Two Claims against Priest in Sex-Abuse Suit Dropped

By Lou Michel
Buffalo News
November 8, 1994

State Supreme Court Justice Barbara J. Howe has dismissed two claims in a $ 2 million civil lawsuit accusing a Catholic priest of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy three years ago in the rectory of a Lockport parish.

Claims that the Rev. Bernard M. Mach committed acts of fraud and employment discrimination were removed from the lawsuit, but the judge refused to dismiss a claim that the priest made slanderous comments against the boy and his mother, lawyers said Monday.

Daniel T. Roach, the attorney representing Father Mach, said he had requested dismissal of the claims because the lawsuit contained insufficient information to support the allegations.

Another claim, clergy malpractice, Roach said, was dismissed in October when he first sought removal of the other claims.

"The claim was removed because another court in the state has ruled that there is no such cause of action as clergy malpractice," Roach said.

Jennifer A. Coleman, the attorney representing the Lockport family suing Father Mach and the Diocese of Buffalo, said dismissal of the disputed claims does not affect the main portion of the lawsuit.

"The most important part of this case is the sexual abuse of the boy, and all of those claims remain," Ms. Coleman said. "Slander is the second most important claim, and that, too, remains.

"Father Mach made slanderous remarks when he said the boy had come on to him and when he called the boy's mother a 'scorned woman,' " she said.

The lawsuit alleges that Father Mach showed the boy pornographic movies, fondled him and exposed himself before forcing himself on the boy in 1991 during an overnight stay in the rectory of St. Mary's Catholic Church, where the priest had served as pastor.

Father Mach has insisted he did not sexually abuse the Lockport boy.

The fraud claim, Ms. Coleman said, was based on Father Mach's using his position as a priest to gain the family's trust and confidence and then later abusing that position.

As for employment discrimination, the judge ruled that information in the lawsuit was "defective." The boy's mother claimed Father Mach harassed her while she was employed in the parish office.

A new claim of employment discrimination, Ms. Coleman said, will be filed based on the comments and conduct of Father Mach in the workplace. A trial date for the lawsuit has not been set, Roach said. "I would think realistically that a trial is maybe one to 11/2 years away," he added.

Both Father Mach and the Rev. John R. Aurelio, spiritual director of Christ the King Seminary in the Town of Aurora, were placed on leaves of absence by Bishop Edward D. Head after the lawsuit was filed last Dec. 9.

The leaves, which remain in effect, were announced the same day Niagara County law enforcement officials reported that Father Aurelio admitted he and Father Mach had sodomized three adolescent boys 15 to 20 years ago.


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