The following is a statement from Bishop Richard J. Malone, on Sunday, August 26, outlining new actions to help handle cases of clerical sexual abuse against both children and adults in the Diocese of Buffalo:
I want to begin by thanking the many good people—clergy, laity and religious—within our diocese who have in the face of tragedy, anguish and confusion—remained steadfastly focused on Jesus and our ministry...on caring for those in need... on celebrating the word of God...and on treating those most vulnerable among us with true compassion and dignity.
Even with so much goodness throughout our diocese, many are questioning the leadership of our church. Whether we have lost sight of our values. Whether we are adequately equipped to meet the heart wrenching, persistent challenge of clergy sexual abuse. Let me say that I hear your concerns. I understand them. I share them.
These past few weeks and months , Catholics have been confronted with unfathomable details of abuse, some decades old, and some more recent. Collectively, we have confronted the reality that the sinful actions of some priests have stretched further, deeper and longer than we could have expected. With the benefit of hindsight, other more recent allegations—which at the time may have seemed hazy or difficult to substantiate—warranted more firm or swift action.
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.
We can do better. We will do better.
Since 2002, the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People has been our guiding mandate. Our focus has been on our children and teens. Those of us in church leadership have worked diligently to apply its protocols to our handing of abuse allegations. In many ways I have sought to make the Charter my personal charge...to enforce this promise in a manner that honors survivors and protects those we serve.
However, reflecting on my handling of recent allegations of sexual misconduct with adults, I fear that in seeking to uphold the Charter to the letter, I may have lost sight of the Charter's spirt, which applies to people of all ages.
ALL of God's children deserve the same protection from sexual harassment or contact, including adults. Moreover, all of our church ministers must be the embodiment of the church's values. Illegal, harassing or unsettling behavior of any kind from those in ministry has a reverberating impact on our community, regardless of whether the behavior may be considered criminal.
In recent days, some within our Catholic community have urged me to resign. I have prayed about this very question. And I have sought guidance from colleagues, friends, brothers and sisters in ministry. I am grateful for the support of so many, and I stand before you today recommitted to my calling to serve as Bishop of Buffalo. The shepherd does not desert the flock at a difficult time. I as many others, have learned and will continue to learn from this difficult time, and I have drawn from these challenges the strength...the energy...the focus...to take the actions necessary to ensure...to the best of our ability, that our work is guided not just by precedent and policy, but by a shared sense of good , by our moral compass.
But now is the time for action. Words alone do not suffice. Today, I promise you action. I make a few promises to you today. I am establishing a task force to examine the diocese's procedures for handling claims of inappropriate conduct with adults and to recommend methods for honoring ALL victims in a manner consistent with our protection for children. This task force will be comprised of laity, clergy religious, and I will invite an elected official or two. Our intention is to bring a range of expertise and perspective to the task force's work. I am also establishing a new Office of Professional Responsibility whose mission will be enforcement of our Diocesan Code of Ethics. While we continue to work through the decades old abuses, we will do better in addressing our current decisions pertaining to clerics who violate sacred trusts.
I also pledge that our Diocese will cooperate with any investigation initiated by the New York State Attorney General or District Attorney.
Most importantly, to the victims of clerical abuse of all ages...children and adults...I am profoundly sorry for the pain this has caused you. While nothing I can say to you could heal the hurt of this tragic breach of trust, I do as bishop of this diocese extend my most heartfelt apologies. I want you to know that we will do all we can to restore your faith, to help you heal, and to help you begin to move forward.
Please join me in praying FIRST for victims of abuse everywhere. And please find it in your heart to pray for me and all those who are trying to overcome the darkness of this sin and bring back the true light of what the church should be for everyone.