Priests, Teacher, Doctor Accused in Latest Child Victims Act Lawsuits
By Jay Tokasz
December 27, 2019
A Jesuit priest who previously had not been linked to a sex abuse claim is among several people accused in recently filed lawsuits of molesting children, along with an unnamed teacher at a South Buffalo Catholic school, an unnamed doctor at a home for orphaned and runaway girls, and a former Catholic priest who pleaded guilty in 1986 to a misdemeanor charge of first-degree attempted sexual abuse.
A male plaintiff who was raised in Cornwall, a town in Orange County, alleged that the Rev. Charles W. Lehmkuhl molested him from the time he was 7 years old in 1973 until 1983, when he was 17. The plaintiff, who is represented by attorney Nicholas J. Shemik, named Canisius College as defendant. Neither the Buffalo Diocese, nor the Society of Jesus, Lehmkuhl’s priestly order, were named as defendants.
Lehmkuhl taught at Canisius from 1956 to 1987. He died in 1995.
The lawsuit states that Lehmkuhl was a friend of the plaintiff’s family and served as a father figure and spiritual leader to the plaintiff. The plaintiff accompanied Lehmkuhl on a trip to Canisius College in 1983, according to the lawsuit, which accuses the college of failing to protect the plaintiff from sexual assaults.
Lehmkuhl was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1949 and served as prefect of discipline at Xavier High School in New York City before arriving at Canisius College, where he taught religious studies and psychology.
Lehmkuhl also was a moderator of various college organizations, including the ROTC drill team, and served as confessor to diocesan seminarians at Christ the King Seminary and to newly ordained priests who served in the former Missionary Apostolate in rural areas of the diocese.
A spokeswoman for Canisius College said college officials have been cooperating with Shemik to provide information about Lehmkuhl.
The plaintiff was not a student at Canisius College, and the college had received no other notice of any claims against Lehmkuhl, spokeswoman Eileen Herbert said in a statement.
Lehmkuhl was not included on a USA Northeast Province list, released last January, of Jesuits with credible accusations of child sex abuse.
“The sole basis for Canisius College being named in this suit is the fact that Fr. Lehmkuhl was employed at the college and that some of the acts are alleged to have occurred on college property during the summer when [the plaintiff] came to Canisius to visit Fr. Lehmkuhl,” Herbert said in the statement.
Canisius College President John J. Hurley is part of the organizing committee of the Movement to Restore Trust, a group of Catholic lay people that had been critical of former Bishop Richard J. Malone’s handling of sex abuse claims and finances and pushed for greater transparency in how the Buffalo Diocese managed such matters.
Other lawsuits filed last week under the Child Victims Act include:
• An anonymous plaintiff accused a teacher at South Buffalo Catholic School-Notre Dame Academy of sexual abuse from 2007 to 2009, when the plaintiff was 13 to 16 years old. The dates of the alleged abuse make them the most recent of any claims lodged against the Buffalo Diocese under the Child Victims Act. The plaintiff’s lawyer, Steve Boyd, declined to identify the gender of the plaintiff or name the accused teacher. Boyd said the teacher accused of the abuse was removed from the school due to claims of the same nature as those made by his client. “I don’t know if it is because of my client’s allegations,” he added.
• A North Carolina woman alleged being abused at age 14 in 1956 by a unidentified doctor at the Magdalene Laundries, a facility on Best Street operated by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd.
• An anonymous West Seneca man alleged that the Rev. Gerald Jasinski sexually assaulted him in 1969 in the rectory of St. John Church in Sinclairville, Chautauqua County. The plaintiff was 17 at the time. The lawsuit said Jasinski gave the plaintiff alcohol before the assault. It is the fifth Child Victims Act lawsuit filed to accuse Jasinski. He is the only known Buffalo Diocese priest in the past 50 years to be criminally charged with molesting a child in Western New York. While assigned at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Lancaster, Jasinski was arrested June 7, 1986, on felony charges of first-degree sodomy and first-degree sexual abuse and a charge of unlawfully dealing with a child by the Wyoming County Sheriff's Office. He was accused of having sexual contact with two boys, age 15 and 18, at a cabin in the town of Sheldon. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of first-degree attempted sexual abuse and was sentenced to five years on probation, according to Buffalo News archives. Jasinski was dismissed from the clerical state in 1988 and now lives in Virginia.
• An anonymous male, 74, who lives in Erie County, alleged being abused by an unnamed nun as a student at St. Adalbert parish school from 1953 to 1956. The man’s complaint states that a “Sister Jane Doe” brought him to an empty classroom to punish him when he was in grades three through six at the school on Buffalo’s East Side. The nun then engaged in aggressive and violent and “harmful sexual contact on an intimate part” of his body for the purpose of degrading him and “gratifying her own sexual desire,” the complaint states.