Priest Is Subject of Two More Accusations

By Jay Tokasz
Buffalo News
March 10, 2011

Two new accusations of inappropriate behavior involving a Cheektowaga priest surfaced this week, but the suspended pastor continues to receive support from many parishioners.

A lawyer for a Cheektowaga man who accused the Rev. David W. Bialkowski of misconduct said this week that he has received information from two other sources alleging inappropriate actions by the priest with teenage boys.

The lawyer, Kevin T. Stocker, said he reported the accusations to the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

"As each person comes forward, I'm relaying it to the church's counsel," Stocker said, "so things don't get swept under the rug."

Diocesan spokesman Kevin A. Keenan confirmed that Stocker had sent additional information to the diocese but declined to comment on whether the new accusations were credible. He said they need to be examined more closely.

"We will follow the procedures. We will investigate these allegations and make a determination," Keenan said.

The priest maintains his innocence, according to sources, and he has considerable support from parishioners who have considered him an ideal pastor.

Bialkowski's lawyer, Kevin W. Spitler, said he had no further com-

ment beyond a statement he gave last week denying the initial accusations.

"He's a man of strong faith. Therefore, he's relying on his faith and the support of his many, many friends to get through these allegations that he strongly denies," Spitler said at the time.

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec placed Bialkowski on administrative leave in February, suspending the priest's duties and ordering him to leave St. John Gualbert Church, where he had ministered for more than 15 years.

Parishioners largely have responded with disbelief, and some have begun efforts to get Bialkowski's ministry restored.

A Mass will be offered this evening on Bialkowski's behalf in Our Lady of Bistrica Church in Lackawanna, and several parishioners already have requested daily Mass intentions for him at St. John Gualbert. Some parishioners also have offered to pay for Bialkowski's legal expenses.

An effort to circulate a petition in the parish calling for the diocese to bring him back did not get off the ground, however.

The Diocesan Review Board a consultative body appointed by the bishop to analyze cases of possible sexual abuse is scheduled to meet this afternoon at the Catholic Center.

The diocese confirmed last week that the board previously reviewed the case involving Bialkowski. The agenda of today's meeting was not being released.

Keenan called the proceedings confidential.

Bialkowski's suspension came as a result of an accusation by a former altar server, James J. Herr II.

According to sources, Herr told diocesan officials that Bialkowski inappropriately touched his thigh and made suggestive comments a decade ago, when Herr was a 14-year-old altar server in the parish.

Herr has declined to elaborate on what happened to him.

But Stocker, his lawyer, said this week that Herr was subjected to more than one instance of "highly inappropriate behavior" on the part of Bialkowski. Herr has been forthcoming about the details with people in the diocese who are in a position to take action, Stocker added.

"He was a child back then. He doesn't want to go into the public and detail this inappropriate behavior," Stocker said.

Herr did not seek out media coverage, nor is he looking for a settlement with the diocese, Stocker noted.

"He seeks nothing out of it. He doesn't want to file a court case. He just wants to make sure this person is no longer around children," he said.

A Buffalo News article about Herr's allegation spurred two calls to Stocker about other alleged misdeeds, the lawyer said.

A 27-year-old New York City resident told Stocker that he quit as an altar server after being subjected to inappropriate behavior by Bialkowski more than a decade ago, the lawyer said. "He said he hadn't told anyone, including his own family," Stocker said. "He felt the need to come forward. . . . He indicated he was embarrassed and never told anyone in his family of the incidents."

The second call came from the mother of a young man who was not associated with St. John Gualbert.

According to Stocker, the woman said her son was unaware that Bialkowski was a priest. She added that her son was unwilling to come forward about his alleged experience at age 16 with Bialkowski, Stocker said.

A national organization that has been a vocal critic of how Catholic bishops have handled cases of sexual abuse by clergy also weighed in on the allegations against Bialkowski.

"Many will be tempted to minimize what Bialkowski allegedly did. We urge citizens and Catholics to remember that any sexual act or overture toward a child by an adult is hurtful. It's the betrayal of trust and the crossing of boundaries that is harmful, as much or more than the specific sexual act," said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Dorris also said parishioners who support Bialkowski should do so privately, so as not to scare victims from coming forward with information on alleged sex abuse by clergy.

"When adults rally around an alleged child sex offender, it scares other victims of other predators into staying silent. All of us have a duty to make it easier, not harder, for child sex-abuse victims to speak up," she said.

Whether Bialkowski will receive another pastoral assignment is unclear, but it's highly unlikely he will be headed back to St. John Gualbert. The diocese has advertised for other priests to apply for the pastorate, which is currently under a temporary administrator, the Rev. Emil P. Swiatek.


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