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Buffalo Diocese finds three priests guilty, but returns two to ministry

Another priest found not guilty but still suspended
Posted: 11:26 AM, May 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-13 09:30:54-04
Buffalo Diocese criticized for reinstating priests

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Diocese of Buffalo has found three priests guilty of sexual abuse or misconduct, and another not guilty.

However, two of the guilty priests will be returned to ministry because "the improper conduct did not rise to the level that would require removal from active priestly ministry," a spokeswoman for Bishop Richard J. Malone said in a prepared statement released Thursday morning.

The internal decisions came after a recent meeting of the Diocesan Review Board, a group of clergy and lay Catholics appointed by the bishop to review sexual abuse cases for the diocese.

Rev. Joseph C. Gatto -- Allegations "from adults regarding improper conduct" by Gatto, then-president and rector of Christ the King Seminary, were reviewed by the Diocesan Review Board, Bishop Malone said in a statement, and Gatto "underwent professional evaluation and remedial measures in accordance with diocesan policies."

"...The improper conduct did not rise to the level that would require removal from active priestly ministry," a statement from the diocese read. "Bishop Malone has accepted those recommendations and will determine their assignments at the appropriate time."

Gatto was suspended in September and he acknowledged to the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team that he was going to Southdown "treatment center" in Toronto, a place where the diocese has historically sent sexually abusive priests, or those with substance abuse or mental health issues.

In October, two men came forward to say Gatto made unwanted sexual advances on them after they went to him for counseling. He was also accused by a former seminarian of engaging in sexual activity with a seminarian while he was in a leadership position at Christ the King Seminary.

Rev. Samuel T. Giangreco, Jr. -- A "complaint of improper conduct involving an adult female" was reviewed by the Diocesan Review Board, Bishop Malone said in a statement, and Gatto "underwent professional evaluation and remedial measures in accordance with diocesan policies."

Giangreco, one of the diocese's youngest priests, was suspended in November, but "the improper conduct did not rise to the level that would require removal from active priestly ministry," a statement from the diocese read. "Bishop Malone has accepted those recommendations and will determine their assignments at the appropriate time."

A knowledgable source told the I-Team the allegation involved alleged sexual advances by Giangreco against a married woman who was a parishioner.

Rev. Michael P. Juran -- Allegations of child sexual abuse against Juran "have been substantiated," the bishop said through his spokeswoman on Thursday, and Juran will remain on suspension as the Vatican reviews the case. He was suspended in October and The Buffalo News reported his assignment history as follows: Associate pastor of Mother of Divine Grace Church, Cheektowaga; St. Gabriel Church, Elma; Prince of Peace and Our Lady of Mount Carmel churches, Niagara Falls; Fourteen Holy Helpers Church, West Seneca; St. Benedict Church, Eggertsville; St. Patrick Churches in Salamanca, Fillmore and Belfast.

Known as "The Flying Padre," the eccentric Juran was also chaplain to traveling carnival workers and boasted of serving as a stunt man for Burt Reynolds.

Rev. Robert M. Yetter -- "Bishop Richard J. Malone has determined that the allegation of child sexual abuse against Fr. Yetter has not been substantiated," the diocese said in a statement. " Because allegations of adult sexual abuse by Fr. Yetter are still being considered, he will remain on administrative leave."

Yetter was first suspended after a 7 Eyewitness News I-Team investigation revealed Bishop Malone allowed Yetter to remain pastor of St. Mary's of Swormville despite multiple allegations of sexual abuse.

In October, another man came forward to say Yetter came up to him "with his pants down" in the church rectory. Yetter did not deny the allegations and made what many believed was a bizarre statement to 7 Eyewitness News with details of the night.