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Bishop Grosz denies threat to ex-seminarian over abuse complaint

Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz denies threatening to block the Rev. Ryszard S. Biernat’s ordination, after Biernat complained to diocese administrators in 2004 that he was sexually assaulted by a priest, a Buffalo Diocese spokeswoman said.

The Buffalo News on Sunday reported the accusation by Biernat, who also said that Grosz’s treatment of his complaint was “10 times worse” than the alleged sexual abuse.

Diocese spokesman Kathy Spangler provided a written response in an email late Sunday, after the story was published online and in print.

“Bishop Grosz categorically denies the statement that he threatened to block seminarian Ryszard’s ordination as reported,” Spangler said in the email.

The News had contacted Spangler on Friday seeking comment from Grosz.

The News on Monday asked for a sit-down interview with Grosz. Through Spangler, Grosz requested a list of questions in writing, which The News declined to provide.

Biernat, 38, alleged that the Rev. Arthur J. Smith sexually abused him in the rectory of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in 2003, when Biernat was a seminary student. Smith denied abusing Biernat.

Biernat said when he reported the abuse to diocese officials in 2004, Grosz blamed him.

“He says to me, ‘Well, it’s your fault. You didn’t lock the door,’ ” said Biernat.

Biernat alleged Grosz then told him he would not be ordained if he continued to discuss the abuse accusation.

Grosz, 74, has been auxiliary bishop in the Buffalo Diocese since 1990.

Biernat said he immediately turned to the Rev. Richard Siepka for help. Siepka was president and rector of Christ the King seminary at the time.

“A few minutes after I told Father Siepka, Bishop Grosz calls me back to remind me, ‘Ryszard, if you don’t stop talking about this you will not become a priest,' ” said Biernat.

Implicit in the threat, said Biernat, was that he would have to return to Poland because his visa was only good if he was studying to be a priest or doing priestly ministry in the U.S.

Biernat also alleged that Grosz made a joke about the Rev. Donald Becker, who had multiple complaints of child sex abuse against him, while Biernat and Grosz were reviewing priest personnel files that included victims’ accounts of abuse.

Grosz began joking around, saying that the priest’s nickname was “Pecker Becker,” recalled Biernat.

But Spangler said in her statement that Grosz only told Biernat that another priest had referred to the accused priest as “Pecker Becker.”

“It was not at all meant to be shared as a joke,” Spangler wrote.

Biernat was ordained in 2009. He had been serving as priest secretary to Bishop Richard J. Malone for six years, until taking a personal leave of absence in August.

Biernat last week became the second person in two years in Malone’s inner circle of advisers to call for Malone to step down. Biernat’s secret audio recordings of his meetings with the bishop revealed Malone’s deep concern over the possibility that his handling of another scandal involving priests would force him to resign.

Who is Father Ryszard Biernat, and why would he secretly record Bishop Malone?

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