Sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests in Western New York are having an impact on the annual Catholic Charities Appeal.
The $11 million campaign is behind other years, according to Catholic Charities of Buffalo CEO Dennis Walczyk. He tells 7 Eyewitness News that part of the reason is because some community members are reluctant to contribute out of concern that their donation will be used to pay out settlements between the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and victims of sexual abuse by priests.
Walczyk stresses that donations go towards the organization's services, not settlements.
"We want everyone to understand that contributions to Catholic Charities directly support the services we provide,” Walczyk said in a statement.
The Appeal helps fund 70 programs and services across Western New York. So far it's reached 40% of its goal, with a little more than three months left in the campaign.
“Because we serve all people in need in Western New York regardless of religious affiliation or background, we are grateful for any support from both Catholics and non-Catholics alike," Walczyk said in a statement.
This year's Appeal comes at a difficult time for the Buffalo Catholic Diocese.
In February, a priest allegedly told the Buffalo News that he had abused "dozens of boys" in the late 1970s and 1980s.
As more and more people come forward with allegations of abuse, Bishop Richard Malone announced it has established a fund to settle claims against clergy within the diocese. This is in addition to the approximately $1.2 million already paid out to alleged victims over the past 20 years, according to the diocese.