Buffalo Diocese board clears priest of abuse allegation; bishop permanently suspends another

Buffalo News [Buffalo NY]

August 19, 2021

By Jay Tokasz

Bishop Michael W. Fisher will let a priest accused of child sex abuse return to ministry after a review board determined that the alleged abuse was “not substantiated.”

The Rev. Paul M. Nogaro, retired pastor of St. Stephen Church on Grand Island, will be allowed to celebrate Mass publicly again and perform other priestly functions.

It is the second time a review board has found abuse claims made against him in a Child Victims Act lawsuit to be unsubstantiated.

Nogaro, 75, first was accused in a lawsuit on Aug. 14, 2019, and suspended from active ministry a few days later. He was allowed to resume ministry Jan. 17, 2020, after the review board’s first determination. Within days, however, a second CVA lawsuit alleged abuse by Nogaro in the 1990s at St. Gregory the Great Church in Amherst.

“They were completely unsubstantiated and there was no reasonable evidence of any kind to support these two claims against Father Nogaro,” said attorney Edward C. Cosgrove, who represented Nogaro.

Nogaro did not respond to a voicemail and an email seeking comment.

Paul Barr, who represents both plaintiffs who allege abuse by Nogaro, said he has “grave concern” about the priest returning to ministry.

“Based on the experience I have, these are credible accusations, and he caused grave damage to the people I represent,” said Barr.

Barr said he declined to allow his latest client to speak with a diocese investigator and attorneys. “We’re in litigation and I wasn’t comfortable letting my client be interviewed,” he said.

The review board in previous cases has found allegations unsubstantiated after a diocese investigator has been unable to interview the complainants.

“They have their own rules, but I have to operate under the civil rules in a manner that’s most advantageous to my client,” said Barr. He added that he would be inclined to allow those conversations to happen after the cases are settled.

The review board also determined that allegations against the Rev. Donald J. Lutz, former pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in South Buffalo, were substantiated.

Lutz, who is accused in multiple CVA lawsuits, has been assigned to “permanent administrative leave,” according to a diocese news release on Thursday.

He is restricted from presenting himself as a priest publicly and from presiding over the public celebration of sacraments, including celebrating Mass. Lutz also will be subject to a monitoring program recently created by Fisher for clergy with substantiated abuse claims.

The review board also determined that abuse allegations against six deceased priests were substantiated.

Those priests are:

  • • The Rev. Daniel G. Duggan;
  • • The Rev. Ralph P. Frederico;
  • • The Rev. Edward L. Kazmierczak;
  • • The Rev. Leo F. Reddy;
  • • The Rev. David V. Roche; and,
  • • The Rev. George J. Brennan.

Priests with substantiated abuse allegations will be added to a list of credibly accused priests, posted on the Diocese’s website. 

The list of diocese priests now has 87 names. About 200 priests have been accused in Child Victims Act lawsuits.