Two Rochester-area priests dismissed after investigation of misconduct
By Sean Lahman
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
December 10, 2018
|Bishop Salvatore R. Matano.|
Bishop Salvatore Matano has removed two priests from public ministry after an investigation into allegations of misconduct.
Fathers Thomas J. Valenti and Erick Viloria are both restricted from engaging in public ministry or presenting themselves publicly as clerics, according to a statement from the Diocese of Rochester.
Valenti, who was serving as parochial administrator of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s in Tioga County, was at Rochester's Blessed Sacrament from 1977-1979 and at St. Louis in Pittsford from 1984-1989.
He was a chaplain at Ithaca College from 1993 to 1997 and served outside the Diocese from 1997 until 2014, when he began his assignment at Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick's.
During a press conference this spring, Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said allegations of abuse against Valenti began when he was a deacon and continued after he became a priest at St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Ontario, Wayne County, in 1976.
The Diocese initiated its own investigation after those allegations were made public.
"After the investigation and review, the Review Board recommended the action based on new information that Father Valenti had engaged in objectionable and inappropriate behaviors with minors in that time period," the Diocese said. "Father Valenti adamantly denies the substance of the allegations."
Viloria, who was parochial vicar at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Geneva, was the subject of an August 2018 complaint.
"After the investigation, the Review Board’s recommendation was based on information that Father Viloria engaged in objectionable and inappropriate use of social media with an adult," the Diocese said. "This claim is unrelated to his parish ministry."
Both men can appeal the Bishop's decision to the Holy See, according to the Diocese.
Bishop Matano addressed the actions he'd taken in a statement posted at the Diocese website Sunday.
"The Diocese of Rochester is committed to creating a safe environment for all, most especially our children, young people and vulnerable adults. As Bishop of Rochester, I pledge to continue the many important initiatives we have undertaken to ensure this," Matano said. "I remain committed to the guiding principles established in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted in 2002 and which was most recently updated in 2018."
Allegations of local priest abuse
Valenti was one of eight priests accused this spring of sexually abusing minor children. A group of 15 men and two women, now grown, say they were abused by these priests when they were children.
Garabedian called on Bishop Salvatore Matano to release any records he has about allegations of sexual abuse against priests, including so-called "secret files," so the public can know who all of the accused priests are and what their supervisors did to respond to allegations.
He currently represents more than 45 victims who alleged they were sexually abused by priests who were assigned to the Diocese of Rochester at some point in time.
Garabedian said Tuesday that the removal of these two priests was "a red flag."
"History has taught us that releasing the names of only two predator priests is an attempt by the Catholic Church to hide most of the truth, continue the cover-up and ignore reality," Garabedian said. "The Diocese of Rochester must practice complete transparency and release all files, names of predator priests and their complicit supervisors so that victims can try to heal and children are safe."
More: Priest abuse spotlight shone on Rochester, too
In September, New York's Attorney General's Office issued subpoenas to all the Catholic dioceses in the state over how they have handled sexual abuse cases, and the office started a hotline to get tips from the public.
The subpoenas went to the seven dioceses and one archdiocese in New York as Attorney General Barbara Underwood has ordered a civil investigation into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The subpoenas are sweeping in their request, seeking information about how any and all allegations of sexual abuse within the church were handled.
The Attorney General's Office is also working with county district attorneys on any potential criminal wrongdoing.
Safe Horizons, a nationwide victim assistance organization, called for a change to the state's statute of limitations for prosecutions.
"The removal of abusive, predatory priests from the diocese is long overdue," its vice president of government affairs, Michael Polenberg, said in a statement. "But only the Child Victims Act can protect our communities and deliver justice for survivors. It’s time for lawmakers in Albany to stand up for survivors and stop defending institutions that silence them."
Victims and anyone with information about abuse can call the hotline at (800) 771-7755. They can also file a complaint at ag.ny.gov/ClergyAbuse.