Symposium tonight to address clergy sex abuse scandal in WNY

Hurley: "If one member of the body is hurt, then we are all hurt."

Mike Baggerman
November 28, 2018 - 3:00 am

Diocese of Buffalo with two dozen protesters calling for Bishop Malone's resignation. September 10, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Canisius College will hold a public symposium tonight to address the clergy sex abuse scandal in Western New York.

The symposium, which runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the college's at the Montante Cultural Center, is the first discussion about the clergy sex abuse scandal with the coalition of lay catholics that announced its formation earlier this month.

HEAR the complete symposium LIVE on NewsRadio 930 WBEN and beginning at 7pm

"It's going to go in several different directions, I think," Canisius College President John Hurley said. "What we're trying to do is engage with the faithful of the church in a discussion about where do we find ourselves and how do we move forward?"

The coalition of lay Catholics formed on November 1 in response to the year-long turmoil within the Diocese of Buffalo and its alleged cover up of the sexual abuse of victims, many of whom were children, over several decades. The coalition features Hurley plus a group of eight prominent Catholics in the region. Hurley said there's been no conversation yet with any members of the Diocese of Buffalo, including Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone, about ideas and solutions to the clergy sex abuse scandal.

Diocese of Buffalo Director of Evangelization and Parish Life, Dennis Mahaney, will be in attendance on behalf of the diocese.

"Wednesday is a starting point," Hurley added. "It's only a two-hour session. We're hosting a follow up workshop here at Canisius on Saturday, December 8 at 9 a.m. That will be an opportunity to break into groups and address specific areas. We're going to talk about that a little at the end of the symposium on Wednesday."

Hurley noted that the scandal has not affected his faith, saying he won't let institutional problems affect his relationship with God. 

"It has affected my trust and confidence in the institutional church because I'm not sure that we're on the right path to really guide the faithful in their wlak through life," Hurley added. "What I hope we can do is work responsibly and develop some sound recommendations. Then, I hope those can be implemented and the process of healing can begin in the diocese." 

He hopes that more parishioners can question what their role is in their running of the church. Hurley hopes the laity can step up and help lead a path forward for the diocese. 

"I'm not expecting people individually to do that but I think people need to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse," Hurley said. "If one member of the body is hurt, then we are all hurt. There's a certain consolation to people that others stand in solidarity with them. As for our work, how will those matters be addressed? How do we get a truth here in the diocese? I think there's grave concern to how records have and have not been made over the year. So, how can we get this all out and purge this, so that victims know that everything in there is out and the church is committed to not letting this happen again. Then, how do we bring justice to victims and healing?"

Dr. Nancy Nielsen is also a member of the coalition of lay Catholics. She announced earlier this month that she was a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, something she didn't even tell her family about.

"When victims come forward they need to be believed," Nielsen told WBEN on November 2. "When they come forward years later, they need to be taken very seriously because those wounds are very deep and life long."

Hurley said there's been a lot of frustration with the church and that following the symposium there will be further discussions. 

Parking for the symposium will be on the west side of Main Street (side of Forest Lawn Cemetery) or in the parking garage behind the Canisius Science Hall. Seating is limited to about 500 people and it is first-come, first-serve. 

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