Retired Buffalo priest placed on administrative leave after allegations of abuse surface

WIVB [Buffalo NY]

June 30, 2021

By Patrick Ryan

A retired Buffalo priest, who still helps in parish ministry, has been placed on administrative leave after allegations of abuse were levied against 83-year-old Rev. Msgr. James G. Kelly.

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo says a complaint was filed anonymously pursuant to the Child Victims Act by someone who claims they were abused as a child 15 years ago by Msgr. Kelly. The complaint wasn’t served directly to the diocese, it was discovered “during a recent search of publicly filed complaints.”

Msgr. Kelly denied committing any acts of abuse. The diocese notified the Erie County District Attorney’s office and contacted the plaintiff’s attorney after learning of the complaint. The matter has also been reported to their Independent Review Board — responsible for appointing an independent investigator. 

The diocese says they’re working to see if the victim is willing to participate in an investigation.

While waiting for a response from the victim, a second person filed an anonymous complaint against Kelly. This person alleged they were abused by the 83-year-old in the early 1980s.

Bishop Michael Fisher placed Msgr. Kelly on administrative leave ahead of an independent investigator being appointed.

“As a result, Bishop Fisher has decided to place Msgr. Kelly on administrative leave pending a thorough investigation by the appointed independent investigator and a final determination by the Independent Review Board.  Bishop Fisher wishes to emphasize that the decision to place Msgr. Kelly on administrative leave at this time is in no way intended to indicate his guilt or is it a determination about the truth or falsity of the complaints,” the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo said in a news release.

Joseph Makowski, the lawyer for Msgr. Kelly, tells News 4 these complaints are unfounded.

“Msgr Kelly has served the Western New York Catholic community with distinction for 59 years. The allegations contained in the two unsworn Anderson law firm complaints are unfounded. We deny the allegations of the Complaints and will vigorously defend the actions in court. We look forward to the investigation of the Complaints by the Independent Review Board chaired by retired Appellate Division Justice Salvatore Martoche. We also look forward to forward to Msgr. Kelly returning to his pastoral duties.”

Patrick Ryan is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here.