Diocese rules sex abuse claims against retired priest are substantiated

Buffalo News [Buffalo NY]

February 17, 2023

By Jay Tokasz

The Buffalo Diocese has added a retired priest to its list of clergy with “substantiated claims” of sexual abuse of a minor.

Monsignor Ronald Sciera was put on administrative leave following a 2021 Child Victims Act lawsuit claiming he molested a 13-year-old boy nearly 50 years ago. Sciera in a 2021 interview with The News denied sexually abusing anyone and said the claim was false.

In a statement Friday, the diocese said Bishop Michael W. Fisher determined that accusations against Sciera, 88, had been substantiated.

The bishop made his decision after an investigation and recommendations by a review board that consists mostly of lay Catholic professionals, including a retired judge, a licensed clinical social worker and a retired banking executive. 

Fisher previously suspended Sciera, who lives in Florida, from performing any public ministry as a priest, a restriction that the monsignor’s lawyer tried to have reversed with an appeal to Rome that included the results of a lie detector test and 75 letters from people attesting to his character.

Sciera, as a young priest, served as an unofficial chaplain to the Buffalo Sabres and was pastor of Precious Blood parish in Buffalo for many years. He also had a personal friendship with Pope John Paul II, now St. John Paul II, who appointed Sciera to the board of the John Paul II Foundation in 1996.

“I have to answer to God,” he told The News in 2021 when asked about the sex abuse accusation against him. “I have a hope that justice will be served, and the truth will come to light.”

Attorney Michael Taheri said Sciera submitted evidence that wasn’t contested and testified at hearing Dec. 20 before the review board.

“We were surprised by the review board’s conclusion, given that the accusers never testified or appeared and Father Ron did,” he said. “He answered all the questions put to him. The accusers weren’t there.”

Taheri said the proceeding was fundamentally unfair and Sciera will seek exoneration in an appeal to the Vatican.

Sciera is now among 86 priests included on a list of Buffalo Diocese clergy with substantiated claims of abuse against them, as determined by the diocese. In addition, 23 religious order priests who had served in the Buffalo Diocese have been identified as having substantiated abuse claims.

Child Victims Act lawsuits have accused 230 priests of molesting children.

Accusation against Rev. Daniel Palys

The diocese’s statement also said the review board examined an additional accusation of abuse against the Rev. Daniel Palys, who was removed from ministry in 2018 following a previous substantiated abuse claim and added to the diocese list.

The additional accusation against Palys also was determined to be substantiated, and he will remain on the list, the statement said. Palys is accused of abuse in 2019 CVA lawsuit.

The diocese’s list indicates that Sciera and Palys, a longtime pastor of St. Gabriel in Elma who has been retired for several years, have multiple accusations against them.