Dunkirk priest under investigation for abuse again

By Evan Anstey And Chris Horvatits
July 30, 2018

[with video]

A Diocese of Buffalo priest cleared of abuse allegations earlier this year is under investigation once again. 

Rev. Dennis Riter currently serves at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Dunkirk. On Monday, a man who claims he was abused by Riter in the early 1990s sat down with a Church investigator. The alleged abuse occurred while Riter was serving at Queen of All Saints Parish in Lackawanna.

Diocesan officials say despite the investigation, Riter is still active, and has not been placed on administrative leave. He was placed on leave during the first investigation, before those allegations were deemed unsubstantiated.

The alleged victim in this case is represented by attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who was depicted in the film Spotlight, which chronicled abuse investigations involving priests in the Archdiocese of Boston.

In all, Garabedian says he represents 31 abuse victims in the Diocese of Buffalo.

"It's time for transparency," he said. "It's time for Bishop (Richard) Malone to step up to the plate."

Riter was first investigated in March, when he was placed on leave. When that complaint was determined to be unsubstantiated in June, he was reinstated. He has been serving at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton since.

The alleged victim who was interviewed Monday did not speak with investigators during that first inquiry.

"Why it didn't take place earlier, before they put Dennis Riter back in ministry, I don't know," said Garabedian.

But diocesan officials provided an answer. They say they tried speaking with the complainant the first time. Spokesperson George Richert said the diocese sent Garabedian two letters asking to interview the alleged victim.

"Letters were sent to Mr. Garabedian in late May and again in early June, but were not responded to until after Fr. Riter was returned to active ministry a month later," a diocesan statement said. "The diocese still made efforts to investigate the specific allegations even without the ability to speak to the alleged victim."

"The letters I received did not state a sense of, 'We have to do it today or we're going to put him back in ministry,'" Garabedian responded. "They could have told me that. I would have been here the next day."

To bolster his client's case, Garabedian showed a letter he says help substantiates the abuse claim. It was written by a theology student at Christ the King Seminary, and details a "morally and legally questionable situation" that he says he witnessed regarding Rev. Riter and the alleged victim.



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