Dunkirk Priest Becomes Center Of Lawsuit Against Buffalo Diocese

A lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court on Thursday against the Diocese of Buffalo has Father Dennis Riter at the center. A 33-year-old man who’s claiming sexual abuse by Riter believes the diocese was negligent and failed to warn the public.

Matthew Golden, the plaintiff, says he was abused as a youth at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Buffalo. According to the lawsuit, from approximately 1996 to 1999 when the plaintiff was 10- to 13-years-old, Riter engaged in “unpermitted sexual contact with the plaintiff.”

In March 2018, Golden contacted the diocese to report that Riter sexually abused him as a child after learning that he was still working as a priest at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, located on Washington Street in Dunkirk. Subsequently on March 26, the diocese placed Riter on leave to investigate Golden’s allegation.

According to the lawsuit, parishioners at the church were not told the reason for his administrative leave.

Toward the end of June, the diocese returned Riter to his assignment as pastor at the church in Dunkirk, stating that the allegations were “found unsubstantiated” by its review board. The lawsuit states that the diocese hasn’t provided further information or explanation as to the results of the investigation. The plaintiff learned that Riter returned via the news.

The lawsuit claims that the diocese negligently or recklessly believed that Riter was fit to work with children and that any previous problems he had were fixed or cured. The lawsuit also states that the diocese affirmatively concealed Riter’s history of sexual abuse from the public and failed to warn the public of the risk posed by Riter’s access to children. Riter wasn’t among those listed as accused of child sex abuse when the Diocese of Buffalo came out with 42 names in March.

According to the lawsuit, the diocese in 2001 learned that Riter sexually abused an altar boy at the Buffalo church. The child’s mother reported the abuse and wanted to see something done.

Shortly after, the diocese transferred Riter from Our Lady of Perpetual Help. On information and belief, the lawsuit states that parishioners at the church were not told the reason for Riter’s departure.

Riter was placed on administrative leave for approximately two years, 2001-03, as a result of his sexual abuse of children, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit also noted a 1992 incident in which Riter’s alleged to have sexually abused a 6-year-old boy at Queen of Saints Church in Lackawanna. Riter told News 4 on Thursday that he never abused a child.

The lawsuit states the diocese’s failure to disclose the identities, histories and information about sexually abusive clerics that created dangerous conditions to the welfare and safety of the public, including the plaintiff.

The plaintiff requests within the lawsuit that the diocese discontinue its practice and policy of dealing with child sex abuse allegations in secret. The plaintiff also requests an order requiring the diocese to publicly release the names of all agents, including priests, accused of child molestation as well as history of abuse and last known address.