The former head of the Catholic Church in Maine is facing mounting pressure to resign as bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, over his handling of sexual abuse allegations against members of the clergy.
Bishop Richard J. Malone, who served as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland from 2004 until 2012, responded to the calls for his resignation by holding a press conference Sunday in Buffalo. He did not answer questions from reporters, but instead read aloud a prepared statement for nearly 10 minutes.
The 72-year-old Malone announced that after much prayer and input from colleagues, he wouldn’t resign his post, commenting that the “shepherd does not desert the flock at a difficult time.”
According to a videotape of the event, Malone promised to establish a citizen and clergy task force to examine procedures for handling claims of sexual abuse, as well as a new office of professional responsibility whose mission will be enforcement of the church’s diocesan code of ethics. Malone also promised to cooperate with the New York state Attorney General’s Office in the event it decides to launch an investigation into allegations of clergy sex abuse.
The prospect of an investigation grew stronger Tuesday after WKBW-TV in Buffalo quoted Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr. as saying that it is only a matter of time before the New York Attorney General’s Office opens an investigation. Flynn told the station that the AG’s Office has already reached out to New York’s 62 counties about beginning a joint investigation of sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church.
Malone has been criticized for allegedly ignoring allegations of sexual abuse of adults by priests.
“Let me be clear. My handling of recent claims from some of our parishioners concerning sexual misconduct with adults unquestionably has fallen short of the standard to which you hold us and to which we hold ourselves,” Malone said. “We can do better and we will do better.”
Malone said that the church’s charter for protecting children and young people has been its guiding mandate.
But he added, “I fear that in seeking to uphold the charter to the letter and remember that the charter is for young people, I may have lost sight of the charter’s spirit, which applies to people of all ages.”
APPOINTMENT BY POPE BENEDICT
In May 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Malone as the new bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo. He was installed as bishop in August of that year.
Malone was named head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland in March 2004 and served as Maine’s 11th bishop. Before coming to Maine, Malone served as auxiliary bishop of Boston in 2000. He has been succeeded by Bishop Robert Deeley.
Malone’s tenure in Maine was marked by declining church enrollment, his controversial role in the 2009 people’s veto campaign to overturn a law allowing same-sex marriage, and the residual effects of the priest abuse scandal that has rocked the church in recent years.
“It’s important to remember that Malone worked under the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston,” Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP – the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – said in a statement provided to the Press Herald in 2012. “In 2010, it was disclosed that Malone was keeping secret the identity of seven recently accused Maine predator priests. We believe his secrecy violates his promises and the U.S. bishops abuse policy.”
Paul Kendrick, who co-founded the Voice of the Faithful in Maine and has served as outspoken advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse, often clashed with Malone during his time in Maine. Kendrick said Malone’s behavior in Buffalo has not changed all that much.
“This uproar (in Buffalo) is being caused by the fact that Bishop Malone did not respond to allegations of past sex abuse,” Kendrick said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. “He has been there for six years and he still has not disclosed the names of all the priests.”
Kendrick said Malone is following a pattern of putting priests first and children who have been abused by priests last.
“He’s acting the same way he did when he was here,” Kendrick said. “But now the drumbeat in Buffalo calling for his resignation is getting stronger.”
ALLEGATIONS AGAINST 42 PRIESTS
In March, the Buffalo diocese released a list of 42 priests who are facing sex abuse allegations, The Associated Press reported. A Buffalo television station reported earlier this month that Malone allowed one accused priest to remain in his parish and gave multiple chances to another priest who had been suspended by Malone’s predecessor, according to the AP.
Bishop Edward Kmeic, whom Malone replaced, had suspended the accused priest after he allegedly told a Catholic school eighth-grader “love you” in a 2011 Facebook post.
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, who represents New York’s 26th Congressional District, called for Malone to resign.
Higgins, a Democrat, said there is “overwhelming evidence” that Malone “exhibited poor leadership and knew about children and others put in harm’s way,” the AP reported.
The Buffalo News on Tuesday published an editorial saying it was time for Malone to step down. “The diocese needs a leader who not is confused about the nature of the crisis enveloping the church,” the editorial said.
Earlier this month, a grand jury in Pennsylvania reported that more than 300 “predator priests” had sexually abused more than 1,000 children in six Catholic dioceses dating back to 1947. Most of the cases were too old to prosecute.
At a news conference, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called it the “largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States.”
The grand jury reported that in almost every case, church leaders chose to protect the abusers and the Catholic Church instead of the victims.
Dave Guthro, spokesman for Deeley – Malone’s successor as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland – said in an email Tuesday night that Deeley is sickened by the grand jury’s findings, as well as other reports directed at bishops who mishandled cases of sexual abuse in the Church.
“The anger from laity, priests, and religious directed at bishops who mishandled cases of sexual abuse in the Church is justified,” Deeley said in a statement Monday. “I trust in the cleansing power of the truth and encourage those among us who have been named to answer any charges. I can think of nothing worse than this incomprehensible abuse and any attempt to cover it up.”
Guthro said that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland already has an Office of Professional Responsibility headed by Michael Magalski, a retired agent in charge with the U.S. Secret Service. Magalski’s office investigates allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.
“Both the sexual abuse of a minor and the abuse of authority cannot be allowed inside the walls of our places of worship. Our repentance and our resolve to keep the Church a place that is safe for all is crucial,” Deeley wrote in a statement made available to parishioners through mailing lists, social media and through readings in many of the state’s Catholic churches.
Deeley said that anyone who may have information about sexual abuse of a minor by a church representative should contact Magalski at 321-7836 or at [email protected].
Former Maine bishop Richard Malone