Bishop admits mistakes, vows to stay on
Bishop Richard Malone is again apologizing to parishioners of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. A letter from the Bishop is being read at Masses this weekend in the wake Attorney General Barbara Underwood's decision to begin an investigation into clergy abuse statewide.
In the letter, Malone admitted the criticisms of his leadership are justified. But he said he will not step down, even though doing so would be easier for him personally. Malone said he'll continue in his position until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2021.
Here is the full text of Malone's letter:
Dear Friends in Christ,
The papers and airwaves have been filled recently with much bad news about the abuse crisis in our Church and the manner in which it has been handled by Church leaders at the local, national, and international levels. Unfortunately, many of the criticisms of the leadership are justified. Many of you have voiced your opinions, directly or indirectly. Pointing to my own failures and errors in judgment, some have called for my resignation. Many others have urged me to stay but to make significant changes in the way our diocese responds to this crisis. As I have prayerfully considered all of this, I am convinced that I must continue to lead our diocese forward as your bishop and face this crisis together with clergy, religious and laity.
First, I must apologize. I apologize once again to those innocent victims who were abused by priests who committed crimes and grave sins. I also apologize for any of my own failures in adequately addressing that abuse. As you know, when we receive a report of the sexual abuse of a child, we have procedures in place to respond to the victims and to ensure that any priest who has abused a child is removed from ministry. For the six years that I have been bishop, annual external audits have found our diocese to be in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms for dealing with Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons. As you are aware from recent reports, I have not acted in the same manner when the victim was an adult at the time of the abuse. As one mother with a 16 year old and 19 year old sons recently wrote to me, "We moms need firm assurances that everything is being done to protect kids like them. That is where the frustration comes from." Of course this is true. I hear her.
Accordingly, just before the Labor Day holiday, I announced that the diocese is working diligently to establish a new task force to recommend better methods for honoring adult survivors in a manner consistent with our clearly defined protections on behalf of children. I am also establishing a new Office of Professional Responsibility whose mission will be to review our Code of Conduct, strengthen it wherever necessary and enforce it. For the important ongoing work of our Review Board, we have added well-credentialed new members to replace others who have retired in recent years.
I know that some will not be satisfied with these changes and that some may question, based on my past inadequacies, whether I have the capacity or the will to punish abusers and to protect the innocent. All I can do is promise you that my heart is in this struggle and that, with the help of God's grace, I will make every effort to steer this diocese through this time of trial.
During my time as bishop here, I have made significant changes in the way this diocese responds to the abuse crisis. Among other things, I published a list of offending diocesan priests and I instituted the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. Those decisions were criticized by some, but I made them with the goal of providing healing and some measure of justice. I have also felt firsthand the deep pain of victims as I have personally met with victims, listened to their stories and personally apologized to them. These encounters have left me heartsick, and have been a personal call to contrition and repentance.
Leaving this diocese in the middle of this daunting challenge would probably be easier for me personally, but I intend to meet it in the best way I can for the next few years, until my retirement in 2021 is accepted by the Holy Father. I pray for God's help and for your support. Let me express my deep gratitude to our committed laity, faithful priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders who continue to serve us day in and day out despite the cloud that currently weighs over us. I remind my brother priests that this a graced moment to recommit ourselves, and myself, to our ordination promises, especially to our commitment to chaste, celibate living and the pursuit of holiness.
Please keep praying and stay strong as together we will move forward.