A new lawsuit alleges that a retired Buffalo priest and pastor at two parishes abused a 15-year-old parishioner at Holy Cross Catholic Church on the Lower West Side in the early 1970s.
The Rev. Richard Reina and the Buffalo Catholic Diocese are named as defendants in the suit, which was filed Thursday under the Child Victims Act.
"When I was approximately 15 years old, approximately 1972, Richard Reina (Fr. Reina) abused me on the premises of Holy Cross Church. The sexual abuse included inappropriate touching," the unnamed plaintiff said in court papers.
Reina denied the allegations in a telephone interview with The Buffalo News on Thursday morning and said he has contacted an attorney to defend him.
“The first I’ve heard of it was this morning. I positively, absolutely deny any and all charges,” Reina said. “This person maybe was molested by someone and I feel sorry for the person, but it wasn’t me.”
In May, the 75-year-old cleric will celebrate 50 years as a priest. “But this certainly takes the joy out of it,” Reina said. “That’s all I can say.”
He works as a weekend assistant at Christ the King Catholic Church in Snyder.
Ordained in 1970, Reina served as vocation director for the diocese and spent eight years at Christ the King Seminary, according to the Buffalo Diocese website. He was pastor at St. Lawrence for eight years and at St. John the Baptist in the Town of Tonawanda for 12 years before returning to the seminary to serve as director of spiritual formation. He retired from the seminary in 2014.
A statement from the Buffalo Diocese said the diocese "is unaware of any allegations against Reverend Father Richard Reina, a retired priest of the Diocese who continues to serve."
"All of our clients are vetted very seriously. This particular client is emotionally devastated by what happened," said attorney Paul Barr of Fanizzi & Barr of Niagara Falls, who filed the legal action with Danielle George of Phillips & Paolicelli law firm in New York City.