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Victims to Diocese of Buffalo on priest sex abuse: 'Secrecy must end'

A nationally known recovery group for sexual abuse victims increased the pressure Sunday on the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo to release the names of all clergy involved in the growing number of recently revealed sexual abuse cases in Western New York.

"Bishop Richard J. Malone told the media recently that he inherited a policy of secrecy regarding the names of sexually abusive clergy in the Diocese of Buffalo, yet he has done nothing to change that policy for five-and-a-half years," said Robert M. Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery Inc., a nonsectarian organization that works with survivors of sexual abuse.

"In the interest of full transparency, validation and the safety of children, Bishop Malone must release the names of sexually abusive clergymen in the Diocese of Buffalo and the documents surrounding each and every case," said Hoatson. "The secrecy must end."

Malone is seriously considering releasing the names of the priests publicly accused of sexual misconduct in the Buffalo Diocese, said George Richert, communications director for the diocese.

"As it pertains to releasing the list of names, it is under very serious consideration," Richert said on Sunday afternoon. "There will probably be more information released this week on that issue."

The Sunday morning news conference called by Hoatson took place on Franklin Street, one block from St. Joseph's Cathedral, where Malone was celebrating Mass. Hoatson was accompanied by a priest who identified himself as the victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Erie, Pa.

"I was molested by my priest in Erie from the time I was 16 to 19, and I ended up actually becoming a priest myself," said James Faluszczak, 48, who now lives in Buffalo and who also called on Malone to release the names of priests accused of abuse.

"The absolute secrecy that the church relies on in these matters is so pathological," Faluszczak said.

Buffalo diocese ponders whether to reveal names of abusive priests

Faluszczak, who studied at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, served the Erie Diocese as a priest from 1996 to 2014, when he stepped down from his position as pastor of St. Boniface Church in Kersey, Pa. He had been appointed pastor in 2010 by now retired Bishop Donald W. Trautman.

"I left to become a whistleblower. I outed my perpetrator," said Faluszczak, adding that some other people "just made it impossible for me to work."

Faluszczak declined to identify the parish where the alleged sexual abuse occurred because of an ongoing criminal investigation in Erie.

"I had to take a leave of absence mostly because every day I was having to work in that environment, and I didn't trust them," Faluszczak said. "I didn't trust the church to do the right thing with the material I gave them. I didn't trust them to deal transparently with this issue."

As Hoatson and Faluszczak were calling for more transparency, Malone – in the cathedral just a block away – referenced the reports of sexual abuse, calling it a "problem of the church." Malone's comments were made during his opening remarks to the congregation at the St. Patrick's Day Mass.

"Pray to St. Patrick to help us as we try to solve the problem of the church," Malone told the congregants.

The Rev. James A. Spielman is one of 23 priests publicly accused of sexual abuse who served in the Buffalo Diocese.

In February, the Rev. Norbert F. Orsolits' confession that he sexually abused boys inspired more victims to come forward and publicly accuse their perpetrators.

Shortly after Orsolits made his revelations in an interview with The News, Malone announced the formation of a victim's relief fund to monetarily compensate people who were sexually abused by priests.

Sunday's Mass was attended by several hundred people, many of them heading to the St. Patrick's Day Parade after the 10:30 a.m. service. Some of the churchgoers gave Hoatson and Faluszczak the thumbs-up sign as they walked past the two men holding signs on their way into the cathedral.

Robert Hoatson, right, from Road to Recovery Inc., and James Faluszczak want the Diocese of Buffalo to release names of priests accused of sexual abuse. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Greg Pershyn and his wife, Kelly Pershyn, were heading into church for Mass. They had conflicting thoughts on whether the diocese should release the priests' names.

"I think it's between the priests and their God," said Kelly Pershyn, 52. "If the priests' names are released, those not directly involved will prejudge the priest without knowing him. We have enough judgment in the world."

Her husband disagreed.

"The right thing to do is to release all names," said Greg Pershyn, 55. "I mean, these priests preyed upon innocent people. They victimized people who could not protect themselves. They should be held responsible for those actions."

Faluszczak said he was in his 40s before he spoke publicly about his abuse as a teenager.

"I started having flashbacks and disassociation," said Faluszczak. "It was unbearable to work in that environment."

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