The pastor of a Roman Catholic parish in Buffalo's Old First Ward has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Diocese of Buffalo into two allegations of child sex abuse made against the priest that date back to the 1970s, according to a statement released by the diocese Friday.
The Rev. Donald Lutz, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, was placed on leave by Apostolic Administrator Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger.
The diocese became aware of the first allegation against Lutz in a recent lawsuit that was filed on behalf of a woman whose identity was withheld in the complaint for privacy reasons.
The Buffalo News previously reported attorneys Steve Boyd and Jeffrey Anderson filed a lawsuit July 30 in State Supreme Court on behalf of an anonymous plaintiff accusing Lutz of engaging in “unpermitted sexual contact” with the plaintiff from 1975 to 1976. The plaintiff was 13 to 14 at the time and attended St. Leo the Great Church, according to court papers.
The lawsuit named the Amherst church as a defendant, but not Lutz, which means he would not have been served with a summons and complaint.
Lutz said no one from the diocese had contacted him about the case. He acknowledged being assigned to St. Leo in 1975 and 1976, but denied sexually abusing a child.
Attorneys for the Buffalo Diocese contacted the woman's attorney to suggest she contact the victims assistance coordinator and submit a canonical complaint with the diocese, which would then refer the matter to an independent review board. The first client has now submitted a canonical complaint.
The second woman, while not actively pursuing a lawsuit against Lutz or the diocese, has also made a report of abuse to the diocese, which has referred both cases to the Erie County District Attorney's Office.
In a statement Friday, the diocese said that placing an active priest on administrative leave does not imply guilt, nor has any such determination been made regarding the allegations at this time.
While on administrative leave, Lutz will be restricted from presenting himself as a priest or functioning as such, pending the outcome of the independent review board’s recommendation and final action by the presiding bishop.
The diocese has yet to name a parish administrator for Our Lady of Perpetual Help.