When I see stories of sexual abuse by clergy members, I’m often angry with many people. Mostly, I’m angry with those who allowed the abuse to go on uninterrupted for years, whether they be church officials who helped cover it up, or the older generation of Catholics, who wouldn’t believe victims because they didn’t think priests would commit such heinous acts. For years, it seemed so easy to me: Catholics are taught from an early age not to lie, and that withholding the truth is a form of lying. At Mass, we often hear of the Golden Rule preached by Jesus Christ: “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12.) How, then, could we hear of these horrible acts and not want to expose the bad priests and bring an end to the abuse? Doesn’t our faith command us to do so?
I always thought I would speak up if I found myself in that situation. But I didn’t. In 2011, I worked as a sacristan, setting the altar before Mass and caring for the church, at my home parish of Holy Family in Fresh Meadow, Queens. One of the priests, the Rev. Lou Aufiero, was an old family friend who had baptized my youngest brother.
For months we got along well, and talked often in the rectory. But our relationship changed after what started as an innocent discussion about my ethnicity. “My father is Irish and my mother is Hungarian,” I told him. “You know what’s the good thing about Hungarians?” he asked. I shook my head, not knowing where he was going with this. “They’re good-looking and well-hung,” he answered with a chuckle. I remember being in shock for the rest of the day, and for a few days after that, at what he had said.
From then on, I viewed Aufiero’s friendly gestures with suspicion, and tried my best to keep my distance from him, though I acted cordial when in his presence. I was 19 at the time, and never thought I was in any danger around him. Still, something about him never seemed right after that remark. I told only a handful of people what had happened, mostly close friends and one of my brothers. But I never reported the incident, even as I heard others’ stories about what they saw as Aufiero’s suspicious behavior. I never thought much of my silence until this February, when the Diocese of Brooklyn released the names of 108 clergy members who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. The third name on the alphabetical list was Aufiero’s, accompanied by a note stating that there had been several abuse allegations before and after he died in 2015. Although I wasn’t shocked to see his name, the list still stirred up many emotions. Once again, there was anger — this time at myself. At best, Aufiero’s remark had been a bad attempt at a joke, but it was nothing that a priest should ever say to anyone. I knew this and yet I had said nothing to the church’s pastor, the diocese or any other church officials. A friend later told me that Aufiero probably engaged his victims in a similar manner. That’s not unlikely, because there have been many cases of clergy abuse that began with priests making friends with their victims before those relationships took inappropriate turns. Was Aufiero trying to do the same with me? I wondered. How many other people had heard him make crude remarks and said nothing? How many people was he allowed to abuse because nobody — including me — spoke up? Finally, I asked myself whether it would have mattered if I’d reported him. Would the parish, or the diocese, have taken any action that would’ve resulted in an investigation or any meaningful action? Although I’ll never know that answer, I realized that it’s irrelevant, because my faith calls on me to do what’s right. As Catholics, we are asked to live the teachings of the Bible, and not just listen to them every Sunday at Mass. “Save those who are weak and needy. Save them from the power of sinful people.” (Psalm 82:3.) It’s the duty of the faithful to speak up when they see priests abusing their power and taking advantage of the weak. Although many, like myself, may not trust the church at times to handle these situations properly, not reporting them goes against everything our faith professes. No, it won’t be easy, but Jesus never promised us life would be. Anthony O’Reilly is the editor of the Baldwin Herald. Comments about this column?Aoreilly@liherald.com.
AN ARTICLE IN THE BROOKLYN DIOCESAN NEWSPAPER – THE TABLET – AT THE TIME OF AUFARIO’S DEATH!!!
