FBI Arrests Buffalo Seminary Professor for Death Threat

News: US News
by Christine Niles  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 13, 2020   

Paul Lubienecki charged with cyberstalking investigative reporter Charlie Specht

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A seminary professor in Buffalo, New York has been arrested and charged with cyberstalking after sending a death threat to a local reporter.

Charlie Specht

Paul Lubienecki was arrested Wednesday morning and appeared in federal court that afternoon, after he left a voicemail threatening to kill Charlie Specht, an investigative reporter who works for local ABC affiliate WKBW. Specht has been at the forefront of exposing sex abuse cover-up and corruption in the diocese of Buffalo, including at Christ the King Seminary, where Lubienecki teaches as an adjunct professor. He has also taught at Jesuit Canisius High School and SUNY Fredonia.

According to the official complaint, the threatening messages began on Aug. 20 and continued through Feb. 4, with a voicemail saying, "I know where you live in [name of town]. I'm going to find you and I'm going to kill you."

I'm going to find you and I'm going to kill you.

Specht reported the message to police, who informed the federal prosecutor, and the FBI Buffalo Field Office was assigned to investigate. E.W. Scripps Co., parent company to WKBW, arranged for Specht and his family to live at an undisclosed location that week with 24-hour protection.

"We were shocked, surprised and scared," Specht told WKBW. "I got the feeling that this one person — whoever they were — had spent months harassing me about really personal things, and was now threatening violence."

WKBW issued an official statement in response to Lubienecki's arrest: "As journalists we know when we hold the powerful accountable for decisions that have damaged our community there is the possibility of backlash. We want to thank the FBI for its thorough investigation and swift action. Our employees' safety is our priority."

Lubienecki left other similarly threatening messages for Specht over the course of months: "You're still a bad Catholic and a horrible reporter. I hope to God I don't see you walking around."

And another: "You destroyed the Diocese of Buffalo and Bishop Malone. I'm gonna destroy your career."

The seminary teacher had blocked his number in order to prevent Specht from discovering his identity.

Lubienecki had also turned his ire against whistleblower Siobhan O'Connor, former administrative assistant to Bp. Richard Malone, who resigned in disgrace in December: "I love the bishop. Now you got rid of him. I hope you burn in Hell."

Father Ryszard Biernat, former secretary to Malone, was also the target of Lubienecki's attacks.

"You destroyed a good bishop, a good man," he told Biernat. "Leave the priesthood. We'll get ya."

Stephen Parisi, former dean of seminarians at Christ the King, who resigned in disgust last year over what he claims is the school's culture of blackmail and cover-up, posted a comment on social media in reaction to Lubienecki's arrest.

The people of Buffalo need to wake up and take back their Church!

"Sadly, this is another example of the type of people leading [the] Diocese of Buffalo and forming future priests and lay ministers," said Parisi. "It is a perfect example of why I left the seminary and want nothing to do with this diocese until there are visible signs of change."

Stephen Parisi

"The people of Buffalo need to wake up and take back their Church!" he continued. "Stop putting money in the collection baskets until VISIBLE changes are made and corrupt people get removed from their positions!"

Parisi was among several seminarians who reported a "pornographic priest party" last year involving Fathers Art Mattulke, Patrick O'Keefe and Bob Orlowski. At a gathering involving seminarians, Mattulke (who served as spiritual director) joked about being shown the erect penis of a parishioner on a phone. He also reportedly told a seminarian that he had heard the seminarian's parents having sex during a retreat and that his "father was really giving it to his mother!"

"Lengthy conversations were held about a priest that taught at the seminary who used to go to a truck stops [sic] to give oral sex," the seminarians' report claims. "He said the priest would brag that consuming the ejaculate was like communion for him."

While the priests were placed on leave following the report, they were eventually returned to their positions at Christ the King.

Fr. Joseph Gatto

The seminary has been wracked by other homosexual scandals for years, its rector, Fr. Joseph Gatto, abruptly resigning in 2018 after he was sued for homosexual assault by two men. The diocese eventually conceded that the claims had merit, sent Gatto away for treatment, and then reinstated him back into ministry months later. He currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Leo the Great parish in Amherst.

Earlier this month, Bp. Edward Scharfenberger, apostolic administrator for the Buffalo diocese, announced the closing of Christ the King Seminary: "The fact is that the Board of Trustees has concluded that it is no longer feasible to continue the operations of the seminary."

Lubienecki faces five years in prison if convicted. Courses taught by him at the seminary include "Ethics and Spirituality," lectures on the works of Thomas Merton and a course titled "Christ in the Universe, The Christian in the World: The Theology, Spirituality, and Mysticism of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ."

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