Agents ‘very in­ter­ested in mak­ing a case,’ vic­tim says

The Buffalo News - - CON­TIN­UED FROM THE COVER -

elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions and other ev­i­dence re­lated to the arch­dio­cese’s han­dling of a case in­volv­ing a priest ac­cused of mo­lest­ing four peo­ple. The head of the Galve­ston-Hous­ton arch­dio­cese is Car­di­nal Daniel DiNardo, pres­i­dent of the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops and a key spokesman on is­sues re­lated to the Catholic Church in the United States.

The fed­eral in­quiry into the Buf­falo Dio­cese ap­pears to be wide-rang­ing, with agents talk­ing to po­ten­tial wit­nesses, as well as abuse vic­tims.

Wright, of Clarence, said she met two weeks ago with agents. The agents told her they al­ready had spo­ken with 40 peo­ple about clergy abuse cases and were look­ing for ev­i­dence to present to a grand jury.

They also told her the Buf­falo Dio­cese was re­cently served with a sec­ond fed­eral sub­poena, af­ter dio­cese of­fi­cials re­sponded with lit­tle in­for­ma­tion to an ini­tial sub­poena served in June, Wright said.

A spokes­woman for the Buf­falo of­fice of the FBI de­clined to com­ment.

“Af­ter years of turn­ing a deaf ear to com­plaints about the clergy, law en­force­ment fi­nally ap­pears to be sin­cerely in­ter­ested,” said at­tor­ney Steven M. Co­hen, who rep­re­sents five peo­ple who say they were abused and were re­cently in­ter­viewed by the FBI. “Be­cause of all the re­cent pub­lic­ity, they seem to be ab­so­lutely in­ter­ested in hear­ing what some of th­ese priests have done. The agents seem to be very in­ter­ested in ev­ery as­pect of what hap­pened to my clients.”

One of his clients told the FBI that he was mo­lested by a priest – the Rev. Don­ald Becker – and that a young rel­a­tive of his killed him­self af­ter be­ing abused by the same priest, said Co­hen.

An­other client of Co­hen’s told agents how he was re­peat­edly sex­u­ally mo­lested at age 10 by an­other lo­cal priest, the Rev. Li­nus Hen­nessy, who be­friended his fam­ily.

Both Becker and Hen­nessy are on the Buf­falo Dio­cese list of priests who were re­moved from ser­vice be­cause of al­le­ga­tions they mo­lested chil­dren.

Co­hen, who works on priest cases with at­tor­ney Wil­liam A. Lorenz Jr., said he hopes fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors will be able to build a case against lead­ers – past and present – of the Buf­falo Dio­cese.

“Many of th­ese in­ci­dents they are look­ing into are be­yond the statute of lim­i­ta­tions, but with all the cover-ups that have gone on for many decades, it would seem they could build some kind of case of ob­struct­ing jus­tice or mak­ing false state­ments to fed­eral agents. Pos­si­bly they could look at build­ing a rack­e­teer­ing case, based on pat­terns of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity that have gone on for decades,” he said.

“As long as I can re­mem­ber, law en­force­ment has been very re­luc­tant to pur­sue crim­i­nal charges against Catholic Church lead­ers. That seems to have changed dra­mat­i­cally. Fi­nally, peo­ple are think­ing about the vic­tims. Even if there are no charges, I think that it has given my clients some clo­sure to sit down and tell their sto­ries to the FBI,” Co­hen said.

One source met with agents Tues­day at a Buf­falo cof­fee shop.

“They’re in­ter­ested in cover-ups. They’re look­ing for ac­tual us­able ev­i­dence that the bishop and other higher-ups in the chancery know­ingly moved around abusers,” said the source, a clergy mem­ber who asked not to be iden­ti­fied. “They’re look­ing for a lot of back­ground. They want to know who all the play­ers are.”

Lengthy in­ter­views

A for­mer Buf­falo Dio­cese sem­i­nar­ian said he was in­ter­viewed last week for 3½ hours in an of­fice build­ing out­side Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Two agents in­quired about the cul­ture of the sem­i­nary in the 1990s and whether any priests trav­eled across state lines or into Canada with chil­dren, said the for­mer sem­i­nar­ian, Wes Walawen­der. They also asked about in­ter­na­tional sem­i­nar­i­ans, said Walawen­der, who is orig­i­nally from Poland and at­tended Christ the King Sem­i­nary in Aurora from 1990 to 1995.

Walawen­der, who now lives in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area, con­tends that he was not al­lowed to be or­dained in 1995 as re­tal­i­a­tion for his re­port­ing to Buf­falo Dio­cese of­fi­cials an in­ci­dent in which a priest was ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a 6-yearold boy.

He said agents were in­ter­ested in his re­count­ing of that sit­u­a­tion, as well.

In ad­di­tion to Lynch, The News spoke re­cently with three oth­ers who have ac­cused priests of sex­ual abuse and said that they had been in­ter­viewed by the FBI.

One of the ac­cusers, a Buf­falo-area man in his 60s, said agents ques­tioned him at length in his of­fice.

“They were es­pe­cially in­ter­ested in any in­for­ma­tion about the priest tak­ing me across state lines. They seemed very se­ri­ous, very in­ter­ested in mak­ing a case, and I hope they do,” said the man, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied.

Four lawyers who rep­re­sent Buf­falo Dio­cese clergy abuse vic­tims also said their clients had been con­tacted by the FBI for in­for­ma­tion.

At­tor­ney J. Michael Reck said FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tors seemed to be in­ter­ested in “more than just the in­di­vid­ual abusers.”

Their line of ques­tion­ing with his clients sug­gested that the FBI wants to scru­ti­nize in­di­vid­u­als who may have been in­volved in mov­ing per­pe­tra­tors around, said Reck.

“I think that’s the type of thing they’re look­ing at,” he said.

Some who have al­leged they were vic­tims of abuse and who have yet to be con­tacted by the FBI said they are ea­ger to talk.

“I would like to talk with them, be­cause I be­lieve that crim­i­nal be­hav­ior has been ac­tively cov­ered up for many years. Lead­ers of the church knew about crim­i­nal be­hav­ior against chil­dren and didn’t re­port it. They just shuf­fled the prob­lems around, took preda­tor priests and moved them to new places where there was new prey for them,” said John­paul Okal, 48, of Wis­con­sin.

Okal said he was mo­lested when he was 9 by the Rev. Nor­bert Or­solits. Okal and his par­ents at the time lived down the road from Or­solits’ cot­tage home in the Town of Ash­ford.

“This kind of crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is long over­due. My best-case sce­nario would be to see Norb Or­solits spend his last days in jail,” said Okal.

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