On Wednesday, Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, resigned his position. He had held the position since 2012. This comes after months of calls for Malone to resign amidst the ongoing clergy sexual abuse controversies that continue to envelope the Catholic church. Malone came under fire for his part in the handling of sexual assault and abuse claims made against his fellow clergy, and most recently in recordings released a few months ago where the former Diocese leader seems to talk about covering up a clergy scandal.
In a statement released Wednesday, Malone wrote that, “The crisis our Church is facing relates not only to the immoral and criminal acts of those who committed unconscionable offenses toward the most vulnerable, but also to the failure to regard these violations as grave offenses that warranted the full weight of civil and ecclesiastical justice.” He went on to say that there was lots of work being done but that he had concluded the Diocese of Buffalo would be “better served” by someone new. “As such, I requested of His Holiness Pope Francis that he permit me to retire early, and he agreed to do so.”
In September, audio recordings surfaced purporting to prove Malone was also guilty of covering up scandals amongst the clergy he directly oversaw. This new leak from the Diocese of Buffalo was just the first. In October of last year Siobhan O’Connor, Malone’s former executive assistant, became a whistleblower on the church, releasing hundreds of emails and internal correspondence, showing the church and Malone were aware of sexual abuse cases and did very little, in many cases doing nothing at all to ensure either the safety of the flock or that the criminal behavior was punished.
O’Connor’s disenchantment truly began when her then-boss Bishop Malone released what O’Connor knew to be a greatly truncated list of accused clergy to the media, a list she knew should have many more names on it. O’Connor told 60 Minutes that even though she loved her former boss, she was compelled to serve a higher power, “The reality of what I saw really left me with no other option. Because at the end of my life, I'm not going to answer to Bishop Malone. I'm going to answer to God.”
The Buffalo News published a poll in September showing that 83% of those asked believed Malone should resign, and Malone’s attempts to push off these controversies was clearly becoming less effective.
The church has appointed the Bishop of Albany’s diocese Edward Scharfenberger to act in Malone’s position until a new bishop is assigned. According to Bishop-Accountabillity.Org, Scharfenberger’s diocese is also no stranger to accusation against the clergy. They have published a list of clergy they say were “credibly accused while serving in the Diocese of Albany,” and a lawsuit was filed against the Albany diocese in May, accusing over 80 of the diocese’s clergymen of abuse over the years.
This fallout comes after decades of church abuses in covering up, underreporting, and doing next to nothing about thousands of allegations across the country. A report that came out early this summer showed how many millions of dollars the Catholic church has spent lobbying to squash laws that would afford more time to achieve civil and criminal satisfaction, for survivors of clergy abuses. New York state’s many dioceses have begun to feel a reckoning, after the state passed the Child Victims Act, allowing hundreds, if not thousands, the chance to go to court and get their small piece of justice.
Bishop Malone’s exit is just one small change being made, as the Catholic church tries to figure out how to handle an onslaught of cases. Some dioceses like New York Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester have filed for bankruptcy protections. But the Catholic church’s inability to truly deal with its great sins is hurting it as more states move to open up similar legal avenues for survivors as New York.