BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Fallout from the growing scandal at Christ the King Seminary has ensnared a Diocese of Buffalo priest.
The Rev. Jeffrey L. Nowak, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians parish in Cheektowaga, is under investigation by the diocese for allegations of sexual misconduct, a diocesan spokeswoman said.
"A preliminary inquiry has been initiated concerning allegations of inappropriate behavior/unwanted contact," Kathy Spangler, a spokeswoman for Bishop Richard J. Malone, said in an email.
The diocese did not announce the investigation until contacted by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team about specific allegations concerning Nowak that were part of confidential seminary documents the I-Team obtained last week .
Those documents -- quoting unnamed
priests and seminarians who attended a controversial party in Hamburg
, as well as follow-up interviews with the seminarians -- included allegations that Nowak made unwanted sexual advances on at least two current seminarians and also made unwanted contact with a current diocesan priest.
"Comments were made about Rev. Jeffrey Nowak and how he latched on to [priest -- name redacted] when he was at Christ the King Seminary and Rev. Jeffrey Nowak wanting [priest -- name redacted] to admit to something," states a document that describes notes compiled by seminarians who attended the Hamburg priest party. "He told [priest -- name redacted] that he had already done his research with him and that he knows everything about him so he mine [sic] as well just tell him because he already knows everything about him. [Priest - name redacted] asked Father Jeffrey Nowak to leave him alone as he had latched onto him and it made him feel uncomfortable. [Priest - name redacted] has not talked with Rev. Jeffrey Nowak since cutting off ties."
7 Eyewitness News is withholding the name of the priest mentioned in the report, as it does not identify victims of possible crimes without their permission. The priest said he did not want to be identified and disputed the characterization, saying that the document "exaggerated" what really happened, which he described as more of an invasion of his "personal space." However, multiple sources inside the diocese say the contact has been described as more than that.
The document goes on to state that another current seminarian "said Rev. Jeffrey Nowak did the same thing to him. (This was also done to another current seminarian by Rev. Jeffrey Nowak in far more sever [sic] ways."
Nowak did not respond to multiple messages left for comment for this story.
But more specifics of the allegations against him are found in a second document: an investigative report compiled by Michael J. Sherry, academic dean of Christ the King Seminary.
The third page of that document states, "Reports that a diocesan priest (identified) has pursued [two names - redacted] and seminarian Four (with whom seminarian Two is good friends)."
7 Eyewitness News has redacted the two names, one of which identifies a current seminarian. That seminarian did not respond to a message seeking comment. It is unclear to whom the other redacted name refers.
The fourth page of the document, which describes Sherry's interview with "seminarian Five", states, "Remainder of interview involved the seminarian relating a history and concerns about a particular priest and his alleged romantic pursuit of this seminarian, details of which are not included in this report as being unrelated to the matter at hand...Reference to this romantically interested priest during the gathering led to two other priests reporting similar pursuits by the same priest."
Nowak appears to be getting different treatment than other diocesan priests who have been under investigation.
The diocese typically suspends priests while it conducts an internal investigation of sexual-related allegations, and either removes or re-instates them after the investigations substantiate or fail to substantiate the allegations. But Spangler made no mention of Nowak being put on administrative leave, and did not respond to a follow-up question regarding his status.
Nowak was ordained at Christ the King Seminary in 2012 and Bishop Malone rewarded him with his first pastorate at the Cheektowaga parish in October 2018.
Previously, he served at St. Vincent de Paul in Niagara Falls and St. John Vianney in Orchard Park. He also served as canonical administrator of Mary Queen of Angels School from 2015 to the school's closing in 2017 and has been active with the Knights of Columbus and with the pro-life department of the diocese.