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BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Transportation officials whisked away Bp. Richard Malone of the diocese of Buffalo, New York, where a small group of protestors and reporters were waiting for him on his return from a week-long visit with Pope Francis.
Led by Cdl. Timothy Dolan, the dioceses of New York State, which comprise Region II of the U.S. bishops, were in Rome Nov. 11–15 for their ad limina visit, a meeting that occurs every five to seven years between the bishops of each province and the pope. The visit took place as a Vatican-led investigation into Malone's alleged cover-up of abuse just wrapped up.
Malone returned Sunday to his diocese, where Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) quickly escorted him through a side door to avoid protestors and news cameras awaiting his return.
NFTA provided a statement on security and safety:
As a matter of security and safety to our traveling public, measures were taken that are routine and common for high profile travelers. When there is the potential for a security issue at the airport, it is in the best interest of the public to do everything possible to avoid risk and or threats, especially during the busy travels times.
Church Militant spoke with a former law enforcement agent who asked to remain anonymous regarding the security risk of some peaceful protesters at the airport.
"If the airport thought that these protesters were an actual security risk, they would not have been permitted into the airport," the former agent said. "The notion is ridiculous. I suspect Bp. Malone is just a coward who called for assistance."
Among the protesters were Siobhan O'Connor, a whistleblower who was once Malone's personal assistant, and Stephen Parisi, a former Buffalo seminarian who publicly called on Malone to resign in August.
"We were really hoping that we would be able to see Bp. Malone when he got off his flight and that he likewise would be able to see us," said O'Connor, who hosts a blog titled "Proclaim the Truth" that spotlights projects related to exposing Malone.
"I guess I was disappointed but not surprised when we found out from people on that flight that he was scurried off and taken out one of the doors of the terminal well before he got to where we were," she added. "To me that really speaks to how much he's afraid of us and I just don't understand."
O'Connor explained in First Things last year why she chose to expose Malone:
Since I worked in close proximity to Bishop Malone, I was able to bring my concerns directly to his attention. But when I did so, the bishop told me not to worry because he was handling these matters. He was not. Malone allowed a priest to remain an active pastor despite the Diocesan Review Board recommending that he be removed for a thorough assessment. Months later, the bishop's senior staff reviewed the allegations against this priest and recommended that he be removed from ministry altogether. In the face of these strong recommendations from two of his closest advisory bodies, Malone did absolutely nothing. It was inaction of this nature that eventually compelled me to act.
Former seminarian Parisi held two protest signs at the airport, one that read "We reject corrupt diocesan leadership" and another that read "Malone must go!"
In August, Parisi resigned as dean of seminarians at Christ the King Seminary, informing Malone in a letter: "My parents instilled in me a basic sense of faith and morals. I have come to the realization that the values and morals of this seminary and diocese do not correspond to my own."
Parisi ended his letter asking Malone to resign: "Bishop Malone, for the love of God and for the sake of the faithful of the Diocese of Buffalo, please step down!"
At that time, Parisi had told Catholics to stop donating to the diocese to reclaim their Church: "The only way for the Church to survive is for good and honest lay people to reclaim their Church, and the first step is to stop putting money in the collection basket."
WKBW investigative reporter Charlie Specht ― whose investigation in 2018 revealed various bishops, including Malone, permitted priests accused of sexual misconduct and abuse to remain in active ministry ― called Malone on Friday prior to his return home:
Specht: "Hi, Bishop Malone?"
Malone: "Yes …"
Specht: "Hi, this is Charlie Specht."
Malone: "Charlie, how are you?"
Specht: "Good, good. Hey, I just wanted to ask how your visit with the Pope went."
Malone: "Wonderful. Wonderful. That's all I can tell you. It is all I'll tell you because I don't know what you'll do with it ... is that it was a very fraternal and pastoral approach to all of us."
Specht: "We want to put on TV, whatever you have to say about it."
Malone: "Well, I'm not right now in a situation where I'm going to be talking about that because I'm involved with some other activities right now. But I saw...I saw a 716 on my phone during a break. So I thought I would take the call. That's all I'm going to do right now, Charlie, but thank you for the call."
Specht: "Okay, thank you."