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New names added to Buffalo Diocese's list of nearly 100 accused priests

The Buffalo Diocese has added 19 names since last November to its growing list of priests with substantiated claims of child sexual abuse.

That list now includes 97 priests – 75 from the diocese and 22 religious order priests who worked in the diocese.

The list of names has more than doubled in the less than two years since Bishop Richard J. Malone first began identifying priests accused of molesting children.

The diocese’s latest list still represents only a fraction of the roughly 150 clergy who have been publicly accused of sexual impropriety with children and, in a handful of cases, adults. However, it does name three priests who previously had not been outed publicly – in media accounts or in lawsuits – as accused abusers: the Rev. Ramon Aymerich, the Rev. Richard J. Bohm and the Rev. Terrence N. Niedbalski.

Aymerich is identified as having left the Catholic Church in 1982 to become an Episcopal priest. Bohm and Niedbalski are deceased.

The new list was the diocese's latest response to blistering criticism that Malone hasn’t been transparent about the extent of abuse in the Buffalo Diocese. The Movement to Restore Trust, a group of lay Catholics that formed in 2018 in response to the clergy sex abuse crisis, recommended in July that the diocese take greater steps to disclose the depth and scale of the abuse scandal, including the release of a detailed database of alleged abuses and abusers.

Diocese officials for decades refused to reveal the names of priests who had substantiated claims of abuse against them, while also minimizing the extent of clergy abuse within the diocese.

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In 1994, for example, Monsignor Robert J. Cunningham, the diocese chancellor at the time, told The News that a “handful” of priests had been accused of sexual abuse and no more than three of the accusations were determined to be true. But the names of those three accused priests already had surfaced publicly at the time Cunningham made his remarks: the Rev. William F.J. White, the Rev. Bernard M. Mach and the Rev. John R. Aurelio.

In 2002, diocese officials acknowledged they had removed a total of six priests from the priesthood for molesting children and that “12 to 15 priests” had been accused of sexual impropriety. Then, just two years later, in the wake of a Archdiocese of Boston abuse scandal, Cunningham acknowledged that the Buffalo Diocese had received 93 complaints of abuse against 53 clergy since 1950. But, again, he refused to name names. Cunningham moved on to become bishop of the Ogdensburg Diocese and later the Syracuse Diocese.

In March 2018, Malone first disclosed the identities of 42 priests accused of abuse, but the original list included no details of the whereabouts of the priests and victims of abuse said it failed to give an accurate accounting of the full extent of abuse in the diocese.

Malone followed up in November 2018 with the names of an additional 36 priests, after his former administrative assistant leaked documents to WKBW-TV showing that the diocese was aware of complaints against more than 100 priests.

The current list includes more than a dozen priests that already were identified in media reports and lawsuits since last November.

For the first time, the diocese also provided a few more details about each accused priest, such as the date of birth, his ordination date, his current status as a priest and his date of death, if he is deceased. Previous lists mentioned only the priest’s name and date of death, if applicable.

(Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

A statement from Diocese spokeswoman Kathy Spangler said names will continue to be added to the list “if new allegations are received and substantiated after investigation and recommendations from the Independent Review Board are accepted by Bishop Malone.”

The statement also provided clarification on what the diocese means by “substantiated allegations.”

Substantiated claims meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • The accused priest admitted the allegation.
  • The Independent Review Board found the allegation to be credible and substantiated following a preliminary investigation by an independent professional investigator.
  • The allegation was corroborated by witnesses, additional victims, documents, emails, photos, texts or by another source such as law enforcement.
  • The accused priest was convicted of a crime in connection with the allegation.
  • The accused priest has been laicized or permanently removed from ministry as a result of the allegation.

Spangler’s statement also reiterated that the diocese will not identify the names of deceased priests who were accused, after their deaths, by a single complainant. The diocese acknowledged in 2018 that it was aware of 48 such cases.

“Every accused person is entitled to due process and to defense of his reputation,” the statement said. “Yet, a deceased priest cannot defend his good name.”

If a second credible allegation against a deceased priest emerges, the diocese will add his name to the list, the statement said.

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