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BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - New York's attorney general is suing the Buffalo diocese and three bishops for covering up allegations of clergy sex abuse and for using charitable funds to protect accused priests rather than making them face trial.
In a series of tweets posted on Monday, attorney general Letitia James publicized the lawsuit filed against the Buffalo diocese, former bishop Richard J. Malone and his former auxiliary Edward M. Grosz, and Bp. Edward B. Scharfenberger (in his current capacity as the diocesan apostolic administrator).
The suit comes at the conclusion of a two-year investigation into sex abuse of children and adults and a subsequent cover-up by priests in the diocese.
"I filed a lawsuit against the Catholic diocese of Buffalo and former senior leaders after we found they failed to follow mandated policies and procedures that would help to prevent the rampant sexual abuse of minors by priests within the Catholic Church," said Jones in the first of three tweets.
"The Buffalo diocese failed to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by priests," she continued. "Instead, they covered up credible claims and protected the accused priests by deeming them 'unassignable' or allowing them to retire or go on purported medical leave."
"While we will never be able to undo these horrific acts, we will do everything in our power to hold the Buffalo diocese and its leadership accountable and ensure this never happens again," concluded the attorney general.
Filed with the Supreme Court of New York, the 216-page lawsuit provides a detailed history of 25 priests accused of abuse in the diocese. Most were removed from active ministry but without a timely referral to the Vatican for trial and potential defrocking.
The lawsuit seeks to permanently prohibit Malone and Grosz "from serving as a director, trustee, officer or equivalent position of any not-for-profit or charitable organization incorporated or authorized to conduct business or solicit charitable donations in the state of New York."
It further demands that Malone and Grosz render an account for their conduct in failing to perform their duties in managing the diocese and its assets, that they "make full restitution for the waste and misuse of charitable assets resulting from ... breaches of fiduciary duties" and that they "pay damages resulting from ... breaches of fiduciary duties."
In a statement published on Thursday, the diocese said it "will be reviewing this lawsuit just announced by the New York attorney general and weighing the diocese's response."
"In the meantime, we wish to reiterate that there is zero tolerance for sexual abuse of a minor or of sexual harassment of an adult in the diocese of Buffalo by any member of the clergy, employee or volunteer," continues the statement. "The diocese has put in place rigorous policies and protocols governing required behavior as well as a code of conduct which all clergy are expected to abide by."
"Moreover, the diocese has committed to full cooperation with all civil authorities in both the reporting and investigation of alleged crimes and complaints," concludes the response.
After the Vatican confirmed the resignation of Malone in Dec. 2019, Albany bishop Edward Scharfenberger ― also named in the lawsuit ― became Buffalo's apostolic administrator.
In a press conference at the time, Scharfenberger said, "We can't be afraid of reality. We have to look at things with sober eyes and look at the damage that was done."
In February, in the wake of clergy sex abuse claims filed after New York passed its Child Victims Act, the Buffalo diocese filed for bankruptcy.