Three Men Make Additional Charges of Abuse by Priests
By Lou Michel
December 22, 1993
LOCKPORT — Three men have come forward, emboldened by the accusations of a Lockport couple that a parish priest had sexually abused their 12-year-old-son, with new accusations that two prominent Catholic priests sodomized them when they were boys.
The three men went separately to Niagara County law enforcement officials after The Buffalo News reported a Lockport couple's claim that their son had been sexually abused by one of the priests.
The men told the officials that, when they were in their early teens 15 or 20 years ago, the Revs. John R. Aurelio and Bernard M. Mach sodomized them in an East Aurora house the two priests shared. Meanwhile, an East Aurora man has linked both priests to child pornography that was delivered to a home they once shared.
The Niagara County investigators said Tuesday that they are taking the allegations of the three men seriously because the incidents occurred on separate occasions and "had the same pattern of seduction." The three men apparently did not know one another, according to law enforcement and other officials involved in the case, who added that the men's ages at the time of the alleged incidents ranged from 12 to 14. Armed with those statements, Niagara County law enforcement officials late last week traveled to a Lake Erie cottage that the two priests now share in the Town of Brant and confronted them.
At that point, Father Aurelio admitted that he and Father Mach had sodomized young boys 15 to 20 years ago, sources said.
"This is very difficult for me, but what you said is true," answered Father Aurelio, nearly in tears, according to sources.
Father Aurelio, the spiritual director of Christ the King Seminary for the diocese, insisted Father Mach is innocent of the recent allegations by the Lockport youngster. He also said that he and Father Mach were sexually naive when the 12- and 14-year-old boys "came on" to them at the home the two priests once shared in East Aurora. Also Tuesday, a member of the family that later purchased the East Aurora home said child pornography addressed to the two priests arrived at the house after it was sold. One mailing was to Father Aurelio and the other was to Father Mach, although their clerical titles were not on the mailing labels, the family member said.
"I shook so bad when I saw it (the child pornography) that I went outside and took a match to it and burned it," said the man, who asked not to be identified. "I wouldn't show it to my wife or anyone, it was so graphic. I just shook when I looked at it."
Bishop Edward D. Head of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo has placed both priests on leaves of absence and the diocese is investigating the latest allegations.Neither priest could be reached to comment, despite several attempts by The Buffalo News to interview them Tuesday.
The allegations against the priests relate to incidents that occurred more than a decade ago. But Niagara County officials said they lend credence to the recent suit filed against Father Mach.
"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," said a law enforcement official close to the case.
Niagara County law enforcement officials said the men who have come forward described how they went individually to visit the priests' East Aurora house, drank alcohol and smoked marijuana with the priests. They then went into a sauna room, where the priests sodomized them. However, Father Aurelio, the author of children's Christian storybooks, had a different version of the events. He told investigators that the boys "came on to them," explaining that he and Father Mach were just out of the seminary and "sexually naive," law enforcement sources said.
Father Aurelio, 56, admitted that he and Father Mach, 55, sodomized the boys after the investigator informed them that the statute of limitations had run out and the two priests could not be prosecuted.
The statute of limitations is five years for felony charges.
The investigator started his interview with Father Aurelio by saying, "John, what do you tell your flock when you preach? To tell the truth — and that's exactly what I expect from you."
The investigator also told the priest that the three men could accurately describe the inside of the East Aurora house, sources said. The investigator then asked Father Aurelio if he and Father Mach engaged in sodomy with the boys. That is when Father Aurelio confessed, the sources said.
A Niagara County grand jury last October reviewed the case of the Lockport boy, but did not indict Father Mach because there was a lack of evidence. In the fall, investigators from the Niagara County Child Abuse Strike Force had interviewed several people who know Father Mach.
After the grand jury decided not to indict the priest, the Lockport couple and their now 14-year-old son filed a $ 2.9 million civil lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Erie County against Father Mach and the diocese earlier this month. They alleged that Father Mach sexually abused the boy in the rectory of St. Mary's in 1991.
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