Decision To Return Dunkirk Priest Met With Some Criticism
DUNKIRK — The reinstatement of a priest at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk by the Diocese of Buffalo has brought harsh criticism from an attorney Friday.
The law office of Jeff Anderson & Associates claims Fr. Dennis G. Riter is accused of sexually abusing multiple children.
The survivor who reported Fr. Riter says that he is “morally compelled to not walk away,” said Mike Reck, an attorney for the survivor, who added that the diocese needs to acknowledge that Riter is a public safety threat and reverse its decision immediately.
Riter is expected to be at Masses in Dunkirk as early as this weekend. In this week’s St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church newsletter it states, “SEAS is very happy to announce that Fr. Dennis Riter is back with us from his long journey. A very sincere welcome to you Fr. Dennis Riter.”
Riter was put on administrative leave in March.
“As long as the Diocese of Buffalo continues to expose Fr. Riter to children, this survivor will continue to seek accountability and safety,” Reck said. “The actions of the Diocese of Buffalo (Thursday) reached a new level of callousness and carelessness. Our firm represents the brave survivor who reported Fr. Riter’s abuse months ago. This survivor, Matt Golden, did so with the sole motivation of protecting other children from the trauma he suffered.”
Riter is accused of sexually abusing at least three boys while he was a priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Buffalo in the 1990s. The Diocese put Riter on administrative leave pending a diocesan investigation after receiving Mr. Golden’s report. Golden filed a claim with the Diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program and also reported to law enforcement. However, the rules of the compensation plan appear not to provide for any financial compensation for him and the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution has expired.
“So the ability to do the right thing and impose the vital accountability and justice rests solely with Bishop Malone,” Reck said. “Unfortunately, the Bishop has chosen to support a priest accused of abusing multiple children.”
No meaningful information has been provided by the Diocese explaining why Fr. Riter has been returned to ministry. A call to the diocese was not returned Friday.
Golden’s report months ago led to the discovery of at least two other alleged victims of Fr. Riter. Additionally, a letter detailing the abuse of one boy, purportedly sent by a seminarian in the diocese at the time, was uncovered by press investigations. According to the law firm, years ago, well before the current scandal erupted publicly in the Diocese of Buffalo, Golden disclosed his abuse to friends and family. All of this information was made available to the Diocese and its investigator.
“Throughout the country we have seen indifference like this by church officials lead to continued trauma and suffering,” said Jeff Anderson, attorney for Golden along with Reck. “The Diocese could and should do better. The time has come for the Diocese of Buffalo to do the right thing, to protect children and provide healing support for brave survivors like Matt and the other survivors of Fr. Riter.”