Msgr. Sylvester Holbel – Diocese of Buffalo

Monsignor Sylvester Holbel

Diocese of Buffalo

Ordained: 1928

Died: 1983

Assigned as follows:

  • St. Mary of the Angels (Olean, NY)
  • All Saints (Buffalo, NY)
  • Nativity of Our Lord (Orchard Park, NY)

Summary of Abuse Allegations against Monsignor Sylvester Holbel:

Monsignor Sylvester Holbel was the Superintendent of Diocese of Buffalo schools from 1941-1961. He retired in 1978 and died in 1983. 

According to media reports, in March 2018, on a radio show broadcast, a man publicly accused Monsignor Holbel of sexually abusing him as a third-grader in 1975 while he was a student at Nativity school. The man said Monsignor Holbel began grooming him after Masses by offering him wine, rubbing his shoulders and talking to him about “spiritual development” from the age of 9. He remembered feeling uncomfortable when he sat on his lap and Monsignor Holbel became aroused, telling him it was “the spirit of God” moving through him. Monsignor Holbel would have been 72 at the time and a priest for more than 45 years.

The victim said the abuse progressed from fondling to oral sex to a ritualistic sodomy with religious candles, and then rape. He said he remembered wrapping his blood-stained underwear in paper towels and burying it at the bottom of a trash bin so that no one would see it. 

The abuse continued until the boy was 11 years old. He had thoughts of suicide at age 10, turned to alcohol and drugs throughout his 20s, had panic attacks in his 30s and was ultimately diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at age 48. 

“One of the reasons for me coming out and speaking about these things is to really help people understand the damaging effect childhood sexual abuse has on children and how it lasts throughout a lifetime,” he said.

Monsignor Holbel has not been included on the Diocese of Buffalo’s list of priests “removed, retired, or having left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.” Deceased clergy are included on the list only if they were the subject of more than one accusation. The Diocese of Buffalo has, however, offered to compensate the man because he was a victim of clergy sexual abuse as a boy.

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 to discuss your options today.