Why a Dunkirk priest who's faced multiple allegations of sexual abuse is celebrating mass again

DUNKIRK, N.Y. (WKBW) - The Diocese of Buffalo's decision to return a priest accused by multiple victims of sexual abuse to active ministry was met with mixed reviews.

On Sunday, Father Dennis Riter celebrated his first mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Dunkirk for the first time since Palm Sunday. The next day - at the start of Holy Week - the diocese placed Riter on leave. The decision followed a 7 Eyewitness News I-Team report, in which three victims came forward to describe sexual abuse at the hands of Riter.

Riter has maintained his innocence throughout his leave. And just prior to the weekend, the diocese announced the allegations against him had "not been substantiated" by an investigator hired by the church.

But the investigation is not good enough for victims' advocate Robert Hoatson. According to Hoatson, only two of the three victims were interviewed.

"We believe that Bishop Richard Malone made a huge mistake in returning Dennis G. Riter to ministry," Hoatson said.

A spokesperson for the diocese said criticism of the decision, while expected, would not change the outcome.

"We knew people would question this decision. But that's not a reason to keep someone out of ministry, when a former district attorney's investigation and the review of the diocesan review board both determined that this case was unsubstantiated," said George Richert. 

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