Hardly any of the more than 100 Buffalo area priests implicated as child molesters spent so much as one day in jail.
For years, most of their victims were too scared or embarrassed to make complaints.
But Buffalo Police had marching orders not to arrest Catholic priests, according to former vice squad Detective Martin Harrington and other retired officers. Instead they alerted the bishop’s office to any illegal activities.
“The department’s unwritten policy was that Catholic priests did not get arrested,” said Harrington, who investigated vice crimes for 17 years and retired in 1995. “I never had any experience with priests who molested children. I never heard of any priests molesting children. But we had priests we caught with pornography, or masturbating in the city parks, and our orders were to turn them over to the Buffalo Diocese. The diocese would deal with them … but they would not be arrested.”
The policy “only extended to Catholic priests,” Harrington recalled. “If we caught clergy from other religions, we arrested them.”
Harrington’s recollection was echoed by his former vice squad lieutenant, Martin Jurewicz.
“When I joined the vice squad in 1968, the department had just changed its policy on priests. You used to just let them go. Starting around 1968, when you picked up a priest, you had to call the bishop’s office,” recalled Jurewicz, who retired in 2002. “The bishop’s office would send someone to pick up the priest. No arrest was made. The diocese handled these problems.”
Harrington was one of several retired Buffalo officers who told The Buffalo News they don’t recall the diocese ever reporting a priest to their department for molesting a child.
In 2003, a year after a clergy abuse scandal erupted in Boston, the Buffalo Diocese signed an agreement with district attorneys in Western New York promising for the first time to report to the prosecutors any allegations against priests involving sexual misconduct of minors.
But The News could find no record of Buffalo Police ever charging a priest with molesting a child in the past 50 years.
The News found only one Buffalo Diocese clergyman in the past 50 years criminally charged with molesting children anywhere in Western New York.
That was Rev. Gerald C. Jasinski, a former Lancaster priest arrested in 1986 by the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department. Jasinski was accused of having sexual contact with two male teenagers – 15 and 18 – in a cabin. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of attempted sexual abuse and was put on probation for five years.
Like Harrington, Jurewicz, the retired vice squad lieutenant, said he never knowingly turned loose a child molester. They said the priests they encountered were caught with pornography or in compromising positions with other adults.
“I’m Catholic. This is the way things were done,” Jurewicz said. “It’s easy to say in retrospect that we shouldn’t have done it that way.”
A former Buffalo Police captain, also retired, recalled an incident from the 1970s in South Buffalo, when a man and woman showed up at a police station to accuse a priest of molesting their son. Two detectives were assigned to investigate.
They turned up enough information to lend credence to the parents’ claim, the former captain said, but the priest was not arrested.
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[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Dan Berbeck and originally published at The Buffalo News. Title changed by P&P.]