This reflection originally appeared in The Buffalo News' "Everybody's Column" on Nov. 16. The complete column is presented here:
As a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, I am concerned with the healing of both adult and child victims of abuse. I desire the reconciliation and the healing of the divisions in our Diocese. I long for the sanctification of the Clergy and the growth in holiness of all of the People of God. With all of this in mind: Here are three reasons why I support the Most Reverend Bishop Richard J. Malone to remain as bishop of Buffalo and lead us through the next two and a half years.
1. With Bishop Malone, we can move forward; without him, we are stuck in this mire and muck for another two years, at least: Why? Canon Law! If the bishop were to resign and Pope Francis were to accept his resignation - then either an Apostolic Administrator would be appointed by the Pope or the College of Consultors (of which I am one) would elect a Diocesan Administrator to run the Diocese until a new bishop is appointed by Pope Francis and he takes possession of the Diocese. In either case, the Administrator, must not prejudice rights of the next Bishop, and as a result what is currently in place would be maintained and nothing could be changed until the new Bishop arrives.
Our diocese would go to the back of the line and it could be a year and a half to two years before a new Bishop is appointed. See the current list of dioceses in need of a new bishop. Do we want to wait that long to begin the healing process?
2. Bishop Malone has already made many necessary changes that will bear fruit in greater accountability: I believe that the Diocese's critics in the media and the whistleblowers have done us a great service by shedding a light on the shortcomings in our response particularly to adult victims of abuse. For this we should be grateful. In difficult times it is good for us to remember: "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) God's grace is at work in whatever brings growth. As one of my brother priests pointed out in a recent meeting, we have already moved further in the last six months than the last ten years on this issue. Those changes were made under the leadership of Bishop Richard J. Malone. I believe that the fruit of those changes will be more visible to all as time goes by.
3. I know from my own personal knowledge of him that Bishop Malone, humbled and tried in the crucible of our recent difficulties, has the spiritual and moral character to lead us beyond this: In a recent meeting of leading priests of the Diocese (i.e. the Presbyteral Council and the Vicars Forane) with Bishop Malone: He committed himself to work with us to heal this diocese and to articulate a vision together of how we move forward.
Ongoing conversion is a part of the life of any person of prayer, particularly when we face the cross in times of trial. The bishop is no exception. Bishop Malone has repeatedly and I am sure will continue to apologize for the shortcomings of the past. What I witnessed at that meeting last Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in him, and his interactions with the leaders of his presbyterate makes me confident and hopeful that we can move into a time of healing and reconciliation.
To those who may disagree with my assessment, I only ask that we withhold judgment until we see the fruit of this. By their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:20).