Allegations of abuse substantiated against late priest
A review board has “substantiated” allegations of abuse made against a now-deceased priest who served at several churches in southern Chautauqua County spanning four decades.
Bishop Michael W. Fisher on Thursday accepted the recommendations from the board against eight priests. Among them was the Rev. Ralph P. Federico, who served at both St. James and St. John churches in Jamestown in the 1960s and ’70s and then at Our Lady of Lourdes in Bemus Point for nearly two decades.
Priests with substantiated claims against them are added to the list of those credibly accused kept by the Diocese of Buffalo.
The Dunkirk-born Federico has been named in at least three Child Victims Act lawsuits — one filed in August 2019 and two in July 2020.
The most recent lawsuits filed in state Supreme Court in Chautauqua County claim Federico abused male victims while serving at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Jamestown, currently SS Peter and Paul. The victims were being represented by Jeff Anderson & Associates in New York City and attorney Stephen Boyd in Williamsville.
One male claims to have been sexually abused by Federico around 1974 while the other stated the abuse occurred around 1976. Both victims were about 10 years old at the time.
He was also named in a lawsuit filed in August 2019 when the Child Victims Act first went into effect that lifted statute of limitations — even for allegations that were decades old.
Stacey Benson, an attorney for Jeff Anderson & Associates, said Federico was known to have a trailer in Mayville where some of the reported abuse took place. The attorney at the time the suit was filed believed there were “several others out there” who likely suffered abuse by the pastor.
“For many survivors, it’s very important for them to file their cases,” Benson told The Post-Journal, later adding, “doing so reflects their desire to help other survivors who may have felt alone to come forward.”
Federico was a frequent contributor to local newspapers while he served in Western New York parishes. He wrote at least five pieces for The Post-Journal from 1975 to 1985 that discussed a range of topics including views against abortion. The pastor was also a frequent critic of pornography, and in the mid-1970s was the chairman of the Tri-county Chapter of Citizens for Decency Through Law Inc.
In a 1976 article, Federico expressed frustration in not being able to make contact with then-Chautauqua County District Attorney Paul King to “discuss a problem of pornography in the area.” At issue was an obscenity case dismissed by a Jamestown City Court judge. Federico had swore out a complaint the previous spring charging the owner of a city newsstand with seven counts of second-degree obscenity. The complaint was based on newspapers and books that Federico bought at the newsstand and claimed contained indecent material.
A motion to dismiss the charges was later approved based on a state Court of Appeals ruling. Federico responded, calling the decision “legal baloney.”
A year earlier, in October 1975, Federico, told a gathering of law enforcement officials that obscenity guidelines should be enforced. It was part of an ongoing push by the then-pastor to “limit the display and sale of obscene materials in stores,” a newspaper article stated when describing the gathering.
Federico died in 2007 at the age of 80.