Father Aufiero Recalled as a Very Spiritual Man
June 4, 2015
A Mass of Christian Burial for Father Louis Aufiero, 78, who lived at Queen of Peace Residence, Queens Village, was celebrated there June 1. He died May 24 at Queen of Peace, five days before his 50th anniversary of ordination. Born in Williamsburg, he attended St. Nicholas School, Most Holy Trinity H.S., Cathedral College, all Brooklyn, and Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington. He served as an assistant at St. Rita’s, East New York, 1965-66; St. Francis Xavier, Park Slope, 1966-67; St. Malachy, East New York, 1969; Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Ridgewood, 1969-70; and St. Anselm, Bay Ridge, 1970-76. He served as chaplain at the Abbey of Regina Laudis Monastery, Bethlehem, Conn., and at the Benedictine House of Our Lady of the Rock in the state of Washington. He was an assistant at St. Ephrem, Dyker Heights, 1992-95, and chaplain at Mary Immaculate Hospital, Jamaica, while residing at Holy Family, Flushing, 2007-14. He retired last year. Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros was the main celebrant of the funeral Mass. Special concelebrants included Msgrs. Martin Geraghty, Peter Kain and Father Thomas Pettei. “He was a very spiritual priest,” said Msgr. Geraghty, pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bayside. “The people who knew him knew he was a very holy guy, who was always aware of God’s love and of other people.” Father Aufiero is survived by his sister, Lucy O’Flaherty of Bethpage, L.I. Burial was at the Abbey of Regina Laudis Cemetery.
Tags: Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal – Ridgewood Queens, Queen of Peace Residence Queens Village, St. Anselm – Bay Ridge Brooklyn, St. Ephrem – Dyker Heights Brooklyn, St. Francis Xavier – Park Slope Brooklyn, St. Malachy – East New York Brooklyn
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3 thoughts on “Father Aufiero Recalled as a Very Spiritual Man”
James Scott says:
November 15, 2015 at 11:05 pm11
I was shocked to hear about fr.lou , I remember talking with him shortly after he left holy family church residents and as we talked he seemed a little distant and as if he was having a hard time remembering who I was . I’ve known father since 1973 in bay ridge Brooklyn , we’ve kept in touch ever since . What a wonderful man, we loved him , whenever we talked he always was worried if he was going long winded , little did he know I could listen to father all day . I’ll miss him terribly and I pray he’s home in heaven. Goodbye father Lou , we love you.
James Scott says:
November 16, 2015 at 11:05 am11
I knew fr Lou from st anslems church in Brooklyn , I was only 13 , that was in 1973 . He was such a gentle soul and never seemed to raise his voice , always willing to talk with you, a real parish priest , and a friend. We kept in touch over the years , I’d visit him from time to time at holy family and he at our apt in maspeth to have a nice Italian dinner my wife would cook for us . But in 2002 we moved into Florida , many times I made the offer of putting father up if he wanted to come down for a vacation , but his work was first and foremost , so sense our move we talked from time to time by phone , when this time I was trying to call him, I’d leave a message but wouldn’t hear back, until I called his residents and they told me what happened. We really loved fr Lou he’ll be missed , rest in peace father, God knows you earned it.
Mark L. Brandon, MD says:
December 31, 2016 at 11:05 pm12
I was so sad to learn that Father Lou passed away.He has been a good friend, mentor and spiritual advisor since I first met him as an orthopaedic surgery resident when I was in residency training at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica, Queens back in 2004.He baptised my only child, Andrew. My family would take him to The Metropolitan Museum of Art every Christmas season to see the lovely Christmas tree and the nativity scene there.He actually knew that my wife was 2 weeks pregnant before we even told him or anyone else one day when we took him there in late December 2009.He will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him and we all look forward to one day meeting again in Heaven.We love you and miss you Father Lou.God Bless.Rest in peace.
Father Aufario came on to the 19 year old sacristan and appeared on Brooklyn’s list of 108 priests credibly accused priests.
And when he died the auxiliary bishop presided at his funeral Mass and he was recalled as A VERY SPIRITUAL MAN!
Young Anthony highlights how Catholics are taught not to lie and yet Catholics, clerical and lay, are very good at lieing.
They often say they do it to protect the reputation of the church, the reputation of the clergy and to avoid scandal.
The RC church is built upon and kept going by lies, or as they sometimes call it, mental reservation.