Gazette

The Aug. 4, 2002 edition of the Niagara Gazette

For decades, no one but his fellow victims would believe or admit what happened to Nick D'Amico was true.

But now, more than 15 years after he first publicly revealed his alleged sexual abuse at the hands of a priest from the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, D'Amico has found vindication.

On a list of priests that the diocese admits "were removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor" is the name of the man D'Amico says abused him, Father Richard P. Judd. The revelation has only increased what D'Amico called his "outrage."

"It's outrage that it's taken this long for the truth to come out," D'Amico said. "It's outrage (that) when I accused them of this 15 years ago, they called me a liar. And now they want to make amends? They swept it under the rug for six decades."

For Catholics in Niagara County, D'Amico was the proverbial "canary in the coal mine." Just over seven months after a team of investigative reporters from the Boston Globe broke the story of rampant cases of sexual abuse involving priests in the New England diocese, D'Amico decided he needed to tell his story.

"After (the reporting of the Boston Globe) on that priest (Father John) Geoghan I said, 'I gotta say something,' " D'Amico said. "I have to come out with this. That was my motivation."

D'Amico said he knew he wasn't Judd's only victim. And he suspected that the large number of sexual abuse victims in the Boston diocese might be replicated here.

"There were several people, my age, in my class (at St. Teresa's Elementary School), who were molested by (Judd)," D'Amico said during an interview with the Gazette on Saturday. "That's the truth. But they will not speak out about it. They don't want to re-hash it. They don't want the stigma that's attached to it."

When D'Amico first told his story to then Gazette Reporter Lisa Johnson and current Reporter Rick Pfeiffer, the response from the Buffalo Diocese was far from forthcoming. After taking more than a week to respond to requests about information relating to Judd, the Diocese's then communications director, Kevin Kennan, said only, "To the best of our knowledge, there were never any allegations made against (Judd) while he was living."

D'Amico alleges that the abuse he suffered at the hands of Judd occurred in the summer of 1975. The priest died in 1988 while serving as an associate chaplain at St. Mary's Manor.

Former Bishops of Buffalo Eward Head and Henry Mansell also refused to answer questions about Judd in 2002.

In a sign that some change has begun to occur in the church, along with the release of the list of predator priests, current Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone has addressed the issue of "the sexual abuse scandal within our Dioscese of Buffalo" in a pre-Easter message posted on the church's web site.

"To any and all of you who are victims of sexual abuse as a child or youth by a priest or deacon of the Diocese of Buffalo, I am profoundly sorry for the tremendous pain this has caused you," Malone said. "Nothing I can say to you can heal all of the hurt of this catastrophic breech of trust." 

D'Amico said that the lost of trust in the church may be the greatest pain of his abuse.

"The thing that bothers me a lot is that we called (the abusers), 'Father.'," he said. "They were supposed to be the custodians of our spiritual health."

In his message, Malone asks that all victims of abuse come forward to both law enforcement and the church, so that they can be assisted. D'Amico said he struggles to imagine what assistance can be offered to him and others.

"I don't know what the next thing, the right thing to do is," he said. "I don't know how to put a price on that. They ruined my life. How do you put a price on that?"

As D'Amico and the Buffalo Diocese look to move forward, a continuing Gazette investigation is uncovering more accused clergy and more sexual abuse victims in Niagara County. Their stories are coming.

TO REACH OUT

• If you have been a victim of abuse by a member of the clergy, you can contact Gazette reporters Rick Pfeiffer and Philip Gambini at 282-2311 extension 2251.


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