Buffalo diocese places three priests on leave following accusation

Buffalo St. Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo diocese | CiEll/Shutterstock

The Diocese of Buffalo has placed three diocesan priests on administrative leave, following a new abuse accusation that dates back to the 1990s.

In a press release on Saturday, the diocese announced that a new abuse accusation had been made against three priests of the diocese under the Child Victims Act. The accusation was filed anonymously and was not directly served, the diocese claimed.

“The Diocese of Buffalo recently became aware of an action brought pursuant to the Child Victims Act by an individual who alleges that he was abused as a child in the 1990s by three priests of the Diocese,” the release stated.

The three accused priests are Fr. Adolph Kowalczyk, pastor of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart parish in Orchard Park, New York; Fr. Gregory Dobson, a retired priest who assists at paishes; and Fr. Mieczyslaw Nycz, pastor of Saints Peter and Paul in Williamsville, New York.

The diocese said it notified local law enforcement and the Independent Review Board, and has reached out to the plaintiff’s attorney regarding any cooperation with an investigation.

“Bishop [Michael] Fisher wishes to emphasize that the decision to place the priests on administrative leave at this time is in no way intended to indicate their guilt or any determination about the truth or falsity of the complaint,” the diocese stated.

Bishop Fisher said the priests all “deny ever committing any acts of abuse,” the Associated Press reported.

According to the Buffalo News, the lawsuit was filed by an Erie County man who was a student at the time the alleged abuse occurred at Sacred Heart School. The man claimed that the three priests “coerced him to engage in sexual contact with other underage female students,” which the priests filmed, on school grounds and in “the confessional rooms.”

The Buffalo diocese declared bankruptcy in February 2020, following hundreds of lawsuits under the Child Victims Act against the diocese. The act, which was implemented in August 2019, created a one-year lookback “window” for new child sex abuse lawsuits to be filed in old cases where the statute of limitations had previously expired.

While the original window was set to expire in August 2020, the state extended it for another year until August 14, 2021, due to complications caused by the ongoing pandemic.

A law firm that frequently represents victims of clerical sexual abuse announced in April that at least 2,800 lawsuits had been filed against Catholic institutions in the state under the law.

A federal bankruptcy judge on March 31 ruled that 36 abuse lawsuits against Buffalo Catholic parishes and schools would remain on hold until Oct. 1, 2021, so as not to interfere with settlement payouts that were a part of the bankruptcy process.

The diocese and its former bishops are also facing a lawsuit from the state of New York.

In November 2020, the state’s attorney general Letitia James sued the diocese in the state supreme court; Bishop Emeritus Richard Malone, retired auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, and Buffalo’s apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany who served in the role during 2020, were all named in the lawsuit.

The state alleged that the diocese, Malone, and Grosz failed to properly investigate claims of clergy sex abuse, to monitor priests with credible abuse accusations, and to take action against priests credibly accused.

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