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Diocese claims process dragging, while bankruptcy and new statute loom for 2019

Michael Mroziak

The Buffalo Catholic Diocese has been making wide-ranging compensation offers to survivors of clergy sexual abuse: $10,000-$400,000, according to attorneys. However, one local attorney, representing 12 claimants, says the process is dragging while bankruptcy and a new slew of cases loom for the diocese in 2019.

"I don't know how they're arriving at the various amounts and the details involving each case," said Tonawanda attorney Kevin Stocker, who is representing two whistleblowers and 10 survivors of clergy sexual abuse. "The one amount that they offered to a client of mine was $35,000 and I would describe the incident as a sexual assault against a 13-year-old boy and, in my opinion, $35,000 is insulting and embarrassing."

Stocker told WBFO he is talking with other attorneys representing survivors, so they might "fight as a group" to obtain awards from the diocese compensation program, created in March.

If the diocese does not settle the current claims before it quickly, Stocker said they will only become more problematic next year when the statute of limitations increases. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and both houses of the state legislature have made the Child Victims Act a priority for 2019.

Stocker said he just recently added four new cases.

"A gentleman yesterday, 78 years old, married 56 years, talked to his wife getting ready early in the morning," Stocker said. "She asked him, 'Where are you going?' and he said, 'I'm gonna go see an attorney.' And she asked him, 'Are you divorcing me?' He laughed and it was the first time that he had told her in 56 years what had happened when he was 12 years old."

Bankruptcy may not save the diocese, Stocker said, as bankruptcy courts across the country have still allowed diocese compensation programs to continue. He said it is only since the media and parishioners began to pressure the diocese that clergy abuse began to be addressed.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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