Bishop Richard Malone and the Diocese of Buffalo are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed Thursday morning. The plaintiff is a sexual abuse survivor who alleges the bishop and diocese pose a "public nuisance" by continuing to withhold information on dozens of past child sexual abuse claims.
The lawsuit was filed by Matthew Golden, now 33 years old, who alleges he was molested by Father Dennis Riter during his youth. Riter serves as pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk.
The law firm representing Golden, Anderson and Associates, says Golden is one of three who have accused Riter of sex abuse. Earlier this year, Riter was briefly placed on administrative leave but reinstated in July after the Diocese announced the accusations by the third individual to come forward were not substantiated.
Golden, because of his age, is unable to pursue criminal or civil action due to current New York State statutes of limitation. Mike Reck, an attorney with Anderson and Associates, explained that the lawsuit is an "altruistic" effort by Golden and an attempt to force the Diocese of Buffalo to disclose information on abuse cases. The strategy is to convince a judge that Bishop Malone and the Diocese, by withholding the information, are acting as a public nuisance.
"In essence, their choices and activities - by continuing to hide and keep secrets the identities and whereabouts or perpetrators and the full context and history of these child abusers from the public - is a danger, have been a danger and always will be a danger until that information is diclosed and available to the public and law enforcement."
A spokesman for the Diocese of Buffalo, when contacted for comment, said "the Diocese received the lawsuit today and will respond appropriately."
Reck says proving their argument of public nuisance could force the diocese to open its records. It's a strategy pending in other parts of the country. He was asked if pursuing the public nuisance angle might open church authorities to liability.
"What may be of interest, and has happened in other jurisdictions, is the church officials who are responsible for making these decisions at the executive level - for example, the bishops and the vicars general who knowingly assign perpetrators to parishes, to schools, to facilities where they were exposed to some children - may face some liability.