At Least 19 Buffalo Priests Publicly Linked to Sex Allegations

By Aaron Besecker
Buffalo News
February 28, 2018

The headquarters of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

The Rev. Norbert F. Orsolits isn't the only priest in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo who's been publicly accused of inappropriate sexual conduct.

At least 19 priests who worked in the Buffalo area have been publicly accused in recent decades, according to a search of The News archives.

Some were arrested. Some were named in lawsuits. Some were accused of wrongdoing outside of Western New York.

They represent a fraction of the priests who have been the targets of complaints privately filed with the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

In 2004, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo said 93 complaints alleging sexual abuse had been lodged against 53 clerics in the diocese since 1950. The diocese has refused to identify most of those men. At the time, those about whom complaints had been filed represented 2.6 percent of all clerics who served between 1950 and 2002.

Here are the priests who have been publicly accused:

1. John R. Aurelio Aurelio admitted to Niagara County law enforcement in 1993 that he and Rev. Bernard M. Mach sodomized young boys in a house the priests shared in East Aurora. The abuse happened 15 to 20 years prior, Aurelio told authorities. As of 2002, Aurelio was no longer functioning as a priest and lived out of state.

2. Benedict P. Barszcz A former assistant pastor of St. Peter's in Lewiston, he was charged in July 1999 with exposing himself to two teenage girls in Buffalo. Subsequently, he was no longer allowed to publicly celebrate Mass or the sacraments, the diocese said.

3. David Bialkowski A former altar server accused Bialkowski of inappropriate touching in 2011. Two more accusers came forward shortly after the initial accusations were made and Bialkowski was put on administrative leave from St. John Gualbert in Cheektowaga and ordered not to perform any priestly duties.

4. Robert Biesinger Biesinger was accused in a 1995 lawsuit of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in August 1974 during a drill-team competition in Chicago, as well as at locations in the Buffalo area. Biesinger resigned as pastor of a Cheektowaga parish in 1994 and retired before the diocese settled the lawsuit in 1996.

5. Secondo Casarotto - The diocese in 2012 reached a financial settlement with a 37-year-old woman who accused Casarotto of groping her inside the rectory of St. Anthony Church in Buffalo in 2009. No charges were filed against Casarotto but he was removed as a priest.

6. Charles Cassetta Cassetta was accused in a lawsuit filed around 2003 of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in 1971 and 1972 in Palm Beach County, Fla. Cassetta, who left the priesthood in 1975, worked in Buffalo before Florida.

7. James H. Cotter The Buffalo diocese was accused in a 2007 lawsuit of transferring Cotter to San Diego, where he was accused of molesting a 7-year-old boy in the late 1980s. The diocese did not contributed to a settlement paid by the San Diego Diocese to 144 people who accused clergy of abuse.

8. Joseph Friel Friel was named in a July 1994 lawsuit by a Town of Boston man who said he was molested by the priest in the late 1960s. Friel died in 1995.

9. Fred D. Ingalls Ingalls pleaded guilty to child pornography charges in June 2004. He was an administrator at St. Joseph in Varysburg and St. Cecilia in Sheldon at the time of his arrest. He was sentenced to three years and one month in federal prison.

10. Timothy Kelley Kelley was accused in a 2003 lawsuit in Florida of abusing a former altar boy who was a student at a Dunkirk school. The alleged abuse happened in 1983.

11. Bernard M. Mach A civil lawsuit filed Dec. 9, 1993, accused Mach of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in the rectory of St. Mary's Church in Lockport two years prior. The matter was brought before a grand jury. It did not indict Mach. The diocese later settled a $2 million lawsuit. The Rev. John R. Aurelio told police he and Mach sodomized young boys in an East Aurora house in the 1970s. As of 2002, Mach was no longer functioning as a priest and lived out of state.

12. Loville N. Martlock Martlock was placed on "medical leave" in April 1994 after being accused of abusing a boy between 1974 and 1978. He was no longer functioning as a priest, the diocese said in 2002. He died in 2014 at age 77.

13. Norbert F. Orsolits On the same day this week when a South Buffalo man publicly accused him of sexually abusing him more than 35 years ago, Orsolits admitted to The Buffalo News he had sexual contact with "probably dozens" of teenage boys. He remains a priest, but after 2003 was no longer allowed to say Mass or perform other priestly duties.

14. Robert J. Smith Smith, who was expelled from a Buffalo-area seminary in 1959, was sued separately in 1993 and 1994 by two former altar boys over alleged sexual abuse in Santa Fe.

15. James A. Spielman A settlement was revealed in 2002 about a sexual assault complaint against Spielman filed in 1993. The alleged abuse happened in the 1970s. The diocese settled the complaint in 1994. Spielman resigned from the priesthood and moved out of state.

16. Bernard Splawski Splawski was accused in 1986 of fondling an 18-year-old male student at Bishop Timon High School. He resigned in February 2003 as pastor of a New Jersey parish due to renewed complaints from the former student's family.

17. Charles M. Werth Werth was charged in 1994 and 2004 after incidents in Ellicott Creek Park. In the earlier case, he was charged with sexual abuse and pleaded guilty to exposure, a violation. In the latter incident, the then-retired priest was charged with public lewdness and afterwards removed from active ministry. The diocese said neither allegation involved young people. He died in December at age 89.

18. William F. White White was placed on leave in February 1993 after he was accused of sexual abuse. He was no longer functioning as a priest and had moved out of state, the diocese said in 2002.

19. Robert Wood Wood was removed as pastor of St. Joseph in Varysburg in 2003 after being accused of sexually abusing a minor. At the time, he said it involved an alleged incident that happened 16 years prior.








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