Protester with sign outside Diocese of Buffalo. September 10, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

A Year In Review: The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo

A tumultuous year creates uncertainty for future

December 27, 2018 - 1:02 am

BUFFALO (WBEN) - The tsunami wave of allegations against the Buffalo Diocese regarding clergy sex abuse and its subsequent, yet alleged coverup, started back in February when victim Michael Whalen spoke out against Father Norbert Orsolits.

"I was abused by Father Norb out of St. John Vianney in Orchard Park when I was like 14 years old," said Whalen. "He took me up to his cabin in Springville."

When confronted by a reporter from the Buffalo News, Orsolits admitted to "probably dozens" of cases of sex abuse of teenage boys in the 1970's and 1980's. According to The News, Orsolits could not remember Whalen specifically, but he did not deny that it happened. He also said that these encounters were fueled by alcohol.

"He took me up to a summer cabin in Springville where the abuse took place," Whalen said. "He got me out there on the means of going skiing at Kissing Bridge. I just want everybody to know that this means a lot to me and to my family. If there's any other victims from Father Norb to step forward. You don't have to hide anymore. It took me a long time to step forward and confront this."

In March, Bishop Richard Malone released a list of 42 priests who who were removed from ministry, retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.

The Diocese said the list includes those with more than one allegation made against them. Deceased priests are accompanied by their year of death.

John R. Aurelio  (2009)

Donald W. Becker

David M. Bialkowski

Robert J. Biesinger   (2012)

James H. Cotter  (1991)

Donald S. Fafinski

Douglas F. Faraci

Fred G. Fingerle  (2002)

Michael R. Freeman  (2010)

Joseph P. Friel  (1995)

Mark M. Friel

Thomas G. Gresock

John P. Hajduk

Michael J. Harrington   (1989)

Brian M. Hatrick

James F. Hayes (1988)

Louis J. Hendricks (1990)

J. Grant Higgins  (2016)

Francis T. Hogan  (2010)

Fred D. Ingalls

Florian A. Jasinski (1983)

Gerald C. Jasinski

Richard P. Judd (1988)

Timothy J. Kelley

Thomas L. Kemp

Richard J. Keppeler (2011)

John D. Lewandowski (1982)

Bernard M. Mach  (2004)

Loville N. Martlock (2014)

Thomas J. McCarthy

Basil A. Ormsby (1997)

Norbert F. Orsolits

Martin L. Pavlock

Roy K. Ronald (2013)

Joseph E. Schieder (1996)

Gerard A. Smyczynski (1999)

James A. Spielman

Chester S. Stachewicz  

Edward J. Walker  (2002)

William G. Ward (2008)

William F. J. White  (2016)

Robert W. Wood 

Since, numerous victims have come forward and several advocates have called on Bishop Richard Malone to resign, saying he's no longer fit to lead the diocese. There could be an argument made that advocates Robert Hoatson and James Faluszczak have been the most vocal in their reasoning for ridding the diocese of Malone. Both men are victims of past abuse, and both have come forward numerous times to talk with media.

WBEN Photo

"This man Malone has had six years to look at these files to find the truth about these priests and he has obviously refused to do so," Hoatson said.

Hoatson, who runs the non-profit Road to Recovery, which assists victims of abuse and their families, said that the list Malone produced wasn't transparent enough.

"Recall back in March, Bishop Malone reported that 42 priests were credibly accused of sexual abuse here in Buffalo," he said. "We now know that number is well over 100 priests."

Then, Buffalo came under the national scope as Siobhan O'Connor, a former assistant to Malone, said she secretly copied and leaked confidential files about the church's handling of alleged clergy sexual misconduct.

O'Connor told CBS' "60 Minutes" she acted out of concern for victims.  During the story, O'Connor told CBS, "The reality of what I saw really left me with no other option. Because at the end of my life, I'm not going to answer to Bishop Malone. I'm going to answer to God."

Siobhan O'Connor speaks outside the Diocese of Buffalo. October 30, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Brendan Keany)

In November, Malone made a media appearance after meeting with Buffalo clergy to discuss the next step in the process on how to deal with allegations.

Father Jack Ledwon of St. Joseph's University Parish in Buffalo says it was more than one priest who stood in opposition.

"That was said a couple times, yes," said Ledwon. "He listened, but he says he would like to stay because there are still things he wants to do."

It turns out that Ledwon is one of the priests who think it would be better if Malone stepped down.

"I don't think that the bishop has a lot of credibility right now," he said. "I think it's going to be very hard to move ahead with him."

But Malone stated that he would not be resigning, and he went on with WBEN's Bauerle & Bellavia to discuss it further, and he said that his record when it comes to alleged incidences of child abuse is quite good.

WBEN Photo/Tim Wenger

"My record with handling misconduct allegations with children is good," he said. "Every diocese in the country every year goes through an external audit. There's a firm that comes in that has nothing to do with the diocese. They audit us on that charter for the protection of children and young people. It's how we handle allegations...Every year since I've been here we've had a 100 percent clean audit."

Just recently, the diocese has offered monetary compensation to several victims

Attorney Steve Boyd says the diocese has offered his client $650,000 after testifying about being abused by Rev. Michael Freeman. "This priest would at times brandish a silver .38 revolver during these acts. On occasion, he brought my client up to Canada and was made to have sexual contact with male prostitutes in front of the priest," says Boyd.

However, not everyone was thrilled with the compensation package that they were offered, and that list includes Michael Whalen.

"I would like to know how you can offer a settlement to one victim of $10,000 and then to another victim hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Whalen. How do you discriminate against what a person’s life is worth. I would like to know how they come to these figures. My life was ruined by this man. I would like to know how they come to this number. What they offered my just re-victimized me more. It’s a sad case. Abuse is abuse."

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