March 21, 2018
Bishop Richard J. Malone took a giant step Tuesday toward getting right with the victims of sexual abuse by priests in the Buffalo Diocese. By releasing a list of 42 priests facing allegations, Malone and the church opened the door to a greater level of healing by both the church and the victims of sexual abuse. It’s a start. It shouldn’t be the end.
In releasing this list of names, Malone followed the example he set in his previous posting in Portland, Maine, and which many other dioceses around the country have adopted. For reasons that remain unexplained – though they may seem obvious – the Buffalo Diocese until Tuesday was operating in protection mode.
That strategy became untenable in the days since Michael F. Whalen Jr. came forward to report that, as a teenager 40 years ago, he was sexually abused by the Rev. Norbert F. Orsolits, who then acknowledged abusing “probably dozens” of teenage boys. That broke open the dam, and other victims started coming forward, sharing the pain that still haunts them and demanding an accounting from the church.
On Tuesday, Malone agreed, providing 27 names more than had previously been known. The question now is whether the list is exhaustive. Could there be more priests, either protected by or unknown to the diocese?
Whalen thinks that could be the case, and so does Tom Travers of Buffalo, who says a priest abused him in the 1970s when he was an altar boy. “My abuser is not on the list,” he said. That makes it incomplete.
What is more, Travers said the diocese has contacted him about participating in its recently created Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, meant to settle claims of sexual abuse. There’s a disconnect between those circumstances. So the question inevitably arises: What more does the church have yet to reveal?
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