The two dioceses named in the suit have also responded.
"The diocese has not yet received the complaint - nor any information regarding the lawsuit," the Buffalo diocese told CNA Jan. 3. "As soon as the diocese receives the complaint, and the name of the person making the complaint, it will follow established protocols which involve a thorough investigation and will then take all appropriate action."
The diocese said it is "assessing the appropriate level of additional detail relating to those credibly accused that may be provided as part of the diocese's ongoing reporting, which may contribute to the healing of survivors, who continue to be our first priority."
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany now serves as apostolic administrator of Buffalo, following the resignation last year of Bishop Richard Malone, who was accused of covering up sexual abuse. Although he denied these accusations in November 2018, in April 2019 he apologized for his handling of some cases. In August 2019, a RICO lawsuit was filed against the diocese and Bishop Malone, alleging that the response of the diocese was comparable to an organized crime syndicate.
The Buffalo diocese said Jan. 2 it "strongly encourages" all allegations of sexual abuse of clergy and diocesan employees to be reported to law enforcement first.
"The diocese has in place rigorous protocols for reporting as well, in addition to a third-party reporting system … which allows for allegations to be reported anonymously," said the Buffalo diocese, which noted that its own review board advises on actions that may be necessary under canon law when allegations are determined to be credible.
The Erie diocese said Jan. 2 it learned it had been named in the lawsuit about alleged activities in the Diocese of Buffalo before Trautman was named Bishop of Erie.
"Bishop Lawrence Persico has seen a copy of the suit, but the diocese has not been served," the Erie diocese said. "As with any litigation, Bishop Persico will cooperate, but will not comment during the legal process."
The lawsuit's claims about the Erie diocese do not include improper handling of abuse. Rather, it claims that the diocese is implicated in the alleged cover-up because Trautman was its bishop and he "perpetrated" a policy to cover up abuse, the Erie Times-News reports.
It alleges that both dioceses had a "cover-up" policy which "resulted in the sexual assault of untold numbers of children, and put numerous other children at risk of sexual assault."
It charges that Trautman "took his playbook of covering up clergy abuse from Buffalo, New York, to Erie, Pennsylvania… where he continued to carry out the aforesaid cover up for decades."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The lawsuit was announced at a press conference organized by Buffalo resident James Faluszczak, an advocate for sex abuse victims and a former priest of the Erie diocese. He has said a priest abused him when he was a teenager.
The lawsuit takes advantage of a new one-year legal window for sex abuse victims to sue regardless of statutes of limitations, the result of recent legislation in the New York legislature. A similar Pennsylvania bill failed to pass the General Assembly.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro criticized Trautman at an August 2018 press conference releasing his grand jury report on clergy sex abuse. He alleged that the bishop failed aggressively to pursue an abuser. He has charged that the Erie diocese under Trautman curbed its investigation of sex abuse claims to wait out the statute of limitations.
Trautman in his responses to the attorney general said the claims were "baseless." He said he did not condone or enable such abuse during his tenure leading the Diocese of Erie, and he stressed his support for abuse victims and said the report does not fully or accurately assess his record. He cited a Pennsylvania Supreme Court finding that the grand jury process suffers "limitations upon its truth-finding capabilities" and lacked "basic fairness."
Shapiro's report, released in August 2018, claimed to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 301 credibly accused priests in Pennsylvania. It presented a devastating portrait of alleged efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations-either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.
Trautman had caused controversy by criticizing the report.