Diocese quiet after report on handling of sex misconduct
October 30, 2018
|Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., is seen at the headquarters of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington Jan. 17.|
Photo by Tyler Orsburn
BUFFALO, New York - The Diocese of Buffalo declined to address details of a television report where diocesan insiders called for the bishop’s resignation Monday, saying he hadn’t done enough when confronted with reports of clergy sexual misconduct.
In a statement, the diocese said it would add perspective “in the days ahead” while calling the material in the CBS 60 Minutes report “incomplete, out of context and in some cases plainly inaccurate.”
Sunday’s broadcast featured a former assistant to Bishop Richard Malone who secretly copied confidential files and gave them to the news magazine and Buffalo station WKBW-TV. It also featured a priest who advised Malone on legal matters saying he believed eight or nine active priests should have been removed from the ministry.
“A lot of cases probably should have gone to Rome at the time. They did not,” Father Robert Zilliox told 60 Minutes.
Malone has been under intensifying pressure to step down amid reports that he allowed priests accused of misconduct to remain on the job and purposely excluded the names of others from a list released to the public earlier this year.
In Malone’s first six years in Buffalo, one priest was put on leave. CBS reported Malone has suspended 16 others since March, when the diocese first released its list of 42 problematic priests.
One of the priests missing from that list had been suspended by Malone’s predecessor for behavior that included saying “love you” in a Facebook message to an eighth-grade boy. Another had been accused in the 1980s of having sexual relations with a girl beginning when she was 15 years old, according to the internal emails and other documents released by Malone’s former assistant, Siobhan O’Connor.
In the latter case, the files indicate the diocese worried that including the priest on the list would raise questions because he was not removed from ministry, even though his behavior was known.
“I remember thinking, ‘If that’s their rationale for leaving a priest off, then how can I abide by this?'” O’Connor said.
A deacon in the church, Paul Snyder, has sent packets of material to the church hierarchy, seeking an investigation. He was also interviewed by 60 Minutes.
Before the broadcast, Malone issued a statement saying those interviewed did not include his supporters nor those with knowledge of the diocese’s efforts to combat child abuse.
He said the diocese was cooperating with ongoing state and federal investigations.
Attorneys general in several states have launched investigations of possible clergy abuse since an explosive grand jury report documented decades of abuse by 300 priests in Pennsylvania.
Church officials in Pennsylvania and Buffalo also have acknowledged receiving federal subpoenas.
“The church is in the eye of a storm largely as a result of wrong decisions made decades ago and even some made recently, as I have acknowledged,” Malone said. “But our efforts and our focus have always remained steadfast: Protect the children and reconcile with the victims.”
He said the diocese has strengthened its policies, instituted a victim compensation program and hired a former FBI agent to monitor its professional responsibilities.
“People will make up their own minds once they have heard our response to these stories,” Monday’s statement said.