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Former priest, child sex abuse survivor heads to Rome ahead of bishops' summit

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Pope Francis will convene a highly-anticipated summit with presidents of all Catholic bishop conferences worldwide, beginning Thursday at the Vatican. A Buffalo man, who is a former priest and also a childhood sexual abuse survivor, is traveling to Rome in advance of the summit to stand with victims and respond to developments at the meeting. Before leaving, he spoke with WBFO.

Faluszczak has been a steady presence at numerous Buffalo-area protests and news conferences, usually standing alongside Robert Hoatson, co-founder of the advocacy group Road to Recovery. He was among numerous people to testify in 2016 before a Pennsylvania grand jury in a case which, last year, released explicit details of abuse allegations, suspects and claims of systemic cover-up by church officials.

But during an interview with WBFO before his departure for Rome, Faluszczak admitted it took the revelation by Michael Whalen of his own story, told on a Buffalo street corner in February 2018, to give him the courage to speak in public about his own abuse.

"When Michael Whalen came forward so courageously on Main Street a year ago, I actually was not quite a part of that," Faluszczak said. "I was too afraid to stand with him. I stood a block away with my dog, just trying to look as normal and inconspicuous as you can imagine. It wasn't until you all were packing up that I went up and introduced myself to Michael."

Since then, he has been among the most vocal and active critics of the Diocese of Buffalo and the Catholic Church for its handling of past sexual abuse claims and cases. He tells WBFO he does not plan to be a rabble rouser on Vatican property - "I have that respect for them," he stated - but intends to make his presence known. He has posted videos from Rome on his personal Facebook account and intends to post occasional updates from the Vatican. 

A significant movement occurring after this interview was concluded was the defrocking of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The former Archbishop of Washington was found guilty of carrying out sexual abuse of minors for decades and was previously one of the most powerful Catholic clergy in the US Catholic Church.

As for expectations of movement at the Vatican's summit? Faluszczak says he and other advocates have not set theirs high but he also tells WBFO this crisis is seen by many as the most critical facing the Church since the Protestant Reformation.

"If (Pope Francis) doesn't, very soon and concretely with immediate results, reverse course on the way that the Church governs these issues, then it's not even his papacy or reputation that's at stake," he said. "I think it's a whole another generation of Catholics that say 'we've had enough.'"

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.