Child Victims Act lawsuits filed over the past year have accused 173 Catholic priests in Western New York of sexually abusing children.
More than 30 of those priests were accused publicly for the first time only in recent weeks, including one cleric who has continued to run a South Buffalo parish despite being linked to abuse in a July lawsuit.
Some of the alleged abuses date to the early 1950s. Most of the priests are deceased.
A Hawaii man who is now in his 80s said in court papers that Cohane abused him multiple times, starting in 1951 on a hike into the Niagara Gorge when he was 14.
The man, a retired English professor, was a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Niagara Falls, where Cohane served as a priest, said attorney James Marsh.
Marsh said his client for decades buried what had happened to him and only in recent years, after the birth of his grandchildren, realized he “needed to confront the church.”
“He wanted to confront the church in a way to ensure that these things don’t happen and that this kind of abuse was exposed,” said Marsh.
Marsh wasn’t surprised that 173 priests have been accused of abuse in lawsuits and he said the total number of abuser priests in the Buffalo Diocese was “probably higher” because abuse that happened in the 1940s and 1950s rarely is disclosed or documented.
“A lot of the reason you’re seeing some of these names for the first time, especially in some of the more historic cases, are just a combination of factors,” said Marsh.
Many victims from that era are dead; others moved away from the area years ago, he said.
And while the church kept extensive records, many of them “could be couched in terms that are not explicit,” thus obscuring the abuse, said Marsh.