Msgr. Joseph McPherson – Diocese of Buffalo

Monsignor Joseph McPherson

Diocese of Buffalo

Ordained: 1926

Died: 1983

Assigned as follows:

  • Our Lady of Victory Basilica (Lackawanna, NY)

Summary of Abuse Allegations against Monsignor Joseph McPherson:

Monsignor Joseph McPherson was very well-known during his career. When Father Nelson Henry Baker died, he became his successor and took over as superintendent of the Our Lady of Victory institutions in 1949, running the operations for the next 30 years. He retired in 1979 and died in 1983. 

According to media reports, in February 2019, a man accused Monsignor McPherson of sexually abusing him as an 8-year-old child at Father Baker’s orphanage in July 1951. The man’s parents had just divorced and on his birthday, his mother left him in the care of Monsignor McPherson. Upon his arrival, the priest told him to undress. He washed him all over his body as the boy cried and fondled him.

“He tells me, I gotta wash you, this is Holy Water. Then he puts me on a cot and covers me up, and when I woke up again, he’s in the cot with me. And that was the start of it.”

After his abuse began, the boy was warned by older boys about Monsignor McPherson and referred to him as “Father Fearsome.” He said he was singled out by the priest at “the farm,” a property Monsignor McPherson developed into cottages and bears his name to this day.

The man said he tried reporting the abuse in 1993, but was told there were no records found of him at the orphanage. When church officials finally found his records in 2013, he again reported the abuse and was accused by Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz of making the story up. His claim was denied because it did not meet the requirement of being submitted before March 1, 2018, the same time the settlement program was announced calling for victims to come forward.

“I would think that they want to contain this as much as possible because of the reputation of Father Baker’s and the basilica in Lackawanna,” the man said. “That’s a symbol of their good deeds, but there’s bad deeds there, too.”

A former operations director at Baker Victory Services in the 1990s and 2000s was of the same opinion and said child sexual abuse was frequently hidden for fear of damaging the reputation of the charitable institutions built by Father Baker.

In April 2019, a leaked document from the Diocese of Buffalo revealed more names of accused priests. Monsignor McPherson’s name was included with 26 other priests, on a list of priests accused of sexual misconduct examined by the Diocesan Review Board. In March 2018, Bishop Richard J. Malone publicly identified most of the priests who had been credibly accused of sexually abusing children, but remained silent on 27 of those priests. Most of the priests served years ago and have died. 

The Diocese of Buffalo acknowledged that it had received complaints against 176 diocesan and religious order priests, but Monsignor Malone released the names of less than half of them. According to diocesan officials, the bishop didn’t want to ruin a dead priest’s legacy when there was no way to defend himself against a claim. A priest’s name will be added to the list, only if a second credible allegation is reported.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Buffalo.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Buffalo, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Buffalo now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims.  Call us at (888) 283-9922 or send an email to adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com to discuss your options today.