Pastor: Scharfenberger made good first impression

Albany bishop gave cell phone number to local priests in conference call

Mike Baggerman
December 04, 2019 - 10:00 pm
Father Paul Seil

Photo Courtesy @BuffaloPadre

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Edward Scharfenberger's presence in Western New York is already having a positive impact, according to a local priest.

Father Paul Seil of St. Bernadette's Church in Orchard Park said that the apostolic administrator has already reached out to the local clergy in an effort to restore relations within the church.

READ MORE: Bishop Scharfenberger arrives in Buffalo

"He had a conference call (on Wednesday) with any priest who could call in," Seil said. "We just listened to him speak to the priest on the telephone. Just hearing him speak about how he considers himself a brother to us and that he wants to be there for us. Even though he's the Bishop of Albany, he will dedicate time for us and he will give us his personal phone number where we can reach out to him or text him. Those are all things that we have not experienced in the last several years in our diocese."

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The exact details of the conversation with priests were not immediately known but Wednesday began the healing process within the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo after Richard Malone resigned in disgrace. Malone was heavily criticized for his handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal in Buffalo beginning early last year.

Malone on multiple occasions insisted he would not resign and even refuted a report last month that said his resignation was imminent. When he did resign on Wednesday, he characterized it as a "early retirement", while the Holy See described it as a resignation.

"In canon law and under church law, even the most casual observer like myself...we know that was word play," Seil said. "There's no such thing as early retirement for a bishop. It's just more of the same. But the same now is over and we have to look to the future."

Scharfenberger said Wednesday that his role in the Diocese of Buffalo will be to begin the healing process.

"I have no marching orders," Scharfenberger said. "There's no preconceived plan...I feel a little bit like the neighbor down the block and I realize that this family has been suffering quite a bit in recent months and years. And my heart just goes out to you. And what I see is a need for a tremendous amount of healing...honest conversation, openness."

Seil said the Wednesday press conference was effective by presenting the theme of family and healing.

"Everybody is expressing a sigh of relief that there is real hope and that things are going to do nothing but get better rather than get worse," Seil said.

Seil is not expecting an immediate increase in church attendance now that Malone resigned but said he hopes Wednesday set the foundation for future success of the church.

"Hopefully there will be some people coming back and over time people will come back I hope," he said.

Scharfenberger is scheduled to return to Albany on Thursday.

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