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Four more priests placed on leave by Diocese of Buffalo, one reinstated

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo on Thursday placed four more priests on administrative leave, in response to complaints of alleged sexual abuse. Additionally, the Diocese of Buffalo announced claims againast three other priests have been substantiated while a fourth has been exonerated and reinstated.

Reverends Robert Stolinski, Pascal Ipolito, Roy Herberger and Daniel Palys - all of whom are retired - were put on administrative leave "for the purposes of investigation," said the Diocese in a written statement. The leave, the Diocese continues, "does not imply that any determination has been made as to the truth of falsity of the complaint."

Herberger, in a letter published by the Buffalo News earlier this week, denies the charges against him. His message reads: "I want everyone to know that I deny these claims completely - 100 percent. I'm not saying that the victim is lying about being assaulted by some priest, a priest but I do emphatically deny that it was me."

Meanwhile, investigators looking into four other cases returned findings indicating substantiation of allegations against three of the accused. Reverends Samuel Venne, Dennis Fronczak and Arthur Smith remain on administrative leave. 

A priest suspended since March, meanwhile, has been reinstated. The Diocese announced that an allegations raised against Reverend Dennis Riter, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk, "have not been substantiated." 

That announcement drew a rebuke from attorney Mike Reck, of the Minnesota-based law firm Jeff Anderson and Associates, which has issued its own report on Buffalo priests and represents some of their accusers.

Reck, in a written statement, said "the actions of the Diocese of Buffalo yesterday reached a new level of callousness and carelessness.  Our firm represents the brave survivor who reported Fr. Riter’s abuse months ago. This survivor, Matt Golden, did so with the sole motivation of protecting other children from the trauma he suffered.”

The cases involving Venne, Smith and Riter were conducted by Scott Riordan, a former Assistant Erie County District Attorney who served in that office's Sexual Assault Bureau. Riordan is currently a Village of Kenmore Justice. Fronczak's case was reviewed by former federal prosecutor and New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco, who now works in private practice.

The cases against Venne, Fronczak and Smith are awaiting further review by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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