Buffalo Diocese Sets New Clergy Conduct Code, Policy on Abuse Complaints

By Jay Tokasz
Buffalo News
September 25, 2019

Offices of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

Bishop Richard J. Malone said Tuesday that the Diocese of Buffalo has published new policies and procedures for handling complaints of sexual misconduct by clergy and staff with adults, as well as a new code of pastoral conduct for clergy.

The new documents follow a string of cases over the past year in which priests were accused of sexual misconduct with adults – including one case currently under investigation by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.

Diocese spokeswoman Kathy Spangler issued a statement saying the Buffalo Diocese was one of the first in the country to promulgate policies for adult misconduct.

Possible punishment for priests or deacons who violate the policy include being suspended from ministry and being dismissed from the clerical state.

Malone has been heavily criticized for allowing at least two priests who had been accused of sexual misconduct with adults to stay in ministry, including one as pastor of a large parish.

Malone apologized and acknowledged that the approach he and other bishops around the country took in trying to manage those cases in the past was inadequate.

Adult sexual misconduct allegations that surfaced in 2018 against two priests followed months of revelations in the media of cover-up of decades of clergy sex abuse of minors in the Buffalo Diocese, and helped prompt calls for Malone to resign.

Malone responded by appointing a task force last December to review and recommend policies and procedures for assessing and responding to allegations of sexual misconduct with adults by priests, deacons, religious and lay employees.

More recently, the bishop came under fire for his handling of a sexual harassment claim by a former seminarian, Matthew Bojanowski, against the Rev. Jeffrey Nowak, that is now being probed by the DA’s Office.

Nowak was suspended in late August. Nowak’s attorney denied the allegation.

Bojanowski’s attorney has said that Malone sat on the allegations for months and only suspended Nowak after Bojanowski went public with his accusations.

Under the policy, the diocese’s director of professional responsibility, auxiliary bishop and diocesan attorneys are to conduct an initial inquiry within 72 hours of receiving a complaint. If the complaint meets a standard, the accused will be put on administrative leave pending the outcome, within two to four months, of a preliminary investigation to confirm or deny the allegations of the complaint.

An Independent Review Board will then assess the allegations and make recommendations to the bishop on the accused person's fitness to continue in ministry or employment.

The new code of pastoral conduct for clergy calls upon priests and deacons, when acting as pastoral counselors and spiritual directors, to "assume the full burden of responsibility for establishing and maintaining clear, appropriate boundaries in all counseling and counseling-related relationships," to avoid physical contact of any kind with persons they counsel, to avoid conducting counseling sessions in private living quarters and to maintain a log of the times and places of sessions with each person counseled, among a host of other standards in dealing with adults and children.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.