Erie diocese dropped from Buffalo suit against Trautman
By Ed Palattella
July 5, 2020
Retired Erie bishop still a defendant; all claims now over his tenure as a top official in Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
A lawsuit in Buffalo against retired Erie Catholic Bishop Donald Trautman no longer includes the Catholic Diocese of Erie.
The lawyers in the case agreed to drop the Catholic Diocese of Erie as a defendant, as the diocese had requested.
The suit, filed at the start of the year, tried to connect the Catholic Diocese of Erie to claims that Trautman covered up clergy sex abuse of a minor when he was a top official in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo in the 1980s.
The Erie diocese argued that Trautman was working for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo at the time and that the claims relate only to the Buffalo diocese.
"The Erie Diocese has absolutely no relationship whatsoever to this case," a lawyer for the Catholic Diocese of Erie said in dismissal request, filed May 18 in Erie County Supreme Court in Buffalo.
A judge never had to rule on the request. The lawyers for the plaintiff and the Catholic Diocese of Erie agreed that the claims against the Catholic Diocese of Erie "be discontinued." The stipulation of discontinuance was filed on May 29.
"We are pleased to have received the ruling," the Catholic Diocese of Erie said in a statement last week.
The Erie diocese also wanted a judge to order the plaintiff, a man identified as PB-14 Doe in court documents, to pay the diocese’s costs and legal fees because the Erie-related claims in the lawsuit were without merit. The stipulation of discontinuance included no such requirement.
Trautman, 84, a Buffalo native, was vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and then its auxiliary bishop for five years before he became bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Erie in 1990. He retired in 2012, with Bishop Lawrence Persico succeeding him. Persico is not a defendant in the Buffalo case.
Trautman in March filed his dismissal request in the Buffalo suit, which is pending. Trautman is denying the claims and challenging New York’s landmark Child Victims Act, which was effective in August and gives victims a one-year window to sue, no matter what the statute of limitations at the time of the abuse. PB-14 Doe, the plaintiff, sued under the Child Victims Act in New York.
The other defendants in the suit are the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and a Catholic church and school in the Buffalo area. Trautman and the other Buffalo defendants are accused of failing to prevent the abuse or covering it up.
The claims against the Catholic Diocese of Erie were more indirect. The suit contended that Trautman continued to cover up abuse while he was in Erie, though the underlying allegations in the lawsuit refer to the case in Buffalo.
The suit focuses on the Rev. Gerard A. Smyczynski, a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo who died in 1999. The suit claims Smyczynski abused the plaintiff in the mid-1980s, when the boy was 10, after he met Smyczynski when the plaintiff was a student and altar boy at Infant of Prague Catholic Church and school, in Cheektowaga, New York.