Tag Archives: Father Art Smith

Survivors stunned after Bishop Scharfenberger celebrates Mass with abusive priests

Survivors stunned after Bishop Scharfenberger celebrates Mass with abusive priests
By Charlie Specht
https://www.wkbw.com/news/i-team/survivors-stunned-after-bishop-scharfenberger-celebrates-mass-with-abusive-priests

Never trust a person who can clear their conscience of any immoral act by asking forgiveness from their imaginary friend

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Survivors of sexual abuse by priests in the Diocese of Buffalo reacted with outrage and despair Tuesday to news that interim Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger celebrated Mass the day before with multiple priests the diocese admits are credibly accused of child sexual abuse.

Scharfenberger invited priests of the diocese to Mass and lunch at St. Leo the Great in Amherst on Monday. At the Mass, dozens of priests dressed in robes and concelebrated, or shared the Mass and Eucharist with, the Rev. Fabian J. Maryanski.

“I’m so very sad and confused today,” said Stephanie McIntyre, who said she was abused by Maryanski starting when she was 15 years old. “This is an all time low moment that hit me just when I thought I was ready to begin healing.”

Maryanski had been accused of abusing McIntyre decades ago at a parish in Barker, and he denied the allegations. But on Jan. 7, 2019, the diocese included both Maryanski and the Rev. Mark J. Wolski on its official list of “priests with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse.”

Diocesan leaders previously said the priests’ cases would go to the Vatican, which makes the final decision on whether to defrock pedophile priests. A priest who attended the Mass on Monday told 7 Eyewitness News that both men — Maryanski and Wolski — were present, with Maryanski concelebrating the service and Wolski saying the convocation, or prayer, before the catered lunch. In 2018, a man said Wolski abused him from 1968 to 1970 while he was between 15 and 17 years old.

McIntyre said she started to cry and had “a total meltdown” upon hearing the news of Scharfenberger allowing Maryanski to concelebrate the Mass with dozens of other priests.

“[It] feels like justice was ripped away,” McIntyre said. “If the proof of my case doesn’t beg for justice, no victim will ever have justice.”

In a written statement released Tuesday afternoon, Scharfenberger said the gathering “was a private Mass…not open to the public” and added, “I deeply regret that this decision to gather privately in prayer and penance opened the door to yet another wound for those harmed.” Read Scharfenberger’s full statement here.

Also present at the Mass, according to the priest, was the Rev. Art Smith, who has been accused of sexually abusing multiple children (he denies the claims) as well as allegedly assaulting Fr. Ryszard Biernat while Biernat was a seminarian.

Biernat said Smith approached him Monday at the priest luncheon and began making bizarre comments.

“He asked if there could be mediation between me and him because ‘he never wanted to hurt me – he just wanted to show me how much he loved me and how much he cared for me,'” Biernat wrote on Facebook. “He said that he still loves me and it is all misunderstanding. I said to him that there is no misunderstanding. If you go into somebody’s bed and climb under the sheets and grab their genitals and kiss their neck there’s no misunderstanding there.”

Biernat wrote that when he worked as Bishop Richard J. Malone’s secretary, Biernat planned to apply for a restraining order against Smith because the priest kept contacting him after the alleged assault, but Biernat said Malone discouraged him from doing so.

“I have forgiven Art Smith, but to continue to hear how much he loves me and cares about me gets me so upset and angry,” Biernat wrote. “Why doesn’t he understand that this type of love is not OK? Why doesn’t he understand that this is not how you show that you care about somebody? 16 years after being sexually assaulted I still deal with this guy who would not let go. Sixteen years later I lay in bed and it feels like I am there again…”

Biernat said Bishop Scharfenberger was joined on the altar by Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, Msgr. Robert Zapfel and the Rev. Joseph Gatto, who was accused by multiple men of sexual misconduct. Gatto denied the allegations but acknowledged spending time at a church “treatment center” in Canada.

He was returned to ministry by Malone last year, but the bishop reversed the appointment after outrage by parents. Since then, Zapfel has quietly allowed him to assume a position as parochial vicar at St. Leo’s in Amherst.

FBI ramping up its Buffalo Diocese investigation

FBI ramping up its Buffalo Diocese investigation
Interviews sex abuse victim in another state
By Charlie Specht
https://www.wkbw.com/news/i-team/fbi-ramping-up-its-buffalo-diocese-investigation

The FBI is pursuing a “wide-ranging” investigation of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and its role in covering up clergy sexual abuse over decades, according to news reports and three sources who have spoken to federal agents.

