One month after a 7 Eyewitness News Investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Diocese of Buffalo led to calls for Bishop Richard J. Malone to resign, another young man is standing up to tell his story about a priest who he sayid preyed upon him when he was most vulnerable.
“I was very vulnerable and I think the priest saw that,” the man said, referring to the Rev. Robert Yetter, formely of St. Mary’s of Swormville. “I’m glad he’s finally getting what he deserves.”
7 Eyewitness News has concealed the man’s identity because he’s embarrassed about what happened between him and Father Yetter, and also because his family is still active in the parish and fears retribution for coming forward.
Yetter resigned as pastor of St. Mary’s of Swormville last month, four days after the 7 Eyewitness I-team detailed multiple allegations that he sexually harassed young men.
The stories were familiar for this man, who believes Yetter’s friendship through grade school was an attempt to “groom” him for sexual favors as a young man.
“You know, we had him over for dinner a couple times, he was like part of the family, and then he wanted to exchange cell phone numbers with me,” he said. “I thought nothing of it.”
The priest offered to counsel him in his college years around 2009, when he was in his early 20s. The man confided in Father Yetter that he was homosexual -- something he had not yet told his parents.
“Father Yetter’s like, well we’ll talk about it,” the man recalled. “You know, we’ll talk about all that stuff and I’ll tell you, you know, how to guide you through that.”
After dinner at a local restaurant, Yetter invited him back to St. Mary’s, he said.
“He’s like, ‘Well, I’m going back to the rectory to do a shot of Goldschlager, do you want to join me?” he said. “I said, I guess, I’ll do a shot and then I’ll leave.’”
But then something unexpected happened, he said.
“We’re sitting there watching TV and we’re talking a little bit more and all of a sudden he [Fr. Yetter] comes up to me with his pants down, like he wanted oral sex and I was like, ‘Umm, No.’ So I got up and I left,” he said.
He didn’t know how to process what had just happened, he said.
“I was very shocked, I was blown away,” I didn’t know what to do, what to say, I just drove away and I went home and I just pretended it didn’t happen.>
The man said Yetter kept contacting him. He blocked the priest’s number.
“He was kind of like, apologetic, but kind of like, it can be our little secret,” he said. “I honestly didn’t know that he was doing this to other people. I thought it was just me. So I kind of felt very relieved, that it wasn’t just me.”
Yetter this weekend left the I-Team a voicemail with his side of the story. He didn’t deny the encounter but suggested things happened differently. He declined an interview but gave us permission play the following message:
“That person says he got up and left, but just ask that person, did they stay for a bit, did he take off his clothes?” Yetter asked. “And he stayed for a little bit, he went in and took a shower, and then said goodnight after that.”
We played Yetter’s voicemail for the accuser, who denied and disputed Yetter’s claim, saying that never happened.
He was not a minor when he said Yetter made the move, but said that doesn’t lessen the value of his experience or the experiences of other adults who are now coming forward.
“A lot of these priests are flying under the radar and just doing it and the bishops in these dioceses are just letting it happen, and that is not OK,” he said.
A diocesan spokeswoman had no comment other than to encourage the man to report the incident to law enforcement and the diocese.
She also refused to say whether the diocese plans to defrock or laicize Yetter, which would revoke his status as a Catholic priest. He is now officially retired but like many accused priests, still receives a pension from the diocese.
READ OUR I-TEAM INVESTIGATIONS HERE:
Have a news tip, question or comment?
Personalize your news, get the latest 7 First Alert Forecast, and watch 7 Eyewitness News video wherever, whenever.