The Catholic Church in America is suffering yet another in a series of seemingly never-ending crises stemming from the Church’s rampant mishandling of sex abuse and misconduct claims. But finally, it looks like one of the biggest problems for the church’s image in New York State has just stepped aside: The New York Times reports that Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo has resigned after weeks of pressure from inside and outside his diocese, which is one of the largest in the US, with 600,000.
The Vatican reportedly accepted Malone’s resignation on Wednesday, hopefully bringing an end to a period of turmoil for Buffalo Catholics, who organized to try and oust Malone.
“I have concluded, after much prayer and discernment, that the people of Buffalo will be better served by a new bishop who perhaps is better able to bring about the reconciliation, healing and renewal that is so needed,” Malone wrote in his goodbye statement. “It is my honest assessment that I have accomplished as much as I am able to, and that there remain divisions and wounds that I am unable to bind and heal.”
As CNN points out, for more than a year, a dedicated group of parishoners has been trying to convince Malone to leave. They’ve done everything from circulate petitions to try and meet the bishop’s plane.
Since the Catholic church’s sexual abuse scandal reignited in 2018, bishops across the country have come under greater scrutiny for the crimes and cover-ups alleged to have occurred during their tenure. That’s what got Malone: records showing he actively sought to protect pedophile priests.
In one incident back in March 2018, Bishop Malone released a list of 42 priests accused of abuse over decades. But Siobhan O’Connor, a source worked in the bishop’s office, had seen 117 names on a draft list in the diocese’s secret files, and began photocopying and then leaking the documents to WKBW, the local ABC affiliate.
The leaks revealed that Bishop Malone, who had been the highest official in the diocese since 2012, clearly tried to minimize disclosure of the full extent of the diocese’s sex abuse issues.
“We did not remove him from ministry despite full knowledge of the case, and so including him on list might require explanation,” lawyers wrote to Bishop Malone about one priest who was accused of having sex with a teenager .
Back in August came the final blow: Secret audio recordings where Bishop Malone can be heard fretting about a scandal involving sexual harassment of a seminarian by a pastor, which he worried “could be the end of me as bishop.”
Shortly after, the Vatican sent another Bishop to investigate the claims against Malone, but this bishop was also implicated in a sex abuse scandal.
One advocate for the victims said that with Malone gone, people can believe in change once again.
“People were so frustrated and angry at Bishop Malone that they were losing their faith over it,” said Ms. O’Connor, who is now an advocate for the abuse victims. His resignation “is a sign for people that change can happen,” she said.
All bishops are required to submit their resignation to the Pope when they turn 75, but Malone is retiring a couple of years early at 73.