Area priest notorious in sex abuse lawsuits passes away in Florida

The Daily News [Batavia NY]

February 23, 2022

By Matt Surtel

Batavia – A longtime area priest who became the one of the most notorious in the Buffalo Diocese’s sex abuse scandal has died.

The Rev. Donald W. Becker, 79, died Feb. 15 in Fort Myers, Fla. He was accused of molesting children in 30 lawsuits under the state’s Child Victims Act.

Becker always denied the allegations, but the sheer number of lawsuits made him the most-accused priest in the diocese.

Becker was ordained in 1968 and the lawsuits against him allege incidents dating back to at least that time. One such lawsuit accused him of getting a 15-year-old male drunk and then raping him during a 1975 incident in North Java.

Becker was pastor from 1992 to 2002 at the former St. Mary’s Church in Batavia. He was removed from his duties in 2002 on a “medical leave of absence” and named by the diocese in 2018 among the dozens of clergy credibly accused of sex abuse.

He had lived in Fort Myers since 2013.

At least one of Becker’s alleged victims died by suicide, according to Horowitz Law, which is representing some of the victims in their lawsuits suits.

Becker’s case was sent to the Vatican in Rome in October 2019 to determine his status as a priest. The outcome wasn’t immediately available as of press time Tuesday evening.

Only the Vatican can remove a priest permanently from ministry. That could mean either return to the lay state or a life of prayer and penance — a restricted lifestyle with no possible public ministry as a priest.

All living diocesan priests with substantiated allegations remain on administrative leave. That means they may not dress like a priest or function as a priest.

Numerous priests who served in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties have been listed by the diocese as credibly accused, including some who served locally since the 1950s.

The Diocese of Buffalo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2020.