Court Allows Suit to Stand against Priest

By Dave Condren
Buffalo News
November 17, 1995

A federal judge in Chicago has refused to dismiss a civil sex-abuse suit brought by a former Buffalo woman against a Buffalo-area priest, the Buffalo Catholic Diocese and the former Baker-Victory High School in Lackawanna.

In an unusual verbal decision from the bench, Illinois U.S. District Court Judge Wayne A. Andersen indicated that the suit filed by Colleen McMullin Ptak, formerly of Buffalo, appears to be appropriately filed under Illinois law.

If he later determines that suit should have been filed in New York or Michigan, it most likely would be dismissed because the statute of limitations would preclude it, Andersen said.

Buffalo attorney Terrence M. Conners, who represents the diocese and former school, said Thursday he will request a written ruling on his motion to dismiss the suit. He expects to file an appeal, if Andersen issues "an adverse finding," he said.

The suit was filed in March by Mrs. Ptak and her husband, Stanley Ptak, now of Flint, Mich. They are seeking $ 20 million damages.

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

Mrs. Ptak, who was 15 at the time of the alleged incidents, was on the "Guys and Dolls" color guard and drill team at Baker-Victory. The school closed in 1979.

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

In moving for dismissal of the suit, Conners contended 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 at Baker-Victory in the mid-1970s.

If that is the case, he contended, the suit should have been filed in New York State where it would be dismissed because of the statute of limitations.

Mrs. Ptak claims that she repressed the memory of the abuse. She did not begin to recall it until January, 1994, her suit alleges.

Father Biesinger served as pastor of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish, Cheektowaga, until August, 1994, when he resigned. Since then he has been unassigned.


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