Newly Filed Lawsuit Shows the Diocese of Buffalo Protected More than Just Clergy Accused of Abuse
A teacher who was accused of abuse at a Buffalo parochial school was allowed to quietly move to a nearby town and start teaching again, this despite apparent knowledge by Catholic officials that the teacher was an abuser. We applaud the man who came forward to share his story and hope that it encourages others who may have been hurt by this teacher to speak up and get help.
This case is also a clear reminder that, as big a problem as abuse by Catholic clergy is, there are also perpetrators within other levels of church staff. But regardless of their title, all of these abusers are under the umbrella of the Church, and in this case, the Buffalo diocese.
The fact that a teacher abused a child at a Catholic school within the Diocese of Buffalo, and then found another position at a nearby parochial school, signals the need for more transparency from the diocese. It is all the more egregious when other church staff were apparently aware of the abuse allegations but reportedly talked the victim’s parents out of taking legal action against the teacher or the school. Rather than help the survivor, it appears that the Diocese of Buffalo instead actively put other children at risk.
SNAP has documented teachers, nuns, brothers, and other lay employees who have abused nationwide. Often, the bishops where these crimes occurred do not count these perpetrators on their lists even though they abused Catholic children in Catholic institutions. For example, in the Diocese of Santa Rosa, CA, a priest and a lay employee were both accused of abusing vulnerable boys at a high school called Hanna Boys Center. The lay employee went to prison. Despite that, the diocese has only named the priest who was accused, not the teacher who was convicted. This hair splitting is dishonest and does nothing to keep children safe, but in fact puts them at risk by keeping parents and communities in the dark.
Buffalo’s apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, should immediately update the list of abusers in Buffalo to also include teachers, nuns, brothers, and other lay employees, so that the parents of Buffalo children present and past can assess whether or not their children were or are in danger. Instead of splitting hairs, Catholic officials should be combing through their records and using any information they have to keep children safer.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)