BUFFALO — A federal investigation into clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is underway.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo has subpoenaed the Buffalo diocese for a probe focused on the alleged trafficking of minors across state lines for the purpose of sex abuse, CBS News reported Thursday. The Associated Press reported earlier Thursday that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia has subpoenaed at least seven of the eight dioceses in Pennsylvania for similar reasons.
The subpoenas in Buffalo and Pennsylvania are part of what’s believed to be first time the U.S. Justice Department has investigated sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Previous investigations were handled by state and local authorities.
The Buffalo diocese released a statement Thursday confirming the subpoena, indicating it was served as long ago as June.
“Several months ago, we received a call from the local U.S. Attorney’s office with a request to review documents. A subpoena was provided and after some discussion, an agreement was reached to produce documents. We have heard nothing since early June,” read the statement. “As far as we know, our response has nothing to do with the current Pennsylvania investigation that has just begun.”
The subpoenas in Pennsylvania come after a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August detailed 300 priests abusing 1,000 children in six dioceses since 1947.
The subpoena in Buffalo comes in the wake of the Buffalo diocese’s own sex abuse scandal, which has seen numerous victims come forward and priests put on leave over the last eight months.
There’s also been criticisms of how Buffalo diocese leaders handled the complaints that priests abused children, and allegations of cover-ups. Numerous local officials have called for Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone to resign.
“Pope Francis has to be deeply concerned about what the federal investigation will reveal within the Diocese of Buffalo,” Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who is representing victims in Buffalo, said in a statement to multiple outlets Thursday. “The federal investigation represents hope for clergy sexual abuse victims in all of Buffalo and also worldwide. The time for transparency has arrived.”
Former and current local priests have been involved in the Buffalo diocese scandal.
Of the 42 priests identified by the diocese as having been removed from ministry, retired or left ministry after allegations they sexually abused a minor, more than a third served throughout Cattaraugus and Allegany counties at some point in their careers.
At least five had direct connections to Olean through the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Archbishop Walsh Academy.
It was an admission by a former St. Mary’s priest and Walsh teacher that started the Buffalo scandal. The Rev. Norbert Orsolits told The Buffalo News in February that he sexually abused “probably dozens” of teenage boys during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Last month, the Rev. Ronald Mierzwa, pastor of Holy Name of Mary Church in Ellicottville, was suspended due to an abuse complaint.
This federal probe is the second investigation the Buffalo diocese is dealing with. The New York State Attorney General’s Office earlier launched an investigation into clergy abuse across the state, with a particular focus on the Buffalo diocese.