Bishop Richard J. Malone delivered the following message to the faithful in the Diocese of Buffalo. His letter was read at Masses throughout the diocese on the weekend of September 8 and 9, 2018:
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
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.
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.