The Buffalo News first reported Friday that agents have spoken with multiple victims of clergy sexual abuse in Buffalo, even though many of the alleged sex crimes happened decades ago. The victims said agents are interested in proving historical and ongoing cover-ups perpetuated by Buffalo Diocese leaders, according to The News.

“They’re really looking for proof of a cover-up,” Nicole Delisio Wright, an advocate for victims of clergy abuse, told The News. “Any type of proof that there’s a widespread cover-up.”

Wright previously confirmed to 7 Eyewitness News that she was interviewed by federal agents. Two other sources also confirmed that they were interviewed by agents from the bureau, who asked about specific cases of sexual abuse and the way the diocese handled them.

Stephanie McIntyre, a victim of alleged sexual abuse by Fr. Fabian Maryanski, recently spoke with federal agents from her home in another state, she also confirmed Friday. McIntyre has been offered a $400,000 settlement from the diocese for the alleged abuse.

“With the encouragement of others who are helping to fight for justice, along with lots of prayer, I realized that I had both a moral and civil obligation to do this,” McIntyre told 7 Eyewitness News of her interview with the FBI. “I believe I was able to offer them information that will be very instrumental. I continue to pray that my suffering, my story, will help others to be able to obtain the transformational justice that they need and deserve in order to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward.”

FBI spokeswoman Maureen P. Dempsey said, “The FBI cannot confirm or deny any matter that may fall under its investigative purview unless and until it is made public through a court filing or press announcement.”

Buffalo Diocese spokeswoman Kathy Spangler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

7 Eyewitness News featured McIntyre’s story in September in Part 3 of its investigation into Bishop Malone. Maryanski first met McIntyre in 1984 when he was the pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Barker. The Buffalo News reported her story in May, when Maryanski was still in active ministry at Nativity church in Clarence despite the allegations.

McIntyre, in a letter she sent to Bishop Malone in April, said the priest abused her for seven years, beginning when she was 15 years old. Maryanski maintains she was in her 20s at the time.

“My abuser not only robbed me of my youthful innocence,” she wrote, “but he destroyed my family.”

McIntyre hired a lawyer and reported the abuse to the diocese in 1995 but said she “was not offered one iota of help to deal with the fallout from Fr. Maryanski’s actions.”

Church documents show the diocese considered placing Maryanski on the list of 42 accused priests in March but officials concluded, “We did not remove him from ministry despite full knowledge of the case, and so including him on list might require explanation.”

The diocese withheld Maryanski’s name from the list and has still not included him on a list of credibly accused priests.

KEY LINKS IN THE BUFFALO DIOCESE SEX ABUSE SCANDAL:

Part 1 of the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team investigation revealed that Malone returned Fr. Art Smith to ministry despite allegations of inappropriate contact with a child. Malone returned the accused priests to ministry after a previous bishop suspended him, documents obtained by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team show.

Part 2 revealed that Malone allowed Fr. Robert Yetter to remain pastor of St. Mary’s in Swormville despite multiple sexual harassment allegations by young men. 

Part 3 cited church records that showed more than 100 priests in the diocese were accused of sexual abuse or misconduct. Malone in March released a list of only 42 priests “who were removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”

The investigative series sparked Buffalo civic leaders to call for Malone’s resignation and Catholics have mounted weekly protests in front of the Diocese of Buffalo Chancery. Malone in August held a news conference and refused to resign as Buffalo bishop.

In September, the State Attorney General launched a statewide investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and last week, it was revealed the FBI has launched its own criminal investigation into the diocese.

In October, “60 Minutes” aired a national investigative story on Bishop Malone and the Diocese of Buffalo. 

In November, I-Team Chief Investigator Charlie Specht traveled to Portland, Maine. Malone served as bishop there before coming to Buffalo. There, Charlie spoke with advocates for victims of sexual abuse about how Malone had been accused of mishandling sex abuse cases. The I-Team also obtained new documents surrounding the cases which paint a much different picture of the bishop’s past.

