The priest secretary to Bishop Richard Malone — who earlier this week released secret audio of the bishop expressing fears that a public relations crisis within the diocese of Buffalo would result in his resignation — has accused an auxiliary bishop of silencing him when he complained of sexual assault.
Father Ryszard Biernat arrived at the diocese of Buffalo as a seminarian in 2003. The Polish native alleges that a priest of the diocese, Father Art Smith, abused him at a Christmas party that same year.
In a new interview with WKBW, Biernat says that he reported the alleged abuse to auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz. He maintains that Grosz faulted the seminarian for not locking the door to prevent drunken advances from Smith.
“He said [it] was my fault because I [didn’t] lock the door,” Ryszard said of Grosz.
“‘You should have locked the door. And was Father Art Smith drunk, because if he was maybe he did not know what he was doing?’” the auxiliary bishop maintained.
A document sent to the Vatican by Malone acknowledges that he was aware of the situation, noting “when Father Art was pastor in one of our city parishes, a seminarian noted that Father Art seemed to ‘groom’ him to get his affection. One night the seminarian recounted an incident where Father Art came to his room, came into his bed, and began to touch his genitalia.”
Smith has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Ryszard, who is also entangled in another controversy related to a love letter he penned to a diocesan seminarian, said in the interview with the local Buffalo station that Grosz’s handling of the matter was as terrible as the assault.
That meeting, I thought, destroyed my life for years. It sent me into depression, into anxiety attacks,” he said. “This was only my second year in a foreign country. I did not know the laws here, and I was turning to church for help. And then they re-victimized me again.”
The diocese of Buffalo has been ablaze in scandal for over a year after Malone’s former secretary went public with records that Malone kept priests accused of abuse in ministry.
Despite calls for his resignation from multiple priests and seminarians, Malone has insisted that he has the necessary support to remain in his post, telling reporters at a press conference earlier this week that he had the support of the priests and the laity.
After a week of cascading new revelations, on Thursday, the Movement to Restore Trust — the leading lay reform group in the diocese who had previously pledged to work with Malone to implement reforms, called for his resignation saying that healing would not be possible until there is a leadership change in the diocese.
Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212
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