Few bishops resign in the face of clergy sex abuse scandals

The Buffalo News

August 27, 2018

By Jay Tokasz

The odds are probably against Bishop Richard J. Malone resigning any time soon – based on the few examples of American bishops who stepped down after being exposed for covering up clergy sex abuse.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday became the latest elected official to call for Malone to step down over his handling of sex abuse and harassment complaints against Buffalo Diocese clergy.

But within Catholic tradition, powerful political leaders don’t determine whether a bishop stays or goes. Only the pope has that kind of authority.

While bishops can remove priests from ministry, they can’t remove another bishop, said Catholic Church scholar Michele Dillon. And bishops stepping down prematurely was a “fairly rare” occurrence within the church, added Dillon, professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire.

Despite revelations of cover-ups of clergy sexual abuse in dozens of U.S. dioceses, just five American bishops or archbishops resigned in the past 16 years, according to the website BishopAccountability.org, which maintains a massive database of clergy abuse cases.

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