Buffalo Diocese Accused of Yearslong Cover-Up of Sexual Abuse

New York Times

November 23, 2020

By Liam Stack

The state Attorney General said in a lawsuit that two former top leaders helped shelter more than two dozen priests accused of harming children.

The New York attorney general’s office on Monday accused the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and three bishops connected to it of violating church policy and state law with their involvement in a yearslong cover-up of sexual abuse by priests.

The lawsuit is the first state legal action against the Catholic Church in New York since a new wave of abuse investigations began in 2018, and it is the culmination of just one of eight inquiries, one for each Catholic diocese in the state. The other seven inquiries are ongoing.

The lawsuit represents what prosecutors believe is a novel legal strategy: The state will attempt to use civil laws, in particular those governing religious charities and their fiduciaries, to sue a Catholic diocese for failing to follow church policies enacted in 2002, after a series of investigative reports by The Boston Globe thrust the sex abuse scandal into public view.

It also may also raise questions about religious liberty: in addition to restitution and changes in the way the diocese handles sexual abuse claims, the lawsuit seeks to ban two bishops from management roles in any charitable organization, which may draw pushback from those who believe this encroaches into church autonomy.

The office of the attorney general, Letitia James, said its investigation found that the diocese and its two former top leaders, Bishop Richard J. Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz, used bureaucratic maneuvers to shelter more than two dozen priests accused of harming children.

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