BUFFALO, N.Y. — Standing directly across the street from the headquarters for the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, alleged sexual abuse survivor Michael Whalen had this message for Bishop Richard Malone and the diocese.
“This program now that Bishop Malone has passed, or is trying to start up, the people who have called me this week are not going to be included in that. And that’s not fair. The reason why I came out was for these victims to be heard, and that’s what I want. I want this program to include them too,” said Whalen.
Last week, Whalen came forward with claims he was sexually abused nearly 40 years ago by retired Buffalo Diocese priest Norbert Orsolits. Two days after the revelations, Bishop Malone announced the church had created the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which may pay those who have previously made claims of abuse.
“We are so very, very sorry for the pain of the abuse that has happened to you. We’re sorry, I’m sorry, and we want to do everything we can going forward reaching out to you who have come to us in the past,” said Malone.
But the program focuses primarily on those who’ve made claims prior to March 1.
“The bishop announces a compensation program. Why? Well, he realized the tsunami perhaps that Michael was going to create. Now they’re blocking the victims from participating in that program. It’s outrageous that he would do such a thing,” said Robert Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that helps survivors of sexual abuse.
A spokesperson for the Diocese says the compensation program is focusing on claims made against the Church prior to March 1, but that the Diocese will hear and investigate claims made after that date.
In fact, since 1950, the church estimates they’ve had at least 100 claims against 53 members of the clergy and have paid out about $1.2 million in previous settlements.
“These victims need to be heard, and this program should include all of them, not just putting a date on it of March 1 of this year. I think they all should be heard,” said Whalen.
Anyone who wishes to report allegations of child sexual abuse involving members of the clergy can call the Diocese’s confidential hotline at 716-895-3010.