Priests, Victims Fit Peophilia Profile Expert Notes Boys' Backgrounds
By Lou Michel
December 23, 1993
For three Buffalo adolescent boys from troubled homes, the offer was hard to resist -- a weekend in the country near a babbling creek. Everything would be taken care of, even the transportation.
But the boys, now adults, say they encountered more than fresh air. And they have carried into manhood a sordid story of allegations of sodomy committed by their hosts, two Catholic priests, a story they only recently shared with authorities.
Law enforcement officials said Wednesday they believe that the Revs. John R. Aurelio and Bernard M. Mach carefully selected the boys they invited to their former home in East Aurora, making sure the 12- to 14-year-old youngsters were from troubled backgrounds.
"The homes these youths came from had instances of divorce and alcoholism, and the priests offered to take them for a weekend," a source familiar with the investigation said. The boys, now grown men, told authorities the incidents occurred between 15 and 20 years ago.
Instead of a weekend of respite, the boys drank alcohol, smoked marijuana and were sodomized by the priests, the men told investigators. When confronted, Father Aurelio admitted Friday to authorities that he and Father Mach participated in acts of sodomy with the boys.
John W. Cole, commander of the Niagara County Child Abuse Strike Force, refused to comment directly on the case involving the two priests, but he said the pattern described by the three men fits the profile for pedophiles.
And while pedophiles have certain identifiable traits in pursuing children, Cole said he believes that "there is such a thing as the classic victim" in cases of pedophilia and that the victims usually come from troubled homes. "They are not honor roll students and they are not the high school football quarterback. A pedophile would not pick on those types. They pick on kids from troubled homes," said Cole, who is also the chief investigator of the Niagara County Sheriff's Department. "Part of the seduction process is that the kids receive special treatment, sometimes gifts, that they would not get at home. There's a void being filled."
It is common for victims of pedophilia to remain silent after they have been violated, Cole added.
"The Number One reason for this is that the kids realize no one would believe them over an adult. The child also carries a sense of guilt that he has done something wrong and sometimes the perpetrator will indicate to the child he has done something wrong.
"The child will also ask what did I do to create this situation when in fact the usual answer is absolutely nothing. With adolescent boys, there is also peer pressure. They don't want their peers to know they engaged in this kind of activity," Cole said.
Meanwhile, officials at West Seneca Developmental Center, where Father Aurelio was the facility's Catholic chaplain from March 1969 to June 1986, said Wednesday that the priest's work was "satisfactory" and marked by "good conduct."
"We are surprised and saddened by the recent alleged events . . . . If any family of individuals who are currently or formerly a part of West Seneca (Developmental Center) have any concerns, they should call the director's office so that we may discuss their concerns with them," said Russell C. Siraguse, the facility's director. "As the chaplain, he had a positive impact spiritually on the lives of all with whom he worked."
Law enforcement officials have said the priests cannot be charged because the statute of limitations, five years for felony charges, has long expired. Father Mach has also insisted he is innocent of a Lockport couple's claim he sexually abused their son in 1991.
When Terrence M. Connors, attorney for the diocese, was asked if the diocese had any prior knowledge that either priest had problems involving sexual abuse, he said, "No."
The diocesan investigation will follow the "usual diocesan procedure, which is to interview the alleged victims and those who are accused," said the Rev. Robert E. Zapfel, vice chancellor of the diocese. Interviews have not yet been conducted, he said.
An investigation last spring by the diocese into the Lockport couple's claim against Father Mach, pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church on Saxton Street, found no evidence to substantiate the allegation, Father Zapfel said.
Criticizing that investigation was Jennifer A. Coleman, the attorney representing the Lockport family in its claim.
"The diocese didn't do a very good investigation. They insisted on speaking with the boy alone without his parents and that was the last thing the parents were going to let happen. And so in its investigation, the diocese never spoke to the boy," Ms. Coleman said.
Father Aurelio, the spiritual director of Christ the King Seminary for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, and Father Mach were placed on leaves of absence Tuesday by Bishop Edward D. Head because of the new allegations.
"By placing the priests on administrative leave, it allows our investigation to continue, but does not imply any determination as to the truth or falsity of the allegations," Father Zapfel said.
He noted 4,000 diocesan workers and volunteers have attended required sexual abuse seminars since October 1990 when the diocese adopted a policy on how to deal with sexual and physical abuse allegations.
The three men came forward after the Lockport couple and their now 14-year-old son filed a $ 2.9 million civil lawsuit Dec. 8 in Erie County State Supreme Court alleging Father Mach sexually abused the boy two years ago in the church rectory.
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