Buffalo Cops Ordered Not to Arrest Catholic Priests, Instead Hand Them Over to Diocese

News: US News
by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 20, 2019   

Unwritten policy of protecting priests after sexual misconduct claims

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Retired police officers from Buffalo, New York are confirming they were given marching orders not to arrest Catholic priests after evidence of sexual misconduct, but instead hand them over to the diocese — special treatment they offered to Catholic priests and no one else.

A recent report from Buffalo News sheds light on how the police were ordered to report Catholic clergy's behavior to the diocese instead of arresting them. Former vice squad detective Martin Harrington said, "The department's unwritten policy was that Catholic priests did not get arrested."

The department's unwritten policy was that Catholic priests did not get arrested.

"I never had any experience with priests who molested children," he continued. "I never heard of any priests molesting children. But we had priests we caught with pornography, or masturbating in the city parks, and our orders were to turn them over to the Buffalo diocese."

"The diocese would deal with them," he said, "but they would not be arrested."


Harrington retired in 1995, after 17 years with the vice squad. He recalled that the practice of not arresting clergy "only extended to Catholic priests," noting, "If we caught clergy from other religions, we arrested them."

Harrington's former vice squad lieutenant, Martin Jurewicz, confirmed Harrington's claim: "When I joined the vice squad in 1968, the department had just changed its policy on priests. You used to just let them go. Starting around 1968, when you picked up a priest, you had to call the bishop's office."

A retired police captain spoke anonymously to Buffalo News about an incident in the 1970s. A mother and father had brought forth concerns about the way a parish priest was interacting with their son, and the police informed the diocese, who responded by transferring the priest to a different parish.

The officers said the special unwritten policy for priests came to an end after R. Gil Kerlikowske became Buffalo's police commissioner in 1994.

Kerlikowske said he didn't remember specifically ending the policy, but did clarify, "When I came into the department as an outsider, I made it clear that we were going to operate on a level playing field with situations like that."

"No more special favors to certain groups of people," he added.

The Buffalo diocese has been under fire in recent times for mishandling of clerical sex abuse allegations.

The Buffalo diocese has been under fire in recent times for mishandling of clerical sex abuse allegations.

A particularly notorious point of criticism has been the sex abuse allegations against Fr. Dennis Riter. Father Riter was reinstated as pastor in the summer of 2018 despite several allegations over the years that he sexually abused underage boys.

One of Fr. Riter's victims spoke to Church Militant in August, alleging Fr. Riter forced him to perform oral sex on him when he was six years old, in 1992. Two eyewitnesses confirmed seeing the six-year-old boy with semen on his face and in his hair as he left Riter's office.

One of those eyewitness was a seminarian, who wrote to the diocese about what he saw. Forces within the diocese eventually blocked his ordination.

In late April 2019, three priests of the Buffalo diocese were suspended after multiple seminarians from Christ the King Seminary complained of a lewd, pornographic conversation that the priests engaged in at a party, including graphic discussion of homosexual sex.

In September, Church Militant reported that the rector of Christ the King Seminary, Fr. Joseph Gatto, abruptly stepped down following an allegation of homosexual misconduct.

Church Militant reported in early April that a federal grand jury had been empaneled in Buffalo to investigate alleged sex abuse cover-ups.

Bishop Richard Malone, head of the Buffalo diocese, withdrew from the local St. Patrick's Day parade this year after multiple calls from politicians and Catholics insisting he not take part.

"To prevent the Saint Patrick's Day Parade from being used as a platform to address unrelated issues — however important those issues may be — Bishop Malone, with immense regret, has decided not to march in the Parade this year," read a statement issued by the diocese.

Church Militant confronted Bp. Malone about his record on priestly sex abuse allegations during a chance encounter in an airport in November 2018. During the encounter, Michael Voris asked Bp. Malone repeatedly about the Fr. Riter case, to which Malone eventually claimed the victim, Anthony Ravarini, was lying.

"This is totally a lie," Malone told Church Militant.

In October, Church Militant aired a special report on the case of Fr. Joseph Moreno, a priest in Buffalo who was found dead under suspicious circumstances in 2012. The priest's family revealed to Church Militant that he was trying to blow the whistle on priest homosexual sex abuse right before his sudden death, which was ruled a suicide — even though he received two bullet wounds to the head and there was no gun power residue on his hand. Multiple files and equipment with incriminating evidence against the homosexual network in his diocese were also missing from his office.

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