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  Sources Say Priest Admits Abusing Boys with Rev. Mach

By Lou Michel
Buffalo News
December 21, 1993

The Rev. John R. Aurelio has told Niagara County law enforcement officials that he and the Rev. Bernard M. Mach sodomized young boys 15 to 20 years ago in an East Aurora house they once shared.

Father Aurelio, the spiritual director of Christ the King Seminary for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, told authorities that he and Father Mach drank alcohol and smoked marijuana with young boys and then participated in acts of sodomy with them, according to three Niagara County sources close to the case.

Both priests today were placed on leaves of absences.

"In view of the recent developments, including new allegations and threats (to Father Mach), Bishop Edward D. Head has placed Father Mach and FatherAurelio on leaves of absence for their personal safety and to permit the diocesan investigation to continue," said Terrence M. Connors, attorney for the diocese.

Niagara County investigators recently approached Father Aurelio, 56, because of accusations about his friend, Father Mach, 55. During that interview, Father Aurelio told law enforcement officials about the incidents 15 to 20 years ago. He said that the boys, whose ages ranged from 12 to 14, "came on to them" and that he and Father Mach initially refused to participate in the acts, according to sources close to the investigation.

Father Aurelio, who is well known for writing children's Christian storybooks, explained to law enforcement officials that he and Father Mach were just out of the seminary at the time and "sexually naive," a source said.

"This disclosure (by Father Aurelio) tends to give credibility to the most recent allegation (the civil lawsuit) because of past similar conduct, although the disclosure is beyond the statute of limitations and cannot be used in this most recent case," a law enforcement official close to the case said.

A Lockport couple and their 14-year-old son filed a $ 2.9 million civil lawsuit Dec. 9 against the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and Father Mach, claiming the priest sexually abused the boy two years ago in the rectory of St. Mary's Catholic Church, where Father Mach is pastor.

But Father Aurelio also told Niagara County investigators that Father Mach did not sexually abuse the Lockport boy.

Father Mach has adamantly maintained he is innocent of that claim and said he is willing to take a lie detector test.

The diocese also conducted an investigation into the complaint last spring and found no evidence to substantiate the claim.

Father Aurelio admitted to Niagara County investigators that he and Father Mach participated in sexual acts with individual boys but that there were no instances of group sex in the East Aurora house, according to sources close to the case.

The two priests sold the East Aurora house about 10 years ago, but they now jointly own a cottage on Lake Erie.

Father Aurelio admitted the acts after authorities told him that the five-year statute of limitations for felony charges had run out and he could not be prosecuted for acts that occurred 15 to 20 years ago.

The Lockport couple making the accusation against Father Mach originally had gone to Niagara County prosecutors, and the case was presented to a grand jury. But the grand jury did not indict Father Mach.

One of the key reasons for that no-bill was that the lack of physical evidence or past history of sodomy in Father Mach's background to back up the family's claim.

But after The Buffalo News reported the civil lawsuit, victims started coming forward to Jennifer A. Coleman, the attorney representing the Lockport family and law enforcement officials.

Ms. Coleman today said that Father Aurelio is referred to in the lawsuit, although he is neither identified nor named as a defendant.

"In my complaint, the other priest referred to is Father Aurelio, and I've talked to other victims who have identified him," Ms. Coleman said.

Ms. Coleman had said the victims were able to describe the East Aurora house in detail, which provided credence to their claims the acts had occurred.

Christ the King Seminary, where Father Aurelio is the spiritual director, is located on Knox Road in East Aurora. It is the graduate theology school where seminarians from the Buffalo diocese and several others are prepared to be ordained as priests. It is owned and operated by the Buffalo Catholic Diocese.

Father Mach went into hiding over the weekend because officials said he received a death threat. The threat, conveyed in a letter, arrived several days after the lawsuit was filed.

A copy of the letter was given to the Niagara County Sheriff's Department. The anonymous letter said the death threat would be carried out within three months because the priest does not deserve to live, officials familiar with letter said.

 
 

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