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23 suspended Catholic priests to lose their pay and health insurance

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In the last few days, 23 suspended priests have been contacted by senior leadership of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese and told they lose their pay and health insurance on Friday.

These are men who have "substantiated" allegations of sexual abuse. They remain priests, but can't hold themselves out as priests, are not allowed to say Mass publicly or wear clerical garb.

Interim Diocesan Communications Director Greg Tucker said they are mostly elderly men who remain eligible for their pensions, Social Security and Medicare. Some have had their cases sent to Rome for "laicization," which means being officially removed as priests.

"Unless they have been laicized, a process that involves appealing to Rome, they are still a priest, though their faculties have been suspended," said Tucker. "That means they can't present themselves as a priest, publcly. That means they can't preside over the sacraments in any public format."

Tucker said this decision to revoke pay and health insurance revolves around the diocesan bankruptcy case.

"An issue has arisen regarding priests that have had substantiated allegations brought against them, often many, many years ago, that they should no longer receive any formal financial support from the diocese and the diocese has agreed to that," Tucker said.

For an undetermined number of the 23 priests, they may also lose their housing, since they live in diocesan-owned property like rectories. Tucker said that still has to be worked out.

"Senior leadership of the diocese has been reaching out individually, one on one, to those affected, to communicate this and explain the implications, and we'll continue that process, to detail to them what it means and then, obviously, broader implications," Tucker said.

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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