Sex abuse victims frustrated over diocese bankruptcy

By Mike Baggerman
March 2, 2020

Victims of clergy sex abuse are concerned that the bankruptcy filing by the Diocese of Buffalo will not give them the right level of justice, despite an expected financial settlement to be determined through the bankruptcy courts.

"It's very frustrating (not being able) to delve into the files and the particulars of a case," Gary Astridge said. "Bishop Scharfenberger had put on record that he was going to be transparent and make the files open to survivors. I called January 14 and 15 asking what the process was and just got a voicemail and not a return response. As a survivor, it was extremely insulting not getting any kind of word back."

Astridge, a victim of sex abuse from the ages of 7 to 11 allegedly by Father Edward Townsend at Cardinal Dougherty High School, said he feels nothing has changed in the process despite new leadership in Buffalo and said Catholics should be screaming to the Vatican over this instance.

"If this was an international corporation would this be happening this way?" Astridge said. "Heads would be rolling and people would be in jail."

One of the biggest points of contention with bankruptcy among abuse survivor advocates is the difference in the level of evidence unveiled about the abuse. Bishop Scharfenberger said all claims will eventually come forward and be handled by a federal judge. Steve Donato, an attorney representing the Diocese, said the discovery process will be addressed in federal court and will be more broad than it the state courts.

"The filing of the case simply stays and stops the state court litigation," Donato said. "Effectively, those issues will be transferred to the federal bankruptcy court and we will address those issues as it proceeds."

Attorney Steve Boyd said he still intends to fight to get additional evidence through the bankruptcy process.

"There will be plenty of money to go around but the bigger issue for our clients is getting to the bottom of it," Boyd said. "What did (the church) do once the client complained? Who complained before me? Could my abuse have been avoided? They are preventing us from excavating the real truth...This is really something that's going to eliminate transparency on the part of the diocese, regardless of what type of face they try and put on it."

Boyd said that the Diocese of Rochester promised 40,000 documents of priest files during their bankruptcy, yet there hasn't been a single one made public yet.

"We're hoping that Judge (Carl) Bucki will take this case and take it by the throat," Boyd said. "When it's time for them to turn things over, make them turn it over."

More than 400 people are expected to file a claim against the Diocese of Buffalo under the Child Victim's Act.


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