Abuse plaintiff calls committee's work 'awesome responsibility' to uncover truth

Richard Brownell recalled watching a 1993 television newscast in which the Rev. Bernard “Corky” Mach, a popular Catholic priest assigned to a Lockport parish at the time, tearfully denied molesting a 14-year-old boy.

Brownell immediately turned to his wife during the newscast and said the priest was lying.  He told her the Rev. John Aurelio had sexually assaulted him when he was 11 or 12 years old, and Aurelio was a close friend of Mach. It was the first time he had told anyone about the abuse.

More than 50 years after he alleges Aurelio molested him, Brownell, 62, still isn’t comfortable discussing his own abuse in detail. But he said he’s ready to represent hundreds of survivors of childhood sex abuse in their efforts to seek some measure of justice from the Buffalo Diocese.

Brownell and six other people who have Child Victims Act lawsuits against the diocese were selected to be part of the creditors committee during the diocese’s bankruptcy reorganization. The committee is charged with investigating the diocese and its assets, liabilities and operations, as well as claims made against the diocese, and then ultimately negotiating a settlement.

“There’s a huge responsibility on this committee,” said Brownell, a Springville resident. “I’m hoping that my insights can contribute to the bottom line of making sure the diocese is doing the right thing.

“We have an awesome responsibility to bring forward the truth and to hold them accountable and to make them transparent. That’s key.”

It’s unclear whether the novel coronavirus pandemic will slow the diocese’s bankruptcy process, but Brownell said he isn’t daunted by the commitment, which could last two years or more, based upon what has happened in other dioceses and archdioceses that went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganizations.

The married father of three children runs his own business and admits to always having “a lot of questions.” He expects to use his inquisitiveness to get answers and give people a voice. Two other members of the committee have advanced business degrees, including one who was a high-ranking executive with an international hospitality company.

“There’s certainly qualified people who can handle perhaps forensics and looking at the books, as part of this,” said Brownell.

Brownell said the abuse by Aurelio began in 1968 or 1969 when the priest attacked him in a parked car after they attended a hockey game together. He also remembered the priest taking him to a cabin and giving him whiskey and marijuana.

“I was 11 or 12," he said. "It was ridiculous.”

Brownell said he believes the abuse “sent me on a path of destruction” that included being tossed out of three high schools and running away from home at age 15 and moving to Florida.

“I’m not a psychologist or a psychiat...

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