Buffalo Whistleblower: Overarching Attitude Was Protecting Church’s Reputation

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 29, 2018   

Siobhan O'Connor: 'At the end of my life, I'm not going to answer to Bishop Malone. I'm going to answer to God.'

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The former secretary for Buffalo's Bp. Richard Malone is exposing his cover-ups on mainstream media.

The CBS national news magazine 60 Minutes aired their interview with Malone's secretary-turned-whistleblower, Siobhan O'Connor, who helped expose multiple cover-ups of clerical sex abuse carried out under Malone. On Sunday, O'Connor told 60 Minutes she had to do it.

"At the end of my life," said O'Connor, "I'm not going to answer to Bishop Malone. I'm going to answer to God."

O'Connor quit her diocesan job in August, just two months after the diocese was served a federal subpoena in June ordering the diocese to turn over all documents pertaining to credible allegations of clerical sex abuse.

Before leaving, she copied "hundreds of documents" from "confidential files of the Diocese of Buffalo."

On Thursday, O'Connor admitted to being one of the sources of documentation and inside information that helped a local Buffalo news station, WKBW, launch a three-part investigation showing that Malone:

  • returned Fr. Art Smith to active ministry despite credible allegations of sex abuse
  • allowed Fr. Robert Yetter to remain a pastor despite multiple allegations of homosexual predation
  • grossly underreported the number of priests credibly accused of sex abuse

To expose the corruption, O'Connor set about copying hundreds of documents, including memos and emails, prior to leaving her diocesan job. Asked by 60 Minutes why she never got caught, she replied, "I was always working with paper, and I was always there, so it wasn't as though I had to ask for keys or take them from someone's desk."

Along with Smith and Yetter, Malone also restored Fr. Dennis Riter to the position of pastor of a parish in July. Riter is credibly accused of abusing young men dating back to the early '90s. Church Militant interviewed one of Riter's victims, Anthony Ravarini, who affirms he was abused by Riter at the age of six.
A Buffalo seminarian, Wes Walawender, was a witness to the direct aftermath of the abuse. He wrote a detailed account of the event and hand-delivered copies of this letter to the secretaries of Bp. Edward D. Head, then the ordinary of Buffalo, and Bp. Edward Grosz, an auxiliary bishop. In restoring Riter to active ministry, Malone dismissed this case along with two other alleged victims of Riter, who are currently suing the diocese.

O'Connor told 60 Minutes that part of the documentation she uncovered that proved Malone was grossly underreporting the number of priests credibly accused of sex abuse was a 300-page dossier that she found in Malone's closet. Malone released a list of just 42 such priests in March. O'Connor told 60 Minutes that this binder showed there were well over 100 such priests.

"There was one particular binder, which was of pending litigation that had been presented to Bp. Malone when he first was installed as our bishop. And this was from the lawyers," said O'Connor. She explained that many of the sex abuse cases contained in the binder dated back decades prior to Malone coming to Buffalo in 2012.
"It was a very carefully curated list," O'Connor told 60 Minutes. "And I — I saw all the, the lawyers coming in and out, and I was aware of the, the various strategies that were in place."
Asked what was the apparent intentions of the diocese she replied, "Well, to my mind the overarching attitude seemed to be to protect the Church's reputation and her assets."
She was also asked about how she felt of the possibility that the diocese of Buffalo may face financial bankrupting because of what she did. She said it does bother her but the reality of "moral bankruptcy" is a far bigger problem.
She was also interviewed Monday by CBS This Morning. O'Connor says she had to do what she did for the Church she loves.
"I want to be part of the reform and the renewal that the Church needs," she said.


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