Prayer | Healing | Hope

Abuse Response

The Diocese of Buffalo is committed to bring healing to victim-survivors and strengthen the faith of the people of Western New York

A Letter from Bishop Fisher

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We have no more sacred or urgent task than to restore the trust of the Catholic Faithful, the broader public, and all who look to the Church as a symbol of goodness, commitment to the Gospel values of Jesus Christ, and as an instrument of God’s healing among all who have been harmed by the scourge of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
As the bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo since January 15, 2021, I have made it abundantly clear to members of the clergy, diocesan employees, and volunteers that there is zero tolerance for any act of sexual abuse, or sexual harassment, toward a young person or adult.  Such acts are an affront to who and what we claim to be as Christians and as Catholics.  It is why I have insisted on a regular and thorough review of all existing policies and protocols as detailed in the Diocese’s “Policy and Procedure for the Protection of Young People and Vulnerable Adults,” which is based upon the Charter developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. We are not only committed to ensuring the safety of children, but to critically reviewing all policies and protocols on an annual basis in order to verify that we are adhering to the most rigorous standards as confirmed through an independent auditor.
The Diocese’s policies regarding the conduct of clergy, employees and volunteers toward adults is likewise clear and unequivocal.  The “Adult Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures” define prohibited conduct, established procedures for addressing complaints, and outlines appropriate consequences for violators.  The policy also emphasizes the critical importance of education and training in the Diocese’s ongoing effort to eliminate all forms of sexual misconduct, in addition to defining personal boundaries, the violation of which is a betrayal of the ministerial relationship.
It is my personal commitment as bishop of this Diocese to work each and every day to restore the trust that has been broken and to bring about the healing that those who have suffered by the abuse of others so need and desire.  Recognizing that actions speak louder than words, we expect that how we deal with these very serious and painful matters will be judged according to the highest standards of transparency and accountability – knowing that ultimately God’s judgments are everlasting and true. 

Sincerely in Christ,

The Most Reverend Michael W. Fisher
Bishop of Buffalo

Our Commitment

It is our pledge – and the requirement of our Catholic Faith – to create safe and healthy environments for our young people, as well as adults in our parishes, schools, hospitals and wherever the ministries of this local Church are carried out across Western New York.

Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor will always be properly reported to local authorities.

The Diocese will not transfer any priest or deacon who has committed an act of child or vulnerable adult abuse to a new assignment within the Diocese or to another diocese/eparchy or religious province.

All priests, deacons, employees and volunteers who are around children are trained through VIRTUS

Employees and volunteers must undergo a background check prior to employment or volunteering with minors.

The Diocese will reach out to all victims of abuse and make itself available to their families – whether the abuse was recent or occurred many years ago – to promote their spiritual and emotional well-being, their healing, and their reconciliation.

The Diocese will undergo an audit annually to ensure compliance with USCCB and diocesan Safe Environment mandates. 

For the complete Policy and Procedures for the Protection of Children, Young People, and Vulnerable Adults please go here.

The following are policies, procedures and related information on the promotion and protection of the rights and dignity of all people in the Diocese of Buffalo:

Code of Conduct for Priests, Deacons, Pastoral Ministers, Administrators, Staff and Volunteers.

Diocesan Policy and Procedures for the Protection of Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults. Updated March 2021

Section 9 in Best Parish Practices Document: Safe Environment Program

Protecting God’s Children: The Office of Safe Environment

Safe Environment Training

Annual Independent Audit (2019/2020) along with an on-site audit letter of compliance. 

The Diocese of Buffalo continues the call for victims to come forward and report their abuse so that the healing process can begin. Several outlets have been established, allowing victims to reach out to the proper authority:

Call your local law enforcement agency/911, your county’s District Attorney, or the New York Statewide Central Register (Child Abuse Hotline) at 1-800-342-3720.

 Contact the Victims Assistance Coordinator (VAC), Jacqueline Joy at (716)-895-3010 or Jacqueline.joy@ccwny.org if reporting sexual abuse/misconduct from the past or present. The VAC is available to assist you.  

Contact EthicsPoint to confidentially report abuse, misconduct and/or fraud by filing a report through their website or call 1-(844)-573-4177. Additional information about EthicsPoint can be found here.

