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Clergy sex abuse advocate welcomes AG's lawsuit against Catholic Diocese

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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An advocate for clergy sex abuse victims who had actively called for the removal of Bishop Richard Malone is praising the New York State Attorney General for her lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and its former top leadership.

Robert Hoatson, co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, appeared Tuesday in his usual chosen place for his Buffalo appearances, on the sidewalk across the street from the Catholic Center on Main Street. His podium displayed a sign declaring "Free At Last," a commentary on behalf of victims.

"We're free at last, we victims, we advocates, we are free at last because government officials have stepped in and have investigated and concluded that what occurred here was absolutely outrageous in this Diocese of Buffalo," he said. "Not just with Bishop Malone or Bishop Grosz, or even Bishop Scharfenberger, but for decades and decades and decades before that."

Bishop Emeritus Richard Malone, retired Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz and current apostolic administrator Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, along with the Diocese as an entity, are named as defendants in Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit, announced Monday. James contends the Diocese failed to follow even the US church's own guidelines for protecting minors from sexual abuse. Malone and Grosz are accused additionally of misusing charitable assets to provide financial support for numerous clergy who were accused of misconduct and removed from active service.

The Diocese of Buffalo, on Monday, issued the following statement: "We will be reviewing this lawsuit just announced by the New York Attorney General and weighing the Diocese’s response.  In the meantime, we wish to reiterate that there is zero tolerance for sexual abuse of a minor or of sexual harassment of an adult in the Diocese of Buffalo by any member of the clergy, employee or volunteer.  The Diocese has put in place rigorous policies and protocols governing required behavior as well as a code of conduct which all clergy are expected to abide by.  Moreover, the Diocese has committed to full cooperation with all civil authorities in both the reporting and investigation of alleged crimes and complaints."

Hoatson, meanwhile, says the Attorney General's own lengthy complaint disputes any "zero tolerance" policy.

"In 2018, the bishops here in Buffalo and the bishops across the country, came up with a new set of policies and procedures that basically claimed that we didn't do anything since 2002 to change anything. And in 2019, Bishop Malone ended up resigning because he knew that he didn't do anything in this diocese to really protect the children."

Malone retired in December 2019, while Grosz retired earlier this year. In February 2020, months after hundreds of Child Victims Act lawsuits began to file, the Diocese declared Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

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