Bishop Richard Malone Challenged to Give Answers and Explanation for Reinstatement of Accused Serial Predator Fr. Dennis Riter
Attorneys Mike Reck and Jeff Anderson, Along with Survivor Matthew Golden, Demand That the Bishop, Review Board and Top Officials of the Buffalo Diocese Give a Transparent and Open Explanation of Fr. Riter’s Return to Ministry
(Buffalo, NY) – Last Thursday, without explanation or notification to survivors, Matthew Golden opened up the newspaper to read that the man who sexually abused him as a child, Father Dennis Riter, was being returned to ministry after the Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Richard Malone, Investigator Scott Riordan and the Diocesan Review Board determined that the multiple sexual abuse allegations against Fr. Riter, including Matthew’s, were “unsubstantiated.”
“It feels like a real punch in your gut,” said Golden. “It’s a wonder why more victims don’t come forward and tell their stories. It was a really sad day for me and my family. I really just can’t believe any of this. Being abused by Fr. Riter was horrible, but knowing he has been reinstated and children are still at risk is even more devastating to me.”
Since learning of Fr. Riter’s return to ministry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk, NY last week, the Diocese of Buffalo and its representatives have failed to provide any explanation as to why this decision was made.
“In the 35-plus years I have been working with survivors, I have repeatedly seen the callous and shocking conduct of the Catholic Bishops and I am shocked beyond words by this decision,” said Jeff Anderson, one of the attorneys representing Matthew Golden. “This conduct is outrageous, reckless, hazardous, and dangerous and it poses a real and continuing threat to the safety of the children in the Diocese of Buffalo and in the Dunkirk community.”
Fr. Riter is accused of sexually abusing at least three boys while he was a priest in the Diocese of Buffalo in the 1990s. In addition to the reports of two sexual abuse survivors, Matthew Golden and Nick Caetano, a May 1992 letter from a then-seminarian in the diocese to Bishop Edward D. Head and Bishop Edward Grosz, was uncovered by press reports and details the alleged abuse of another boy at Queen of All Saints in Lackawanna, NY.
The 1992 letter from a student at Christ the King Seminary explains a father’s frantic search for his young son who had gone missing. The seminarian helped the father look for his son and upon arriving at the rectory of Queen of All Saints, the child emerged from the rectory office where he had been with Fr. Riter. As the father took the boy’s hand to leave the rectory, the father exploded and stuck his hand in the face of the seminarian and asked the seminarian what the substance on his hand was. The same substance was found on the boy’s shirt, face and in his hair. The seminarian was “shocked” and realized the child had “mature male body fluid” on him.
Bishop Edward Grosz, one of the letter’s recipients along with Bishop Edward Head, is the current auxiliary bishop of the Buffalo diocese and is at the center of the diocese’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations. The seminarian received no response from the diocese until months later when he talked to Father Peter Popadick, Bishop Head’s long-time secretary. The seminarian, who hand-delivered the letter, was told that the letter “wasn’t well-appreciated” by the diocese. When asked about the letter, Msgr. Popadick claims he has no memory of the letter.
A second report to the diocese was made approximately 20 years ago, when another survivor, Nick Caetano, now deceased, told his mother about Fr. Riter’s sexual abuse while he was an altar boy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The boy’s mother reported her son’s abuse to the Diocese of Buffalo and nothing was done in response to the report. A short time later, Fr. Riter disappeared from Our Lady of Perpetual Help and his whereabouts were unknown for two years from approximately 2001 to 2003.
In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops met and established a zero-tolerance policy for child sexual abuse and Fr. Riter was contemporaneously reassigned in approximately 2003 to St. Mary’s in Batavia, NY where he worked until approximately 2008.
To-date, no explanation has been provided by the Bishop or the Diocese of Buffalo as to why Fr. Riter was removed from ministry for an extended period of time or why the diocese again chose to return Fr. Riter to ministry after receiving a report of child sexual abuse.
“It’s time for Bishop Malone to tell the truth about any reasons they think they have for the reinstatement of Riter, given the state of all the evidence put before them,” said Attorney Mike Reck. “This can be done without damaging release of private information and requires a full and fair public accounting instead of secrecy. This entire investigation, and the ones that came before, were done in secrecy and secrecy is what allowed Fr. Riter to be returned to ministry not once, but twice. It’s time for the Diocese of Buffalo to stop deflecting and deceiving the public and the survivors who have bravely stepped forward to share their stories.”
In March 2018, the Diocese of Buffalo put Fr. Riter on administrative leave pending a diocesan investigation after receiving Mr. Golden’s report. Last week, Fr. Riter was returned to ministry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk, NY where he had been working since approximately 2008.
“I am concerned for the safety and well-being of the children who will be exposed to Fr. Riter now that he has returned to ministry,” said Golden. “Who knows what will go on there, moving forward. I am mind blown at the evidence that was presented and the decision that was made by the Bishop and the Review Board, to allow Fr. Riter to return to ministry.”