Tim Wenger

Diocese fires back after latest reporting on clergy sex abuse

Diocese claims interaction with reporter put victim in state of emotional crisis

April 12, 2019 - 8:14 am
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - The Diocese of Buffalo fired back after the latest Channel 7 report on the clergy sex abuse scandal highlighted the diocese witholding the names of 25 priests accused of abuse.

The WKBW report unveiled internal records from the Diocese that showed an agenda from last June with the names of priests whose names haven't been made public.

On Thursday night, the diocese released a statement claiming "media attacks by a television reporter alleging that the diocese has not 'come clean about the true scope' of the sexual abuse that occurred in this diocese'. The diocese also called the reporting "simply not accurate"

READ THE DIOCESE STATEMENT HERE

"(Wednesday), an attorney representing one such person wrote to complain that the client had been placed in a "state of emotional crisis" because the reporter had "suddenly appeared on [the client's] door step with a large photograph of [the client's] abuser . . . . The [reporter], without consideration or regard for the consequences of his actions on [the client], capriciously waved the photograph about and told [the client] that he was following up with priest abuse victims in the Buffalo Diocese. [The reporter] then walked away leaving my client distraught, without support, feeling violated and without the slightest concern for the traumatic consequence his actions had caused." The incident left the client in "a state of emotional crisis." When, following the occurrence, the reporter tweeted about the exchange, the attorney described it as "an outrage."

The diocese asked media to respect the privacy and confidentiality of victims and noted there should be media should focus on the abuse in the diocese from decades ago and the way they responded to it.

READ BISHOP MALONE'S STATEMENT HERE:

Bishop Malone gave a response in a lengthy statement and discussed the past conduct, the current charter, the independent review board process, and said they've done more to be transparent.

"I would note that the criteria I implemented resulted in many more priests being disclosed than if we had applied the criteria used elsewhere," Malone said in the statement. "For example, one television reporter has suggested that if our diocese followed the disclosure policies of the Archdiocese of Boston then our list of priests would be "more comprehensive." This is false. If we had followed Boston's policies, far fewer names would have been disclosed."

In an interview on WBEN on Friday morning, WKBW reporter Charlie Specht defended his reporting by noting they've had the leaked documents for about six months.

"We realize that the diocese, after sitting on these names for about six months, really had no intention of ever investigating any of the cases or making them public," Specht said.

He also rebuked the diocese statement about his sensitivity to sex abuse survivors.

"In every case, we are extremely careful about respecting people's privacy," Specht added. "We do not identify victims of sexual abuse without their permission. In fact, the way that I see it characterized an interaction between me and a survivor was so wrong and mischaracterized that I thought they were referring to a different reporter. But they were, in fact, referring to me. They never reached out to me for comment to verify any of this. It's unfortunate but we're going to keep doing our job because we believe these stories deserve to be heard."

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