New Yorkers abused by priests hope to make plea to Pope Francis

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BUFFALO, N.Y. – (WIVB) – Two Western New Yorkers who were alleged victims of sexual abuse are hoping Pope Francis will learn of their stories when he visits the United States.

When Vanessa DeRosa of Niagara Falls was thirteen years old she says she was sexually touched and stalked by her Catholic school teacher Christian Butler. He later served time for abusing children.

Venessa, who is now twenty-six, says “I don’t trust anybody who is supposed to be trustworthy, anybody who is of authority.”

Tino Flores, now fifty-two years old, has required psychiatric care for decades.

Flores, of Buffalo, says beginning at age ten he was sexually molested for five years by the family’s Franciscan priest.

Father Linus Hennessey has since died, but Flores says he rejected a fifty-thousand dollar offer from the Franciscans to take care of his medical needs, although some of his medical expenses have been paid.

“I just can’t be around a lot of people,” says Flores. “I have no trust in any priest at all, whatsoever.”

Even though the allegation is against  a Franciscan priest, and not a Diocesan priest, the

Catholic Diocese of Buffalo has offered pastoral assistance.

But in a letter of appeal to the pontiff, DeRosa and Flores included their childhood pictures, and are now hoping he will understand how painful their lives have been.

“On behalf of everyone who has suffered abuse,” they said, “we thank you for your time in hearing our cry for help, and pray for an answer.”

However their cry to the Vatican, say their attorneys, has fallen on deaf ears.

Attorney DianeTiveron called it “stonewalling.” She added “That’s why this sort of impactful visit from the pope is not impactful from our perspective.”

In Albany Tino Flores joined other alleged victims lobbying the state legislature for an extension of the Statute of Limitations so childhood victims could bring civil actions as adults.

“Right now they are not even given that chance to get their case heard in court,” said William Lorenz, Jr., another attorney for DeRosa and Flores.

So what would they tell Pope Francis if they could ever meet him?

“I’d like to have him understand what happens when you’re a ten-year old and a priest comes into your home that’s supposed to look over you, and not take you over,” said Flores.

DeRosa said “The thought of other children out there being abused right now is enough motivation I think for both of us.”

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