Bishop investigating sex abuse in Buffalo accused of abuse

Bishop DiMarzio denies allegations

WBEN Newsroom
November 13, 2019 - 2:33 pm

AP Photo/Steve Ruark

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NEW YORK (AP/WBEN) - In what has been a surreal time for everyone involved in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, even more absurdity has been added to the mix.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who was sent by Pope Francis on an apostolic visitation to investigate the Buffalo Diocese, has been accused of sexual abusing a child.

Prominent attorney Mitchell Garabedian has informed Catholic officials in New Jersey that he is preparing a lawsuit on behalf of a client who says he was molested by DiMarzio in the mid-1970s, when DiMarzio was a parish priest in Jersey City. Garabedian added that he intends to that lawsuit on behalf of his client when the window opens up on December 1.

DiMarzio said there is no truth to the accusation.

READ MORE: REPORT: Bishop Richard Malone's resignation is "imminent" after investigation by Bishop DiMarzio

“I am just learning about this allegation,” he said in a statement Tuesday to WBEN. “In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behavior and I emphatically deny this allegation. I am confident I will be fully vindicated.”

In a letter sent Monday to the church’s Newark, New Jersey, archdiocese, Garabedian said 56-year-old Mark Matzek alleges he was repeatedly abused by DiMarzio and a second priest, the late Rev. Albert Mark, when he was an altar boy at St. Nicholas Church and a student at St. Nicholas School.

Adriana Rodriguez, press secretary for the Brooklyn Diocese, said DiMarzio has completed his report on the Buffalo Diocese and has submitted it to the Vatican. DiMarzio and Malone are in Rome this week for a previously scheduled visit of New York bishops to the Holy See.

Maria Margiotta, the spokeswoman for the Newark Archdiocese, said it has received Garabedian’s letter and reported Matzek’s allegations to law enforcement.

Last month, Pope Francis tapped DiMarzio to investigate the church’s Buffalo Diocese, where Bishop Richard Malone has come under fire for his handling of a burgeoning clergy abuse scandal that has roiled the diocese and prompted calls for his resignation.

"I believe, in a narrower sense, that the investigation is tainted because Bishop DiMarzio should be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation and the outcome of that investigation," Garabedian told WBEN. "I believe the state of the Catholic Church has been shown to be one of secrecy involving either sexual abuse or complicity in hiding sexual abuse."

Garabedian said the notice he sent to the Newark Archdiocese briefly describes Matzek’s allegations and the damage he has allegedly suffered, while demanding $20 million in compensation.

Philadelphia-based Catholic Journalist Rocco Palmo has covered DiMarzio for years, and he's not so quick to profess the bishop's guilt, stressing that these are still just allegations at this point. However, he noted that the timing and circumstances surrounding this accusation is nothing short of surreal.

"Given the prominence of Bishop DiMarzio's role as the Vatican investigator, or, to use the formal term, the apostolic visitor to Buffalo, it is just extraordinary," said Palmo.

Listen to Palmo's full comments below:

As the former executive assistant to Bishop Malone, Siobhan O'Connor has become the face of the movement pushing for his resignation. Before the apostolic visistation took place, she felt weary of a bishop-led investigation into another bishop, and the recent accusation confirms her fear.

"It's really unbelievable - I've been hearing, as you can imagine, from so many people this afternoon, and the general reaction, if I had to give one word to it, would be 'shock,'" she said. "That's coming from people who have been shocked, startled and scandalized for over 18 months now, and it just seems like...when will this end? This is devestating for our diocese and especially for the survivors of our diocese."

O'Connor noted that the relationship between Western New York Catholics and the Buffalo Diocese is a strained one at best, and she explained that it will take a decent amount of time for trust to be restored. The first step in that healing would be Malone's resignation.

"The way that this scandal has been handled has caused even greater distress for people," she began. "I've talked to many people, survivors and lay people alike, who say the abuse is horrific enough, but the coverup just brings a whole new level of hard to the situation."

Listen to her full comments below:

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