An attorney for a suspended priest accused of sexually abusing minors is asking the Buffalo Diocese to reopen its investigation based on a suspicion that it could have been a case of mistaken identity.
The Rev. Samuel Venne has denied any wrongdoing since the diocese informed him of the allegations in April.
His attorney, Michael Taheri, tells News 4 Investigates that he has uncovered new information that may point to a different priest responsible for the alleged abuse.
As a result, Taheri has asked the diocesan investigator to conduct a new investigation.
Documents Taheri provided to News 4 Investigates allege that the decades-old abuse may have been committed by a different priest who occasionally gave mass at the same church as Venne but was later removed from active ministry in a different state for allegations of improper contact with a boy.
That priest, The Rev. Loren Nys, is of similar age as Venne. They both had stocky builds and similar facial features, based off older photographs.
But Nys, in a phone interview with News 4 Investigates, denied that he abused anyone and said he is perplexed that an attorney would try to link him to a sexual abuse allegation from the 1980s.
“I don’t know how the attorney would come up with this idea,” Nys said.
Nys told News 4 Investigates that he was removed from active ministry by Wisconsin church officials in 2014 after a review of his personnel records showed two complaints of inappropriate contact with a boy while he taught at St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster. Nys admitted that he inappropriately touched a boy decades ago, but said it was not sexual.
“The accusations against me were the fact that I had given a massage to a boy,” in the late 1960s, Nys said.
More recently, a local man made public another allegation against Nys of sexual abuse in the early 1970s at the St. Mary’s High School rectory.
Nys said the allegations are false.
Nonetheless, it appears unlikely that the diocese will reconsider Venne’s suspension based on the new twist in his case.
“It would be tragic – tragic to the entire system of fairness – if they [the diocese] don’t reach out to this Reverend Nys,” Taheri said.
The diocese received allegations against Venne on April 10, less than a month after Bishop Richard J. Malone released the names of 42 priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors. Venne was not on that list.
The alleged incidents are believed to have occurred between 1980 and 1982, while Venne served at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Lancaster.
Venne has numerous times asked the diocese for copies of the allegations against him, but the diocese has refused. Instead, Venne was told about the complaints once in a 90-minute meeting with Edward Grosz, the auxiliary bishop.
Since the diocese launched an investigation, Venne has passed a lie detector test and a sexual offender assessment that found him to be credible in his denial of the alleged sexual contacts.
None of that swayed the Review Board or the bishop.
On June 28, Bishop Richard Malone “substantiated” the allegation against Venne, pending a decision from the Vatican. Venne remains on administrative leave. It is unclear if the bishop substantiated both allegations against Venne, and the diocese declined to answer that question last week.
Nonetheless, Venne told News 4 Investigates two months ago that, “I didn’t do it.”
Allegations against Nys
Nys taught at St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster from the 1960s to 1987. The school is across the street from Our Lady of Pompeii Church, where both Venne and Nys covered masses.
Nys also was the choir director at Our Lady of Pompeii. He has been a member of the Salvatorian Order for 59 years. He moved to Wisconsin in 1988.
Officials at Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Kiel, Wisconsin, decided to remove Nys from active ministry in January 2014 after discovering two decades-old letters from parents in his personnel file, according to an article in the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
“Though the physical conduct did not involve private parts, it was inappropriate,” said Fr. Rodrigues to the official newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay.
“The situation was handled by the Salvatorians at the time and was noted in his personnel file. There have been no other allegations made against Fr. Nys in the 43 years of service.”
Nys told News 4 Investigates that he now realizes that giving a boy a massage is inappropriate, but he didn’t at the time.
“… it’s taking advantage of a person, it’s something that is very wrong and I admit it is something very wrong and I certainly would not be doing that kind of thing now,” Nys said.
More than four years after Nys was removed from active ministry, another person publicly accused him of wrongdoing.
A 62-year-old man from Depew told News 4 Investigates that Nys sexually abused him in the early 1970s. The man said he lived in the St. Mary’s rectory with the priest for two years to avoid being homeless when he was a teenager.
The man alleges that Nys touched him in the shower stall and sexually abused him in a bedroom. The man said that Nys would warn him that he’d lose the opportunity to stay at the rectory with the priest and that no one would believe him if he tried to tell anyone.
“I was scared to death,” the man told News 4 Investigates.
“I just feel horrible inside and there are hundreds of people like me, maybe thousands, who have gone through this.”
Nys told News 4 Investigates that there “is no truth to this whatsoever.”
As for the possibility of mistaken identity with Venne, the longtime Salvatorian order priest said he’d be willing to meet with a diocesan investigator and take a polygraph exam.
“If it was someone from the diocese asking, I would do that,” Nys said.
But it is unlikely that the diocese will be asking Nys any questions.
“Why would we do that when the victims say it’s a different priest,” said Lawlor Quinlan, one of the attorneys for the diocese.
Venne’s attorney said he is disappointed that the diocese is not taking this situation more seriously.
“That’s not a comprehensive investigation,” he said.
“It has to entail a trip to Wisconsin to take a formal statement from Nys and a polygraph examination.”