Priest removed over allegations of child sex abuse

The Daily Star, Oneonia, NY/August 26, 2021

By Sarah Eames

A retired Catholic priest who most recently served two Delaware County congregations was removed from public ministry last week following allegations of child sexual abuse in a claim filed under the Child Victims Act.

Father Gregory Weider was placed on administrative leave by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany effective Saturday, Aug. 14.

Weider, 84, who retired from the priesthood in 2010, has been serving as sacramental minister at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Margaretville and its mission, St. Anne’s in Andes, according to diocesan officials.

Representatives from both congregations did not respond to an email request for comment by press time Thursday, Aug. 26.

Under the terms of his leave, Weider is not permitted to publicly officiate at sacraments, wear clerical garb or present himself as a priest, according to Mary DeTurris Poust, director of communications for the Albany diocese and associate publisher of its official publication, The Evangelist.

Weider was placed on leave while the independent Diocesan Review Board investigates the claim and while the case moves through required legal process, Poust said.

Poust said she was only aware of one allegation of sexual abuse against Weider. Details of the allegation were not immediately available.

Since his ordination in 1963, Weider served at Blessed Sacrament in Mohawk; St. Anthony in Schenectady; St. Agnes in Cohoes; St. Thomas the Apostle in Delmar; St. Mary’s in Coxsackie; Holy Cross in Albany; Sacred Heart in Watervliet; and Holy Trinity in Schaghticoke, which was the merger of St. John the Baptist and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Johnsonville, and St. Monica, Valley Falls.

Weider also served as diocesan chaplain for scouting; assistant national chaplain for scouting; chaplain at Samaritan Hospital in Troy, with residence at Our Lady of Victory, and chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam.

The Child Victims Act, signed into state law in 2019, more than doubled the statute of limitations for child sex crimes, raising from 23 to 55 the age by which a person must file a civil claim for sexual abuse they experienced as a minor.

The yearlong window carved out for sex abuse victims was doubled last August with a bill signed by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and modeled after similar legislation in other states, which gave claimants longer than a year to file in court. The extension came as the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure or limited operations of many courts across the state.

Claims of sexual abuse by religious officials, scout leaders, educators, coaches, health care workers and family members soared to nearly 10,000 in the days leading up to the Aug. 13 deadline, according to state court records.

Also on the Albany diocese’s list of credibly accused clergy is former Delaware County priest James McDevitt, who was removed from the priesthood in 2009 and convicted the following year of two counts of sexual abuse.

McDevitt, then 64, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of forcible touching in full satisfaction of 20 counts connected to the alleged sexual abuse of six males. He was sentenced to six years’ probation, fined $4,500, required to register as a sex offender and ordered to submit samples of his DNA for inclusion in the state database.

At the time of his voluntary leave, McDevitt served as pastor of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

While other dioceses across the state — including in Buffalo, Syracuse and Rockville Center — have filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an apparent attempt to protect their assets that may be subject to later settlements or court judgements, the Albany diocese has not.

“The Diocese has not declared bankruptcy and is doing everything it can to avoid Chapter 11 restructuring,” Poust told The Daily Star.

Scharfenberger, who was appointed Bishop of Albany in 2014, has been “a national leader in responding to the clergy abuse crisis,” publishing the list of credible offenders in 2015, according to Poust.

“All who have been wounded by a public representative of the Church, which is the spouse of Christ in theological terms, have felt at some point that even God has let them suffer or even abandoned them. That is the simple fact, and it cannot be denied. This is the real consequence of abuse,” Scharfenberger wrote in “Coming Clean,” an Aug. 12 column in The Evangelist. “It is, therefore, a constitutive part of the mission of the Church to be devoted to the healing and restoration of survivors, at whatever sacrifice to itself this might require.”

“If there is anything like a silver lining in the dark cloud that has loomed over the Catholic Church in the United States because of mostly clerics who can no longer hide their sins and crimes behind the collar, living double lives, it may be in the reform of those systemic conditions that gave them cover,” he wrote. “To wit, there is no escape from accountability to society, generally, to the Church or to the persons aggrieved or injured by sexual misconduct as defined by law and, ultimately, to God.”

Anyone who was sexually abused by a Catholic priest or deacon is encouraged by the Albany diocese to report the matter to a law enforcement agency or to the diocese.

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