Attorneys for a man who says he was sexually abused by a Dunkirk priest criticized Bishop Richard J. Malone on Monday for returning Father Dennis G. Riter to active ministry.
“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, who says he was a victim of Riter while the priest was at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Buffalo's Old First Ward in the 1990s. “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.”
Malone made the controversial move of exonerating Riter and placing him in a parish despite three victims who came forward to 7 Eyewitness News two months ago detailing alleged abuse by Riter at OLPH in Buffalo and at Queen of All Saints in Lackawanna.
“It feels like a real punch in your gut,” Golden said in a news release sent out by his attorneys. “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.”
No information has been given by the diocese as to why the allegations against Riter "have not been substantiated," the attorneys said. Diocesan attorney Lawlor Quinlan last week refused to release the report generated by diocesan investigator Scott Riordan, a former county prosecutor and criminal defense attorney who was paid by the diocese for conducting the investigation.
“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.”
Diocesan spokesman George Richert did not respond to a request for comment. Attorney Rodney O. Personius, who is representing Father Riter, released the following statement:
The claims in the Anderson press statement set forth self-serving accounts of alleged occurrences. They overlook such important matters as the timing of the complaints, the failure of expected follow up on the part of the complainants, and the absence of independent corroboration of what is asserted. For example, in the case of one of the claims, it was reported that a complaint was lodged immediately after the alleged occurrence with a local police agency. Yet, the identified police department has no evidence a complaint was ever filed. In another of the cases, the claims made on different occasions have differed as to material matters.
It would be naïve to assume that every complaint against a member of our Diocese has merit. There are many reasons why a complaint may be baseless. Without exploring all of those reasons here, suffice it to say that they extend well beyond intentional falsehood, and call into play the memory, mental faculties and past history of the complainant.
Father Riter has served the Western New York community for a period of 45 years. He is proud of his service, and looks forward to continuing to fulfill his duties for many years to come. He adamantly reasserts his lack of complicity in the matters referenced in the Anderson press release.