Diocese Seeks Dismissal of Sex Suit against Priest

By Dave Condren
Buffalo News
July 6, 1995

An attorney for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo has asked a federal judge in Chicago to dismiss a multimillion-dollar sex-abuse suit against the diocese and the former Baker-Victory High School in Lackawanna.

A motion prepared by attorney Terrence M. Connors contends that the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois, where the suit was filed, lacks jurisdiction to handle the case.

Furthermore, Connors maintained that if the matter were transferred to U.S. District Court in New York State, the suit would be precluded by New York State statutes of limitations.

U.S. District Judge Wayne A. Andersen is expected to render a decision on the dismissal motion by late September.

The $ 20 million suit was brought in March by Colleen McMullin Ptak and her husband, Stanley Ptak, of Flint, Mich.

It alleges that Mrs. Ptak, a former New York resident, was sexually assaulted and abused by the Rev. Robert J. Biesinger, a priest in the Buffalo diocese, during a school-related trip to Chicago in August 1974.

At the time, Mrs. Ptak was 15 years old and a member of the "Guys and Dolls" color guard and drill team at Baker-Victory. The team had gone to Chicago to participate in a national competition at Soldier Field.

The suit filed by the Ptaks is based on repressed memory. It alleges that Mrs. Ptak did not begin recalling the abuse until January 1994.

Father Biesinger, now 63, was director and coach of the drill team and a chaperone on the trip.

The Archdiocese of New York, also a defendant in the suit, has filed a similar motion for dismissal. Father Biesinger, who was served with legal papers only recently, is expected to be represented by a separate lawyer. He has been unassigned since he resigned last August as pastor of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church, Cheektowaga.

The Ptaks' attorney, Samuel A. Ragnone of Flint, indicated Wednesday that he expects the dismissal motion to be denied.

"The lawsuit we filed alleges that the acts of molestation by Father Biesinger occurred in Chicago, Ill. "This lawsuit is predicated on the acts that occurred in Chicago and we feel the laws of Illinois apply."

In his motion, Connors points out that the incidents in Chicago "are alleged to have arisen from a prolonged, extended course" of sexual abuse of Mrs. Ptak by Father Biesinger while she was a student in the mid-1970s at Baker-Victory, which closed in 1979. For that reason, he argues, "one would expect that such a lawsuit would be brought, if anywhere, in New York."

Instead, he contended, the suit was filed in Illinois "because their claims are clearly barred by the New York statutes of limitations and fail to state claims upon which relief can be granted under New York law."

Ragnone previously reported that officials of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese have been told that Mrs. Ptak was abused by Father Biesinger in the faculty house at Baker-Victory, in the rectory of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Delevan, where he was pastor, and in her childhood home in South Buffalo as well as in Chicago.


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