat and Chronicle last summer, Doug Mandelaro, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Rochester, said: "Since 2012, there have been no allegations against any other priests."
In an email response, Mandelaro also said that one of the four priests whose case was pending in 2012 has since died.
"The rest remain barred from any public ministry or duties of a priest and may not present themselves as priests," he said.
That claim comes against a back drop of new allegations made across the state following the 2015 release of the film Spotlight. It depicted a year-long investigation by the Boston Globe of sexual abuse by priests and attempts by church officials in that city to cover up that activity.
The film brought renewed attention to how local dioceses handled allegations of abuse by their priests.
Bishop Salvatore Matano, who succeeded Bishop Clark in 2013, sent a letter to parishioners shortly after the film opened. He affirmed his commitment to assuring that those problems would not reoccur, and that steps were being taken to be more proactive moving forward.
“The issue of sexual abuse of children by clergy and others in our Church has caused much pain, alienation from the Church, hardship and understandable anger,”
Matano wrote. "As the Shepherd of this Diocese, I will continue to work unceasingly to ensure that our parishes, schools and every entity connected to our Diocese are safe and holy environments for all.”
Since then, there have been new cases reported in almost every diocese in New York state, including Albany, Buffalo, Long Island, New York City, and the Hudson Valley.
Two victims in Buffalo came forward with allegations of abuse in 2015, saying that they were not satisfied with the way Bishop Richard Malone handled their cases.
Syracuse Bishop Robert Cunningham came under fire after the Syracuse Post-Standard reported on his testimony in a 2011 deposition, in which he said child victims of priest sexual abuse were partly to blame. He later apologized for those remarks.
And last year, the Archdiocese of New York announced it was borrowing $100 million to fund a compensation program for victims of sexual abuse by its priests. More than 100 victims reached settlements, but new cases continue to come forward.