Call for full transparency after Diocese of Rochester removes priests
Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Two alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse are calling on church leaders to investigate why priests were being transferred to other parishes. This follows the recent removal of two area priests over misconduct allegations.
Robert Hoatson is one of those alleged victims.
“Well now we have more of the iceberg being revealed,” Hoatson said.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester conducted an independent investigation that concluded Father Thomas Viloria inappropriately used social media with an adult, and Father Erick Valenti engaged in inappropriate behaviors with minors.
Hoatson and Carol DuPre stood shoulder to shoulder in the wake of the independent investigation by the diocese.
They said it's encouraging that the diocese removed Fr. Thomas Valenti and Fr. Erick Viloria from public ministry following allegations of misconduct, but it's not enough.
“It's now time to be completely transparent, open and honest,” said Hoatson. “Release all the files and be as transparent as you can be.”
Fathers Valenti and Viloria were removed from the ministry by Bishop Salvatore Matano. The decision was made after allegations of misconduct surfaced.
Fr. Valenti, who served at Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick in Tioga County, was accused in June 2018 of sexually abusing a minor. The alleged abuse occurred in the 1970s.
In June, Boston attorney Mitch Garabedian publicly accused Valenti of that sexual abuse incident when he worked as a deacon at St. Mary’s of the Lake Church in the Town of Ontario in the 1970s.
DuPre said she was sexually abused by her priest when she was younger. She shared her story publicly in June.
“On a personal level, I have to tell you it's been one of the healthiest experiences I've had in a long time to be able to talk about something that's been buried for decades,” said DuPre.
Hoatson was 10 years old when he said his sexual abuse started in New Jersey. He said it continued into early adulthood.
“My parish priest sexually abused me on a little trip to get ice cream and a hamburger,” Hoatson said.
Outside Sacred Heart Cathedral Tuesday, both alleged victims questioned why Valenti was moved to several different parishes during his priesthood.
“It's clear that the information we have is not complete,” Hoatson said. “Why was Fr. Valenti transferred from place to place."
Hoatson believes the Church was trying to hide allegations of sexual abuse. He said he believes the Church was moving priests to other parishes, rather than dealing with the issue.
“Were they really exchanging their own problems and continuing their process of putting kids at risk,” said Hoatson.
According to the diocese, however, from 1997 to 2014, Valenti was serving as a priest with a religious community outside the Diocese of Rochester.
DuPre believes a report of her alleged sexual abuse is part of a larger cover up and stored in so-called secret files in the Church.
“I've spent my whole life feeling that sense of frustration that I wasn't believed and cared about in that circumstance,” said DuPre.
Hoatson and DuPre hope Bishop Matano’s action of removal brings more people forward.
“If you've had the experience, I hope you'll come forth and talk about it because it wasn't your fault,” DuPre said.
Valenti denies the allegations against him and plans to appeal the Bishop's decision.
In a statement, the spokesperson for the diocese said it does not release personnel records to the public, and it is working with the State Attorney General's office in its subpoena of records.
The AG’s office meantime said the investigation into dioceses across the state is ongoing.