Bishop Salvatore R. Matano has removed from public ministry two priests — Fathers Thomas J. Valenti and Erick Viloria — following an independent investigation and subsequent review and recommendation from the diocesan Review Board.
A diocesan statement issued Dec. 9 noted that the Review Board includes lay professionals in law, child protection, law enforcement and psychology who advise the bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and a cleric’s suitability for ministry.
The statement said Father Valenti, who served as parochial administrator of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick in Tioga County, is restricted from engaging in public ministry or presenting himself publicly as a cleric.
According to the statement, Father Valenti was publicly accused in June 2018 of sexual abuse of a minor dating back to the 1970s. Subsequent to a complete review and investigation of the matter, the Review Board recommended the current action based on new information that Father Valenti had engaged in objectionable and inappropriate behaviors with minors during the 1970s, the statement said.
The diocesan statement noted that Father Valenti adamantly denies the substance of the allegations and that he intends to pursue his right to appeal Bishop Matano’s decision to the Holy See.
Father Mitchell Zygadlo has been appointed temporary parochial administrator of Blessed Trinity and St. Patrick parishes.
Father Valenti was ordained in April 1976. He served as assistant pastor of Holy Apostles Church, Rochester, from 1976-77; assistant pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church, Rochester, from 1977-79; diocesan vocations director from 1980-89; assistant to the bishop for vocations and director of Becket Hall discernment house from 1989-93; and chaplain at Ithaca College from 1993-97. He served outside the diocese from 1997 until 2014 when he began his assignment at Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick.
Father Viloria, who served as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Peace Parish, Geneva, also is restricted from engaging in public ministry or presenting himself publicly as a cleric, the statement said. The diocese received a claim against him in August 2018 and, after investigating, the Review Board recommended that Father Viloria be restricted from public ministry based on information that he engaged in objectionable and inappropriate use of social media with an adult. This claim is unrelated to his parish ministry, the statement said.
Father Michael D. Merritt has been appointed parochial vicar of Our Lady of Peace Parish, concurrent with his assignment as parochial vicar of St. Francis & St. Clare Parish, Waterloo.
Father Viloria was ordained a priest in June 2016. He served as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Parish and Ss. Mary and Martha Parish, Auburn, from June 2016 to June 2018, when he began his assignment as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Peace, Geneva.
Father Viloria also has the right to appeal from the Bishop’s decision to the Holy See, the diocese said.
“The Diocese of Rochester is committed to creating a safe environment for all, most especially our children, young people and vulnerable adults,” Bishop Matano said in the statement. “As Bishop of Rochester, I pledge to continue the many important initiatives we have undertaken to ensure this. I remain committed to the guiding principles established in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted in 2002 and which was most recently updated in 2018.”
A detailed list of the initiatives the diocese has undertaken can be found at www.dor.org/wp-content/uploads/Update-on-Safe-Environ ment-Efforts2018.pdf.
Additional information and resources can be found on the diocesan website (www.dor.org) under the Protecting Our Children tab.
HELP FOR VICTIMS
Victims of abuse should always report to the civil authorities. To report a case of possible sexual abuse and to receive help and guidance from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, victims are encouraged to contact the Victim Assistance Coordinator, Deborah Housel, at 585-328- 3228, ext. 1555 (toll-free 1-800-388-7177, ext. 1555), or by email to email@example.com.Tags: Diocesan Appointments