Buffalo bishop puts three priests on leave after discovery of abuse allegations

Buffalo News [Buffalo NY]

June 5, 2021

By Maki Becker and Lou Michel

Three Catholic priests provided an Orchard Park elementary school student with access to four girls and encouraged the children to participate in sexual acts that the victim fears were secretly filmed in the 1990s, according to a Child Victims Act lawsuit against the Buffalo Diocese.

Bishop Michael W. Fisher put the priests on administrative leave pending an investigation by the diocese’s Independent Review Board. In a statement issued Saturday by the diocese, the priests were identified as:

• Rev. Adolph Kowalczyk, pastor of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church in Orchard Park.

• Rev. Gregory Dobson, who is retired but continues to assist in various parishes of the diocese.

• Rev. Mieczyslaw “Matt” Nycz, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul in Williamsville.

An attorney for the now 35-year-old Erie County man said Saturday that his client is worried that recordings of the incidents may still exist and could have been distributed as child pornography. The client is not accusing the priests of touching him.

The client, whose name is not listed in the lawsuit, was a student at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School.

“The complaint was brought anonymously and was not served on the Diocese but was discovered during a recent search of publicly filed complaints,” the statement from Fisher’s office said.

The diocese “confronted the three accused priests, all of whom deny ever committing any acts of abuse,” the statement said.

“My trust is in God’s providence to unfold,” Nycz told The News, before declining to further comment in a phone call.

Calls to the other two priests were not returned.

Fisher’s office said the plaintiff did not contact the diocese victim assistance coordinator, but that the diocese has reached out to the plaintiff’s lawyer to find out if he is willing to assist the Independent Review Board’s investigation of the allegations.

Bishop Michael Fisher's office released a statement on Saturday morning about the new allegations.  Derek Gee / Buffalo News
Bishop Michael Fisher’s office released a statement on Saturday morning about the new allegations. Derek Gee / Buffalo News

Paul K. Barr, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiff, said a decision will be made Monday on whether to cooperate.

“We appreciate the diocese addressing these priests and doing the right thing, but at the same time there is a trust factor,” Barr said.

The diocese has also notified the Erie County District Attorney’s office about the allegations.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed May 24, the abuse occurred starting in 1994 and continued through 1998 while the plaintiff was a student at Sacred Heart School.

At different times, the priests separately “coerced him to engage in sexual contact with other underage female students, which, upon information and belief,” the priests filmed, the complaint stated.

Barr told The Buffalo News additional details about the allegations outlined in the lawsuit.

The attorney said it initially began when the plaintiff went to confession and one of the priests showed him a pornographic image.

“What happened was, he was about 12 years old and he’s in the confessional and the priest showed him pornography. The priest asked him if he liked it. It was an adult woman and kind of grossed him out,” Barr said. “The priest asked, ‘What do you like?’ and he said, ‘Girls my age.’ The priest said, ‘Like who?’ ”

A week or two later, Barr said, the priest summoned his client to his office and the girl he had mentioned was there. That was the start of alleged sexual acts, which began with kissing and touching between the client and girl and eventually resulted in sexual intercourse.

Barr said his client told him that the first of the three priests would provide information on the “mechanics” of how to have sex and then leave the room.

Barr’s client said he remembers the priests would click on a device. He doesn’t know what it was, but looking back, he is afraid the priests might have been turning on a hidden camera or video recorder that was activated by the clicker.

“He never saw the camera, but we strongly suspect it was filmed. The plaintiff has explained that the priests had a device in their hands and and would press a button and my client would hear a clicking sound,” Barr said.

The possibility that the sex acts were being recorded, Barr said, did not occur to his client until he was an adult.

“In retrospect, as an adult, when he got his head around it, he thought, Oh my God, the priest was filming it. Somehow the priest always seemed to know to walk into the room right at the moment they finished,” the lawyer said, adding that the plaintiff first approached him about a year ago to discuss a lawsuit.

Barr said he has no physical evidence that the incidents were recorded in any way.

“He believes these incidents occurred 12 to 15 times,” Barr said, over a time frame starting in 1994 and ending in 1998. “It wasn’t initially intercourse. It was petting and kissing.”

According to the lawsuit, Kowalczyk is accused of committing the abuse when the plaintiff was about 9 to 11 years old between 1994 and 1996.

The suit alleges that the plaintiff was abused by Dobson when he was 10 to 11 between 1995 and 1996 and accuses Nycz of abusing the plaintiff from 1997 to 1998 when he was 12 to 13.

Three of the girls, Barr said, were fellow students, and the fourth was someone his client did not know.

Barr said his client has been in contact with one of the girls, but hasn’t been able to find a way to discuss the matter from their early adolescence.