Former Buffalo auxiliary bishop faces abuse allegation

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Bishop Edward Grosz, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Buffalo, faces an allegation, which he denies, that he abused a then-child in 1990, the diocese announced Monday.

Bishop Grosz “has voluntarily agreed to step aside from active ministry and not to exercise any priestly or episcopal functions pending a thorough investigation. Bishop Grosz has denied ever having abused an individual, either an adult or a minor,” the Diocese of Buffalo announced July 12.

The bishop, 76, retired in March 2020, upon turning 75. Though retired, he has been performing “limited sacramental ministries.”

Bishop Michael Fisher of Buffalo has notified Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York, the metropolitan, and the apostolic nuncio. The diocese said he is “in the process of notifying appropriate Congregations of the Holy See,” and has “instructed diocesan attorneys to notify the Erie County District Attorney.”

The allegation was made under New York’s Child Victims Act. The 2019 law opened a “lookback” window, which closes Aug. 14, allowing child sex abuse victims to file abuse lawsuits long after their statute of limitations had ended.

Grenz had been ordained a priest of the Buffalo diocese in 1971, and he was appointed its auxiliary bishop in November 1989. He was consecrated a bishop in February 1990.

Prior to the allegation of abuse on his part, Bishop Grenz faced an accusation of negligence in responding to reported sex abuse by another cleric.

In an interview with local news station WKBW, Fr. Ryszard Biernat said that in 2003 he was sexually assaulted by Fr. Art Smith at the rectory of St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Buffalo. When Fr. Biernat went to Bishop Grosz with the allegations in 2004, Bishop Grosz allegedly blamed him for not locking the door, and threatened his vocation if he did not keep silent about it, suggesting he might be deported to Poland.

Bishop Grosz has since “categorically” denied the claim by Fr. Biernat.

Fr. Smith was later removed from ministry for other credible accusations of abuse.

Bishop Grosz is among the diocesan officials 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, Bishop Grosz, and Buffalo’s then-apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, were all named in the lawsuit.

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

In addition, the state is seeking restitution from Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz, and a ban on their serving “a secular fiduciary role in a nonprofit or charitable organization” in the state.

A judge ruled in February that Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz must pay their own legal fees, but may still have the right to seek reimbursement from the diocese’s insurers for their legal costs, the Buffalo News reported.

The diocese declared bankruptcy in February 2020 after more than 250 clergy abuse lawsuits were filed against it under the Child Victims Act.

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