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2 ask pope to investigate their diocese sex abuse complaints

January 27, 2015

AMHERST, New York (AP) — A woman who says she was groped by a teacher when she was a Catholic school cheerleader and a man who says a priest abused him beginning when he was 10 are asking Pope Francis to investigate the way a diocese handled their sexual-abuse complaints.

They also are seeking a meeting with the pope when he visits the United States in September and a change in state law to suspend or lift the statute of limitations that’s preventing them from taking civil action against the Diocese of Buffalo or its former employees.

“These were horrible cases, and there’s nowhere to go,” the accusers’ attorney, Diane Tiveron, said during a news conference with them on Tuesday.

Vanessa DeRosa said she was repeatedly chased and groped by a teacher in 2002-03, when she was about 12 or 13.

But school officials did not believe her story, she said, and never reported the abuse to police.

DeRosa said she went to police the following year after being approached by two younger girls with similar experiences.

The teacher was arrested and pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography and child endangerment. State records show he was sentenced to one to four years in prison and has since been released.

The second accuser, Antonio Flores, said a now-deceased priest abused him for five years, beginning around 1973, when he was about 10. Flores, who’s 50, said he first reported the abuse a decade ago while seeing a psychiatrist for depression and panic attacks. He said the diocese has paid for psychiatric care but he turned down a $50,000 settlement offer because it would not cover his future needs.

“He ruined my life. He made me a mess,” said Flores, who said he’s unable to keep a job.

Buffalo’s bishop, Richard J. Malone, said he’s “always deeply saddened” when he hears “reports of this kind of pain and suffering.” He said DeRosa’s and Flores’ cases occurred before his tenure as bishop of Buffalo but he has “inquired and found that these cases were handled in accordance with policies and procedures enacted by our Diocese and consistent with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

He said Flores’ case was reported to the religious order of which the accused priest was a member. He said the diocese cooperated fully with authorities in the criminal case against the teacher DeRosa accused.

Tiveron’s office sent a letter, which she said was received by the Vatican on Monday, seeking an investigation of the diocese. Attorneys cited as precedent an investigation in Spain requested by the pope following an accuser’s complaint and said they were hopeful given the pope’s comments on church sex abuse.

The pope in July said the church should “weep and make reparation” for crimes.

No one picked up the Vatican press office phone after hours Tuesday, and an email seeking comment wasn’t immediately answered.

Flores and DeRosa indicated they would sue the diocese if not for New York’s statute of limitations for civil cases, which requires accusers to come forward by age 23.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify people who say they’ve been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly, as DeRosa and Flores have done.

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