Buffalo Diocese Pays $17.5 Million in Clergy Sexual Abuse Settlements

Published on May 31, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, New York recently paid $17.5 million to 106 people who allegedly endured sexual abuse at the hands of a priest while they were children.

Clergy Sexual Abuse Settlements Average $158,000

The clergy sexual abuse settlements range from $2,000 to $650,000, with an average award of $158,000. All were arranged via the Buffalo Diocese’s voluntary Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.

Although the Diocese had offered to resolve claims brought by 127 survivors, 17 people rejected their offers. Several are still deciding if they’ll accept payouts totaling $450,000, and one individual who accepted a $60,000 settlement has yet to be paid.

The Diocese also rejected 135 applicants deemed ineligible for the program.

Rejected Applicants Could Sue Under New York Child Victims Act

Those who agreed to the settlements must waive their rights to sue.

All of the rejected individuals now have the option of taking the Buffalo Diocese to court, as do those who chose not to accept the settlement offer, even if their abuse occurred decades ago

That’s because the New York Child Victims Act became law earlier this year, giving survivors much more time to file civil and criminal claims against their abusers. Specifically, the Act:

  • Extends the state’s statute of limitations for pursuing felony abuse charges to a victim’s 28th birthday.
  • Allows survivors to file child sexual abuse lawsuits against perpetrators, as well as the public or private institutions that enabled their abuse, until they turn 55.
  • Opens a one one-year, one-time-only window to allow all survivors to file civil lawsuits, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

At least one of the rejected applicants told the Buffalo News that he would be taking the Diocese to court.

“I’m suing, there’s no question in my mind,” said John A. Polvino of Amherst.

Polvino claims Rev. Donald Becker sexually assaulted him more than 40 years ago, but was denied compensation because he hadn’t reported his abuse to the Diocese prior to March 1, 2018.

“What I am looking for is punishment of the diocese and the only punishment that can be meted out at this point is financial,” he continued.

Buffalo Clergy Sexual Abuse Settlements

According to the Buffalo News, the Diocese established its voluntary compensation fund on March 1, 2018, two days after retired priest Norbert Orsolits admitted to molesting dozens of boys in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980. Other cases soon surfaced, as did revelations regarding the Diocese’s decades-long efforts to conceal abuse and protect predatory priests.

Buffalo was the last New York dioceses to offer a voluntary compensation program for abuse survivors. However, victims and their advocates have been highly critical of the program’s March 1, 2018 cutoff date.

In January, the Buffalo News reported that the Diocese paid $8 million in clergy sexual abuse settlements to nearly 4 dozen applicants.

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