Buffalo Diocese Announces Abuse Victim Payouts
By Stephen Wynne
March 2, 2018
BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A third New York diocese is cobbling together a fund to pay for the alleged sins of its priests.
On the heels of New York City and Syracuse, the diocese of Buffalo announced Thursday its own Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) to settle claims of clerical sex abuse.
According to Bp. Richard J. Malone, the program will be financed with self-insurance liability and investment fund reserves. The diocese will also consider selling off properties.
Terrence Connors, attorney for the Buffalo diocese, explained that victims' identities will remain private. Anyone offered a settlement will not be required to sign a confidentiality agreement, allowing victims to speak publicly about their cases. This contrasts with the terms of the archdiocese of New York's $40 million settlement, which required individuals filing claims with the New York IRCP to agree not to release public details about their cases.
Anyone accepting a payout must sign "an Agreement and General Release of all past and future claims against any party relating to such allegations of sexual abuse" — similar to New York's requirement that claimants agree not to sue the archdiocese.
News of Buffalo's compensation fund comes two days after retired priest Norbert F. Orsolits confessed to sexually abusing "probably dozens" of adolescent males in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Speaking to The Buffalo News Tuesday, Orsolits characterized his encounters as consensual, alcohol-fueled romps with teenage boys in his care. He even claimed he was "led on" by some of his victims.
In the early 1980s, the priest was reported to the diocese. Then-Bp. Edward D. Head sent Orsolits to Canada's Southdown Institute — a frequent destination for U.S. priests accused of sexual abuse — for six months of psychological treatment. The diocese reassigned him to work at a rural church and high school afterward. In 2003, as reports of priest sex abuse began to explode, the Buffalo diocese removed Orsolits from ministry.
Orsolits' admission was triggered when one of his alleged victims went public February 27. The man's attorney, Mitchell Garabedian — who has represented priest sex abuse victims in Boston — told WGRZ television the diocese of Buffalo has orchestrated a "cover-up."
|Attorney Mitchell Garabedian|
"The diocese of Buffalo has shown us they practice secrecy, just like the rest of the Catholic Church when it comes to abuse," Garabedian said. "It was swept under the rug, kept quiet and revealed to no one ... the sexual abuse was revealed to no one outside of the Catholic Church. That's an amoral position to take and it should be corrected immediately."
Speaking publicly about the scandal, Bp. Malone apologized to Orsolits' victims. "We are so very, very sorry for the pain of the abuse that has happened to you," he said. "We're sorry. I'm sorry. And we want to do everything we can going forward, reaching out to you who have come to us in the past."
In announcing the compensation program, the diocese revealed additional details about sex abuse by its priests. In the last 20 years, it said, roughly $1.2 million has been paid to victims. Since 2005, at least 19 Buffalo clerics have been accused of sexual abuse. This is in addition to 93 accusations filed against 53 priests between 1950–2004, which diocesan officials have already acknowledged.