BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Rev. Ryszard Biernat can calmly discuss the sexual abuse complaint he filed in 2004 against a priest, but it is how he says Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz handled the situation that brings him to tears.
Biernat, the second whistleblower from the diocese who took a leave of absence last month as the bishop’s priest secretary, told News 4 Investigates that both Grosz and Bishop Richard Malone should be removed from their positions.
Biernat said Grosz “blackmailed” him in 2004 when he filed the abuse complaint by allegedly saying to him that he needed to keep quiet about the incident if he wanted to be ordained.
When Biernat told another priest about that meeting, he said Grosz called him moments later to remind him that he must not discuss the abuse with others.
“That meeting and his phone call crushed me,” said a tearful Biernat.
“It got at me, I became like a shell of a person and I think it was not only what he said but what he stood for. Not only he was not willing to hear my hurt, was not willing to listen to what happened to me, but to threaten and blackmail me?”
The diocese, in a statement Monday, said Grosz “categorically denies the statement that he threatened to block seminarian Ryszard’s ordination as reported.”
Fifteen years later, Biernat leaked recordings of high-level meetings between Malone and his inner circle discussing a sexual harassment complaint filed by a former seminarian. Biernat said he decided to record those meetings because the diocese for months had not taken any action against the accused priest, Rev. Jeffrey Nowak.
Matthew Bojanowski, the former seminarian, quit Christ the King seminary in August, six months after he filed his complaint with the diocese.
He accused Nowak of retaliating against him by stealing and circulating a private letter from Biernat to Bojanowski, which has been described as a love letter, and of breaking the seal of his confession – an allegation Nowak, through his attorney, strongly denies. Bojanowski also accused Nowak of trying to have an inappropriate relationship with him.
Biernat, who owns a home in West Seneca with Bojanowski, said their relationship is platonic.
Malone has been on the hot seat for months, with parishioners, priests and abuse victims calling for his resignation.
But Grosz largely has gone unscathed while the sexual abuse scandal has entangled more than 100 priests, continues to rock the Catholic church.
Biernat’s opinion of Grosz seemed to hit rock bottom when they were reviewing a victim’s case and he said Grosz made a joke about one predator priest.
“He should be removed from his role as auxiliary bishop of Buffalo,” Biernat said, a decision that he said only the Vatican can make.
“But for Malone to insist that Bishop Grosz will continue working with the victims, he was very much aware of how Bishop Grosz handled my situation, he kept him in that role.”
Biernat has since met twice with the FBI, which has been investigating the diocese for almost a year, to share his recordings and answer questions. But he also plans to meet with state and local prosecutors who reached out to him.
“So, it certainly would imply that there’s a current investigation that they’re interested in pursuing,” said Barry Covert, the attorney for both Riszard and Bojanwoski.
“They have not identified to me what that is.”
Biernat said he is not likely to return to the diocese administration until Malone and Grosz are gone.
Malone has repeatedly said that he does not plan to resign.
On Monday, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York said Cardinal Timothy Dolan “has been following the situation very closely” with the Diocese of Buffalo and that he anticipates “that we will hear something within the near future regarding this matter.”