Rochester, N.Y., priest accused under New York Adult Victims Act

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(OSV News) — As a one-year lookback window for adult abuse victims has closed in New York state, at least one priest has been named as an alleged abuser.

The Diocese of Rochester, New York, announced on its news website, the Catholic Courier, that it had been served Nov. 16 with a civil lawsuit involving an adult and Father Matthew Jones.

The 41-year-old Father Jones had been pastor of All Saints Parish in Corning, New York, from 2018 until the diocese placed him on a leave of absence Sept. 19, 2022. According to the diocese, he has not functioned as a priest since then and has resigned his pastorate.

The claim was filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which was signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in May 2022 and provided a one-year lookback window for claims by victims abused over the age of 18, regardless of when the abuse occurred. The act — which led to more than 3,000 claims against a variety of individuals and entities, from celebrities to state prisons — expired Nov. 24.

The suit

According to court documents reviewed by OSV News, the suit against Father Jones and the Rochester Diocese alleges that the plaintiff — whose publicly available name OSV News is withholding at the request of his attorney, Paul K. Barr — was an All Saints parishioner who had sought pastoral counseling from Father Jones in the summer of 2020 and was subsequently “manipulated for purposes of (Father Jones’) own sexual gratification.”

The suit claims that Father Jones plied the young man with alcohol and dinners — paid for with a diocesan credit card — and engaged in “non-consensual sexual contact” with him on numerous occasions over a six-month period. In some instances, the young man was too intoxicated to resist the priest’s advances, according to the filing.

Barr told OSV News by telephone that his client, now in his “mid to late 20s,” remains “still very vulnerable and damaged” as a result of the experience, and that he declined to be interviewed as a result.

Addressing abuse

Father Jones devoted an August 2018 homily he gave at All Saints to the clerical sexual abuse crisis, following the removal of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report naming more than 300 priests and 1,000 child victims.

“I learned a long time ago that addressing the reality, no matter how painful or difficult it might be, is the only true way and the only proper way for a community, a family — and that’s what we are — to function through the midst of difficulty,” he told parishioners, adding “there have been those who have been chosen to be instruments of God’s gifts that have clearly failed.”

Father Jones also said that Church leaders who “have … chosen wrongly to ignore this very difficult situation” have “inflicted further damage upon the Church.”

He asked where abuse victims could “turn for closure and healing if they were hurt by those very ministers who were claiming to be agents of God’s love to protect them.”

“I find it difficult for myself to get over the fact that those who have been ordained have now cast a darkness on the clergy,” he admitted in his homily.

Father Jones told his parishioners in his homily that he had planned a prayer service for healing as “the only course of action we can take — to pray for those who have been hurt.”

In a media interview following his 2015 ordination by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, Father Jones, then 33, said he had discerned a call to the priesthood after college, and regarded it as “something I really felt I could do.”

In a 2016 vocation awareness video posted by the Diocese of Rochester, Father Jones said that “friends and family” had “planted the seed” of his vocation and had helped show him that “if I followed this path, it would bring a lot of good to the Church.”

Similar filings

The case against Father Jones is one of five similar recent filings Barr said he has made under New York’s Adult Survivors Act involving adults allegedly abused by Catholic clergy in the Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse Catholic dioceses.

Among the other plaintiffs Barr said he is representing are a young man who had lost his father and was promised work at age 18 by a priest in return for sexual acts; a man in his 20s who was sexually assaulted at a shrine near Buffalo; a youth who had aged out of the foster care system and was preyed upon by a Franciscan priest; and a vulnerable woman who had been “immersed in the Church” for years and became sexually entangled with a priest.

OSV News is awaiting a response to its request for additional information from Barr. The Diocese of Rochester did not provide OSV News any additional details on Father Jones’ current residence or clerical activities.

Gina Christian

Gina Christian is a National Reporter for OSV News.