Lay Catholics form committee for church reforms

Nine-person committee calls for more transparency, accountability

Mike Baggerman
November 01, 2018 - 1:49 pm

Diocese of Buffalo with two dozen protesters calling for Bishop Malone's resignation. September 10, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - A coalition of nine Catholic laypeople announced the creation of an initiative to rebuild trust and confidence in the Diocese of Buffalo. 

The coalition consists of the following people:

  • Paul D. Bauer: A retired financial executive and co-founder of the BISON Scholarship Fund
  • Thomas R. Beecher, Jr.: Attorney at Phillips Lytle LLP
  • Robert M. Greene: Retired attorney with Phillips Lytle LLP
  • John J. Hurley: President of Canisius College
  • Maureen O' Hurley: Retired EVP and Chief Administrative Officer of Rich Products
  • Carl J. Montante: President and Managing Director of Uniland Development Company
  • Mary Travers Murphy: Executive Director, Family Justice Center of WNY
  • Dr. Nancy H. Nielsen: Senior ASsociate Dean, Jacobs School of Medicine
  • Nancy W. Ware: Founder and President of EduKids

"It has been a very discouraging time," John Hurley said. "In the past few days it has seemed especially hopeless...(We) want to begin the process of rebuilding trust and confidence in the Diocese. Our nine organizing members are a group of concerned, committed Catholics who are broken-hearted, disillusioned, and, yes, angry about what we see happening in the Catholic Church in the United States and right here in the Diocese of Buffalo."

The group wants to take those concerns and turn it into action. They have already been in contact with hundreds of worshippers. 

"Our church and our Diocese has not done enough to truly engage the laity in the life of the church at every level," he added. "Why are the lay people stepping forward? We're committed to the Vatican II ideal, still not fully realized after 50 years that the church is simply not the clergy, the magisterium, or the buildings, but the church is the people of God."

The committee has a series of principles it wants the church to adopt. These principles include co-responsibility, transparency, accountability, competency, and justice for survivors 

Thursday's announcement of the coalition came with the surprising announcement that one of its members, Dr. Nancy H. Nielsen, is also revealed that she too is a survivor of abuse. Nielson did not tell anyone, including her own children, ahead of this announcement about her abuse at the hands of a clergy member when she was a teenager. 

"I can guarantee you change will come," Nielsen said. "It will be either constructive or not. We are here to help try to learn from people in other parts of the country who have been through these kinds of tribulations. Learn what has worked, adapt what we need to meet the needs of Western New York. Change will come. Whether or not it's constructive will be up to us."

The coalition said they contacted Bishop Richard Malone about their plans to form the group. They said it prompted a quick response from the embattled leader of the Diocese of Buffalo, who supported their plan, calling it "very solid" and "surely necessary". 

This coalition will host a symposium at Canisius College on Wednesday, November 28 at 7 p.m. at Montante Cultural Center. The event is open to the public and is meant to have a discussion about the current role of the church in the community. 

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