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BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The diocese of Buffalo is caught lying by claiming it has no knowledge of any priests working in ministry who are facing allegations of sex abuse.
In a press release issued Wednesday, Buffalo's Office of Communications is claiming the diocese is "not aware of any priests in active ministry who have allegations against them." The statement said it was responding to assertions made by whistleblowers on Sunday's 60 Minutes that certain priests of the diocese "having credible child sexual abuse allegations against them" were still in active ministry.
Church Militant has confirmed with the parish that Fr. Dennis Riter, who is facing multiple credible allegations of child sex abuse, is currently pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk, New York. A current parish bulletin also lists Riter as pastor. Riter was officially reinstated as pastor of the parish by Bp. Richard Malone on July 1.
In August, Church Militant interviewed one of Riter's victims, Anthony Ravarini. Ravarini affirms
that he was 6 years old in April 1992 when Riter forced him to perform oral sex at Queen of All Saints in Lackawanna, New York, where Riter was then pastor.
During the same interview, Wieslaw Walawender, who was then in his third year of theology at Buffalo's Christ the King Seminary and assigned to Riter's parish for pastoral experience, told Church Militant that he witnessed
young Ravarini running out of Riter's office with semen on his head, face and shirt. This was also witnessed by Ravarini's paternal guardian.
At the behest of Ravarini's legal guardians, who both witnessed Ravarini covered in semen at the parish shortly after the 6-year-old was victimized, Walawender wrote
a detailed account of the event in May 1992. He then hand-delivered copies of the letter to the secretaries of both the ordinary of the diocese, then Bp. Edward D. Head, and the auxiliary bishop, Edward Grosz, who is still Buffalo's auxiliary bishop. Walawender says that no one from the diocese ever followed up with him about his 1992 letter attesting to Riter's abuse of the boy.
Ravarini is currently being represented by the high-profile lawyer Mitchell Garabedian who is well known
for his legal representation of sex abuse victims dating back to 2002 in the archdiocese of Boston. Sources interviewed by Garabedian tell Church Militant that Garabedian believes Ravarini's case is "beyond rock solid."
The case of Ravarini is also referenced in the lawsuit of another of Riter's alleged victims, Mathew Golden. Golden's lawsuit, filed
Aug. 30, relates that prior to Golden's abuse, the diocese received in May 1992 "a letter from a student at Christ the King Seminary reporting that he witnessed Fr. Riter sexually abusing a 6-year-old boy at Queen of All Saints Church."
The diocese continues to maintain that the allegations against Riter are not substantiated but would not specify how they had reached that conclusion. The law firm representing Golden, Jefferson Anderson & Associates, rejects the diocese's claim. Jeff Anderson said
in June, "The investigation they did is either deficient or deceitful or a massive cover-up. And we are disturbed as is our survivor and some of the other kids who we know he abused."
Anderson added, "The truth must be told and the truth is Riter is a serial offender, poses a risk and a danger to kids, he should not be in ministry, he should not be in the priesthood, he should be behind bars."
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