Parents Tell Bishop Malone: No Predator Priest at Our School

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 18, 2019   

Bp. Malone reconsiders assigning Fr. Gatto to a parish with a school

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Parents are pushing back against Buffalo's Bp. Richard Malone for reassigning a homosexual predator to their parish that has an elementary school attached.

Cynthia Bryk, principal of St. Christopher's school in Tonawanda, New York, informed parents on Thursday of Malone's decision to assign Buffalo's Fr. Joseph Gatto to their parish even though Gatto was recently found guilty of making unwanted sexual advances on multiple men by Buffalo's independent diocesan review board. Bryk attributed her following announcement to St. Christopher's pastor Fr. Steve Jekielek:

In September, you may know, Fr. Joe Gatto was placed on administrative leave due to allegations of misconduct. He underwent professional evaluation and remedial measures in accordance with diocesan policies. ... Bishop Malone has appointed him Senior Parochial Vicar here at St. Christopher's Parish and we are happy to welcome him and his service to our community.

Parents at St. Christopher's expressed outrage at the assignment, forcing Malone to reconsider appointing Gatto to their parish. Malone's statement that he was backtracking on Gatto's appointment was posted Tuesday on St. Christopher's webpage as follows:

Dear Parishioners and School Parents:

After additional consideration and consultation, Bishop Richard Malone has decided to put on hold the assignment of Fr. Joseph Gatto to St. Christopher's Parish. This decision is the result of continued thoughtful evaluation and discernment of the parish's needs. Bishop Malone will continue to consult with diocesan officials and others regarding Fr. Gatto's next assignment.


In Tuesday's statement, the diocese admitted the allegations that Gatto had made unwanted sexual advances against multiple men were credible but for some reason did not warrant his removal from active ministry. They add that Gatto had subsequently received remedial treatment and was then given a clean bill of mental and spiritual health.

In September, Fr. Gatto was placed on administrative leave due to allegations, by adults, of apparent advances. He underwent professional evaluation and remedial measures in accordance with diocesan policies and protocols. The evidence regarding the investigation of these matters was presented to the Independent Diocesan Review Board, which recommended findings that the improper conduct did not rise to the level that would require removal from active priestly ministry.

In addition to Gatto, Malone had announced May 30 that he was reinstating a second priest, Fr. Samuel Giangreco Jr., to active ministry. Although he'd been found guilty by the same review board of "improper conduct" with an adult female, Giangreco will be reassigned to South Buffalo's Our Lady of Charity parish that also has a school.

The canonical administrator at Our Lady of Charity, Fr. Bryan Zielenieski, wrote a letter earlier this month to parents of the associated school, Notre Dame Academy, erroneously claiming that Giangreco had been cleared of all wrongdoing by the diocesan review board:

Father Samuel Giancreco is beginning his ministry at Our Lady of Charity beginning Saturday, June 15, 2019. ... He had recently been on leave from the Diocese of Buffalo after a complaint of improper conduct involving an adult female was made against him. Father Sam underwent a professional evaluation and after a thorough independent review, he was cleared of impropriety and returned to full ministry.

This statement is misleading as Buffalo's WKBW reported on Monday because in Malone's May 30 statement announcing his intention to reassign Giangreco, Malone "made no mention of 'clearing' the priest and said only that the 'improper conduct did not rise to the level that would require removal from active priestly ministry.'"

The outrage by parents against Gatto was far more intense than against Giangreco as the violations against Gatto are far worse and far more extensive. Last September, Gatto suddenly stepped down as the president-rector of Buffalo's Christ the King Seminary when two men accused him of making unwanted sexual advances against them. One of the men filed a complaint at that time with the diocese alleging Gatto made the sexual advances when he approached him for spiritual direction in 2000.

Gatto "quickly befriended me, and shortly thereafter made unwanted sexual advances toward me," reads the complaint.

The man, who was in his 20s at the time, attests, "On one occasion [Gatto] grabbed my knee in a suggestive manner and invited me to a 'cabin' for a weekend with him alone. I declined, and ended any further communication."

It makes you angry, and it's like, what was the point of coming forward to report the abuse?

Upon stepping down as rector, Gatto was then suspended from priestly ministry and sent to Southdown Institute, a psychiatric center in Toronto where the diocese sends priests who are credibly accused of sexual predation or who are dealing with other mental health issues. Gatto claimed his leave of absence had nothing to do with allegations of sexual misconduct and was stepping aside owing to stress-related work.

In addition to this formal complaint filed against Gatto, Church Militant also learned back in September that clerical and non-clerical sources within the diocese are affirming Gatto used his position as rector of the seminary to solicit homosexual favors from new applicants to the seminary. Sources say applicants who did not comply with Gatto's requests were not admitted to the seminary program.

This disturbing pattern of alleged homosexual screening of seminarians was repeated in the story Church Militant broke last August involving Gatto, who was heavily involved in a gay pipeline that recruited homosexual seminarians from Colombia to the United States.

Church Militant last year obtained a copy of a 1998 confidential internal memo between Gatto, then the vice rector of Buffalo's seminary, and Bp. Henry Mansell, then the ordinary of Buffalo. In the memo, Gatto updates Mansell on the newest crop of nine seminarians from Colombia who had obtained their visas and a 10th who was still in the process.

Church Militant contacted multiple seminarians who were at Buffalo's Christ the King Seminary at the time, and two of them told Church Militant that homosexuality at the seminary under Mansell and Gatto was rampant and that some of the Colombians were actually parcelled out to parish assignments with active homosexual pastors who lavished expensive gifts, including cars, on the young gay Colombians in exchange for sex.

Two of these former seminarians confirmed to Church Militant that they left the seminary under Gatto because they were disgusted with the openly homosexual current that dominated the institution.

One of these Colombian seminarians, Ricardo J. Perillo, told Church Militant that, in 1999, Gatto was aware of certain homosexual relationships between priests and seminarians and that nearly half of the Colombian seminarians in his class — personally recruited by Gatto for Bp. Mansell — were actively gay. Blowing the whistle to Gatto on the situation, Perillo said, only got himself expelled from the seminary.

Malone's decision to rehabilitate a priest like Gatto, who was determined by the diocese to be credibly accused of homosexual predation, follows a decades-old pattern set by bishops that has led to the present crisis of clerical sex abuse now gripping the Church.

Marty Lougen is one of the men to accuse Gatto of making unwanted sexual advances on them when they went to the priest for counseling.

Lougen was disgusted to hear of Gatto's new assignment. 

"It makes you angry, and it's like, what was the point of coming forward to report the abuse," said Lougen. "What they're really doing is robbing us and others of being a Catholic. I don't want to be around these people. It's all about trust."

One parent fearing retribution anonymously told local media that the Church needs to remove such priests from the priesthood or lose Catholic families.

"These schools are already losing families simply because of the initial priest scandal," said the parent. "And then for this to happen, it was like the nail in the coffin. I fear that it's only going to get worse."

 

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