To report sexual misconduct by a bishop or eparch, contact the national reporting website or reporting hotline. Make a report online at www.ReportBishopAbuse.org or call 1-(800)-276-1562

COMMITMENT & SAFEGUARDS

Our Track Record

Since 2002

45,000

cleric, educators, employees and volunteers have received training to recognize and report abuse and neglect.

In 2019

25,300

children were trained to keep themselves safe in Catholic Schools and Religious Education

Since 2001

ZERO

Known substantiated reports of Sexual abuse of minors by diocesan priests within the past 19 years

What have we done since 2002?
Since the Dallas Charter was written in 2002, the Diocese of Buffalo has implemented its guidelines in 2003 and taken action in the following matters:
  • Creating a safe environment for children and young people.
  • Healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors.
  • Making prompt and effective response to allegations.
  • Cooperating with civil authorities.
  • Disciplining offenders.
  • Providing for means of accountability for the future to ensure the problem continues to be effectively dealt with through the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board.
  • Background checks for employees and volunteers of the Diocese.
  • The Diocesan Safe Environment Program was created and staffed to fulfill the requirements of the Charter.
  • Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) was established for those who have made claims that they were sexually abused as a child by a member of the clergy in the Diocese of Buffalo. Individuals
    who have previously made claims were invited to participate in this voluntary program.
  • Constant evaluation and updating of procedures.
  • Annual instructions for minors in parishes for their protection and safe environment.
  • On-going training for all adults (ordained and lay) through VIRTUS.
MOVING FORWARD

The Wider Church

In November 2004 the USCCB commissioned the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University to design and conduct an annual survey for all the dioceses and eparchies whose bishops or eparchs are members of the USCCB. Annual reporting to CARA has been done by the Safe Environment Program for the Diocese of Buffalo.
National aggregate results from this survey for each calendar year are prepared for the USCCB and reported in its Annual Report of the Implementation of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
Data from the CARA report has identified that abuse cases were more common before 1985. (GRAPH). This by no means excuses the behavior of the past, but it does indicate that openness and education increase public awareness allowing for abuse to be prevented. A new reality has fostered external changes such as mandated abuse reporter laws, longer statutes of limitations and increased public awareness.
Visit USCCB for more detailed information.
Article 12 of the Dallas Charter calls for the education of children and those who minister to children about ways to create and maintain a safe environment for children and young people. For a diocese or eparchy to be considered compliant the bishop and his staff must be able to demonstrate that training programs exist, the Bishop approves Promise to Protect the programs, and the appropriate individuals have participated in the training.
Article 13 of the Charter requires dioceses and eparchies to evaluate the background of clergy, candidates for ordination, educators, employees, and volunteers who minister to children and young people. Specifically, they are to utilize resources of law enforcement and other community agencies.
Article 14 governs the relocation of accused clerics between dioceses. Before clerics who have been accused of sexual abuse of a minor can relocate for residence, the cleric’s home bishop must communicate suitability status to the receiving bishop. To assess compliance with Article 14, auditors reviewed diocesan/eparchial policies to understand the procedures for receiving transferred and visiting priests and deacons.
StoneBridge also inquired of the appropriate personnel to confirm that practice was consistent with the policy.

Resources

Credibly Accused List

List of removed priests and religious from ministry in the Diocese.

Priests placed on Administrative Leave

The following priests are placed on administrative leave:

 

National Resources

A wide variety of information on child protection resources including an Annual Report by the USCCB.

File a Report

List of ways to report abuse, misconduct, and fraud.

 

Office of Safe Environment

Promotion and protection of the rights and dignity of all people.

 

Prayer for a Suffering Church

Grant we pray, O Lord, healing for all victims of sexual abuse. Purify your Church of corruption. Bring justice to those who have been wronged. Grant consolation to all who are afflicted. Cast your light to banish the shadows of deception. Manifest to all your advocacy of those who have been so cruelly hurt, and your judgment upon those who, having perpetrated such crimes, remain unrepentant. Compel those in your Church whom you have entrusted to safeguard the innocent and act on behalf of the victims to be vigilant and zealous in their duties. Restore faith to those from whom it has been stolen, and hope to those who have despaired.