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Diocese named in over 3 dozen sex-abuse lawsuits since Aug. 14

Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier    |    08.19.2019
Category: Local News


More than three dozen lawsuits have been filed against the Diocese of Rochester since the Aug. 14 opening of a one-year “window” into New York state’s statute of limitations on cases of child sexual abuse. 

The window, which is one component of the Child Victims Act signed into law in February, provides victims of childhood sexual abuse with one year in which to file claims against their alleged abusers even if the standard statute of limitations has long passed. 

From the opening of the window through 6:15 p.m. on Aug. 29, 44 lawsuits had been filed against the Diocese of Rochester, and many of them listed other Catholic organizations as defendants as well. The suits accuse of abuse 24 diocesan priests — most of them deceased or no longer in the priesthood — five men who belonged to clerical religious institutes and served locally; two sisters; three laypeople said to have worked at Catholic schools, parishes or affiliates; and one man alleged to have been a deacon. 

More than two dozen parishes, some of which have been closed for many years, as well as schools, other local Catholic entities and religious orders also are listed as defendants in the lawsuits. 

St. Joseph’s Villa, now known as Villa of Hope, and DePaul Mental Health Services, now known as DePaul Adult Care Communities, also are listed as defendants in one suit each. Now independent of the church, these organizations may have been affiliated with the Diocese of Rochester at the time the lawsuits allege abuse occurred in their facilities. 

Through 11 a.m. Sept. 4, all but one of the lawsuits naming the diocese had been filed in Monroe County, where the diocesan Pastoral Center is located. The other was filed in Chemung County, where it alleges abuse occurred. 

Diocesan officials said they would not comment on cases out of respect for the complainants and the legal process. Bishop Salvatore R. Matano did, however, address diocesan Catholics in a video message released in early August. 

“I renew my most sincere apology to anyone who was harmed by a cleric or Church personnel who so terribly violated their position of trust and scarred the very lives of those whom they were called to serve,” Bishop Matano said in the message. “I pray that the victims and all affected by these egregious acts will find healing and hope. Know that our Lord never abandons us and is always present, especially in times of grave difficulty and suffering. … Our diocesan efforts of many years to heal and to restore victims, and to create a safe environment, will continue. We will remain vigilant.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated at 1 p.m. on Sept. 4, 2019.

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