Facing 250 sex abuse lawsuits, Diocese of Buffalo declares bankruptcy

Facing 250 sex abuse lawsuits, Diocese of Buffalo declares bankruptcy
Second diocese in New York to file
By Charlie Specht and Eileen Buckley
https://www.wkbw.com/news/i-team/facing-250-sex-abuse-lawsuits-diocese-of-buffalo-declares-bankruptcy

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, which is facing nearly 250 lawsuits involving clergy sexual abuse, has declared bankruptcy.

Aside from the obvious financial implications, the diocese’s formal Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing means that many of the victims of clergy sexual abuse may not anytime soon get the answers that have long been hidden in secret diocesan archives regarding pedophile priests.

But there is still a chance that those hidden files could be forced as part of a bankruptcy settlement, as has happened in other dioceses.

Because the cases will soon be shifted from state civil court to U.S. Bankruptcy Court, survivors of clergy sexual abuse are likely to receive compensation, though it is unclear how much per case the diocese would be required to pay out.

According to bankruptcy documents, filed in federal court, the Buffalo Diocese is facing between $50 million and $100 million in estimated liability.

Apostolic Administrator Bishop Edward Scharfenberger appeared in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Buffalo Friday morning just hours after filing for Chapter 11 protection for the Diocese of Buffalo.

Scharfenberger later appeared at a news conference at the diocese with attorneys.

“I’m careful not to use the word bankruptcy, even though we are in a bankruptcy court, because a lot of people are under the impression that the diocese is running out of money – we can’t meet our obligations to our employees – which is not true,” Scharfenberger told reporters.

According to the court filing the diocese owes $3.5 million to a list of 20 top creditors. M&T Bank tops the list at $1.6 million, but the other 19 are victims who filed child sexual abuse lawsuits against the diocese. But there are actually more tahn 250 cases filed against the diocese.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Carl Bucki held what he called an “emergency hearing” hours after the filing.

Bucki called the bankruptcy an “extraordinary process”.

The judge asked if priests with substantiated allegations against them are being paid by the diocese.

7 Eyewitness Nee asked that question at the news conference with attorney Steve Donato responding.

“To the extent that there is a claim owned to a clergy on substantiated abuse list, which is on the website, to the extend that there were any funds owed to them as of today due prior to the filing — those will not be paid,” replied Donato.

Bishop Scharfenberger says Catholic schools and parishes are not part of bankruptcy filing.

“The health of the diocese is in the health of it’s parishes and the same with catholic charities and other affiliated agencies – they are not involved in this,” responded Scharfenberger.

The bishop says no parish donations will be touched and remain separate from bankruptcy.

“But not for the purposes of doing settlements — in other words – no money comes out of collections in order to resolve claims,” Scharfenberger remarked.

The bishop says the filing is “not a stunt” to deflect from the lawsuits filed against the church.

The next bankrupcty court hearing is schedueld for March 26th at 10 a.m.

The bankruptcy means the church could be forced to sell properties and to make appeals for more money from parishioners, but it also paves the way for the Catholic Church in Western New York to — after its debts are paid off — emerge from the crisis with its mission and services still intact.

The dramatic move comes after the Diocese of Rochester became the first Roman Catholic diocese in New York State to file for bankruptcy on Sept. 12.

It is no doubt one result of the Child Victims Act, which was passed in January 2019 and allows victims of child sexual abuse in all institutions — not only the Catholic Church — a one-year “window” period in which they can sue the institutions to prove they were responsible for the abuse.

To date, more than 300 Child Victims Act lawsuits have been filed in Western New York.

At least 250 lawsuits allege abuse by clergy or employees in the Diocese of Buffalo, making the diocese the most-sued entity in all of New York State under the new law.

In December, Bishop Richard J. Malone resigned after an investigation of his leadership by the Vatican. Revelations about his behind-the-scenes efforts to conceal sexual misconduct came to light after his two secretaries, Siobhan O’Connor and Fr. Ryszard Biernat, became whistleblowers and provided documents and audio recordings to 7 Eyewitness News.

On Feb. 4, interim bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger announced the closure of Christ the King Seminary, citing financial pressures.

There was growing pressure for Malone to resign since August 2018, when the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team revealed that Malone:

The pressure on Malone intensified in September of last year, when the I-Team published secret audio recordings where Malone attempted to conceal sexual misconduct allegations involving Rev. Jeffrey Nowak. Malone called the priest “dangerous” but allowed him to remain pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians for more than six months with no notification to parishioners.

The diocese is also under investigation by the FBI and the State Attorney General.