Pressure on Malone to Resign is Snowballing

An in-depth look at what's happening in the Buffalo Diocese

Brendan Keany
September 10, 2019 - 4:00 am
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BUFFALO (WBEN) - The past year-and-a-half has been a difficult one, to say the least, for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

Despite the seemingly constant criticism and calls to resign, Bishop Richard Malone hasn't yet wavered from his intention of remaining as bishop. Last week, Malone appeared in studio for a live conversation with WBEN's Tom Bauerle, and he remained committed to being a part of positive change within the worn-down diocese.

"I intend to continue with the ministry to which the church has called me for as long as I can do it," said Malone. "I really want to be able to be a part, with the lay folks, and my priests and deacons, as part of leading us out of this terrible storm that has had such a profound and painful impact on so many victims for decades."

Can Petition Drive Hurt Malone's Credibility?

Bauerle asked if there would be any circumstance in which Malone would change his mind, including a petition from diocesan priests that asks him to step down.

"Not necessarily - I would pay close attention to that; I would consult with others about that, including perhaps some of the priests who theoretically signed the letter and other priests whom I'd know would never sign the letter because they express their support every single day to me," he said. "I would probably consult with Cardinal Dolan, who is the metropolitan archbishop responsible for New York, but I wouldn't do it automatically."

Listen to that entire interview below:

This weekend, as it would have it, that internal pressure arrived.

Rev. Robert Zilliox of St. Mary’s of Swormville has drafted a petition that is circulating among clergy that asks both Malone and Bishop Grosz to step aside. the petition was drafted after the Movement to Restore trust, a group of prominent lay Catholics, requested the Bishop's resignation last week. 

"As priests and deacons, we are deeply saddened and seriously concerned about the future of the Roman Catholic Diocese at Buffalo," Zilliox wrote in the letter. "The revelations that have come to light over the past days, weeks and months have significantly challenged the credibility of your public statements."

Fr. Paul Seil, Pastor of St. Bernadette's Church in Orchard Park, told WBEN that he would sign the letter.

"When the Bishop Can't go to Niagara University, can't go to Canisius College, can't show up at a dinner for Catholic Charities, and doesn't have a public mass on a Sunday, that says an awful lot," Seil said. "The Bishop is to be with his people. If you can't be with your people, how can you continue in any way to lead." 

Seil admits that clerical support for Malone has dwindled fairly rapidly given the events of the past several months.

"I remember last November when the bishop called us to a meeting...it seemed as though the vast majority him," he said. "How things have changed since then, or whether priests are able to...I don't want to speak up because anybody can speak up if they want...but I don't know where this is all going to go as far as the clergy."

Listen to Seil's full comments below:

So where could it go?

WBEN reached out to the Archdiocese of New York to see if Cardinal Dolan is looking to intervene, and Director of the Office of Communications, Joseph Zwilling, says Dolan is keeping close eye on the situation with the Diocese of Buffalo.  

"Cardinal Dolan is very aware of the situation in Buffalo and consulting extensively." Zwilling said. "I would expect to hear something in the near future."

Zwilling says Dolan has been in regular contact with Malone, the Nuncio and the Holy See, and he's apparently considering his options.

There is a new Vatican document which allows Cardinal Dolan to take action. The document is titled "Vos Estis Lux Mundi."  Pope Francis enacted the law earlier this year, following a meeting of Bishops in February. It streamlines investigations into clerical abuse and remove obstacles to investigations of abuse coverup.  When there is an allegation of misbehavior or the mishandling of an allegation, it falls to the Metropolitan Archbishop.

Chris Altieri is with the Catholic Herald and says that Bishop Malone is not aware of any consultations with regard to canonical proceedings against him at this point, and he attributed that information to Kathy Spangler, who serves as Malone's spokesperson.

"There is a new and largely untested church law in play, as well as a very complicated and difficult situation involving a relationship of the institution of the Catholic Church in New York State with civil authorities, both state and federal authorities," added Altieri, as he explained why this is such a complex matter. "Specifically, there's a civil RICO action in New York State court involving the Diocese of Buffalo, so it's an extraordinarily complex and fraught situation, and I don't know what fast enough means, and I don't know that anybody does except to say that it's pretty obvious that folks in Buffalo are sorely tried and fairly impatient."

While Altieri doesn't know what action, if any, will be taken, and he says he's unsure of a clear timeline, he believes that people shouldn't expect anything too soon.

"Bureaucratic gears tend to grind slowly," he said. "These are going to turn probably slower than usual, and I know people probably won't like to hear that, but it's the way of things, and the reason is that church authorities want to make sure that they have their ducks in a row before taking action."

Listen to Altieri's full comments below:

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