It was the early 1990’s when I first began investigating child sexual abuse by priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
I never took joy from breaking these stories. It was heartbreaking, and it tested my faith. I’m Catholic. I was an Altar Boy at St. Martin’s in South Buffalo where I was taught by the Mercy Nuns. I attended Canisius College and was taught by many great Jesuits there. My first job after graduation was working for the Catholic Diocese producing the TV show Real to Reel with my boss, Father Art Smith (who is now on the Bishop’s list). As a young 20-something, I loved the church. I was proud to be a part of it.
A few years later as a reporter at Channel 7, I remember the inner conflict leading up to the day that we aired stories of the extent of Fathers Bernard Mach and John Aurelio’s trail of abuse.
After the initial stories, we began to hear from more victims and about more priests. We reported abuse allegations against Father William White and Father Joseph Friel. We knew there were others. But after months of reporting, there was private pressure against the station. Someone wanted us to back off. The station ownership was different than today. They caved when we were accused of trying to destroy the church. While this couldn’t have been further from the truth, our reporting all but stopped.
25 years later, when current Eyewitness News Reporter Charlie Specht began breaking stories about the child sexual abuse and the cover-up in the Catholic Diocese, I privately wondered if today’s station owners would bow to the same pressures. They haven’t.
Recently, the brave disclosure by former Diocesan employee, Siobhan O’Connor confirmed what I always knew, there are still great people inside the Catholic Center. As for any claim that her whistle-blowing or that these stories serve to undermine the Church, I believe that’s wrong. I believe shedding light on this darkness is the only thing that can save it.