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Panelist pulled from Canisius College symposium on reforming Buffalo Diocese over abuse comments

Posted: 3:31 PM, Nov 14, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-15 09:23:08-05

Those behind a symposium at Canisius College that will discuss how Catholics can move past the sex abuse crisis gripping the Diocese of Buffalo have rescinded an invitation to a panelist. 

The decision comes after a concerned Catholic reached out to the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team about Madeline Lacovara. " The Movement to Restore Trust ," the group of Catholic lay people which organized the symposium, invited Lacovara based on her career as a therapist working with adolescents and families, and ties to the Diocese of Bridgeport and Jesuit Refugee Service, USA.

But the group was evidently unaware that in 2008, Lacovara wrote a letter defending Douglas Perlitz, who had been accused of sexually assaulting children  in Haiti at a school he founded. 7 Eyewitness News learned that in the letter, she called the victims "liars." Perlitz was later convicted.

Hours after the I-Team tipped off the group and Canisius College about the situation, 7 Eyewitness News received the following statement, sent on behalf of "The Movement to Restore Trust" by the director of communications for Canisius College:

"It has been brought to the attention of the founding members of The Movement to Restore Trust in the Diocese of Buffalo that one of the panelists for our upcoming November 28 symposium, Madeline Lacovara, signed a letter in 2008 defending Douglas Perlitz, then director of an orphanage in Haiti, who was accused of sexually abusing the boys in the orphanage.  Madeline and her husband, Philip Lacovara, were involved in the Knights of Malta which supported the orphanage project in Haiti. Perlitz was ultimately charged by U.S. federal prosecutors and pled guilty to 18 charges of abuse of the boys in the orphanage.  

As The Movement to Restore Trust has demanded transparency by the diocese, so too must we be transparent in our actions.  We were not aware of the criminal prosecution of Mr. Perlitz or Ms. Lacovara’s role in the Haiti orphanage.  Both the members of the founding committee and Ms. Lacovara agree that we do not want her involvement to be a distraction to our very important work ahead and we have, therefore, withdrawn the invitation to her to participate."

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