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BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A retired New York prelate accused of racketeering is dead.
Edward U. Kmiec died Saturday night at the age of 84. The head of the Buffalo diocese from 2004–2012, Kmiec was named in a 2019 lawsuit alleging he and other diocesan officials covered up clerical sex abuse.
Buffalo-area attorney Kevin Stocker named Kmiec in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) suit for his part in moving more than $90 million in assets to protect church holdings from clergy sex-abuse claims.
Also named in the RICO suit are former Bp. Richard Malone, the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus and Christ the King Seminary, and various diocesan priests, parishes and high schools.
Malone resigned in December 2019 after months of pressure from priests and laypeople. The former bishop was immersed in scandals, including having a secret list of abusive priests in the diocese.
Enacted in 1970 to fight organized crime, Stocker at the time told Church Militant "the number of priests involved, the extent of the cover-up and the transferring around to unsuspecting parishes and parents," undoubtedly renders the Church susceptible to a RICO suit.
The lawsuit cites "harassing, threatening, extorting and misleading victims of sexual abuse committed by priests" and of "misleading priests' victims and the media to prevent reporting or disclosure of sexual misconduct."
"When you take a step back and look at all the dioceses in this country, all the priests and all the victims involved — and then also worldwide — it's a problem," Stocker said. "It comes across to me as an organization that has criminal activity and is making money based on that activity. This is the RICO definition."
"If you look at the structure of the Church, money flows from the parishes — from the ground level — up to the bishops, up to the cardinals, up to the Pope. It's structured similarly," Stocker continued. "As a Catholic, whose kids go to Catholic schools, I hate to even make that analogy, but I dare somebody to tell me I'm wrong."
Stocker went on to discuss financial irregularities as part of the RICO suit.
"It appears that they've been committing fraud and steering money out of the Church and into subsidiaries in terms of hiding their true financial assets," he said.
"Again, they want to say they're transparent," Stocker said. "It's a tough message to listen to — that they want to be transparent and move on. I don't know how anybody can believe the organization anymore. It saddens me to even say that."
Pope Francis named Bp. Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany apostolic administrator of the Buffalo diocese when Malone resigned.
At the time of his appointment, Scharfenberger said he understood Catholics in Buffalo had been "suffering quite a bit in recent months and years." He vowed to treat victims of clerical sex abuse "with respect" and with "openness of conversation, particularly with those who are suffering the most."
"We can't be afraid of reality," he added. "We have to look at things with sober eyes and look at the damage that was done."
Regarding the death of Kmiec, Scharfenberger said in a statement, "We commend to our loving and merciful Lord the devoted soul of our brother, Bp. Edward Kmiec." Scharfenberger elaborated:
He served long and faithfully the Church which he loved greatly as a priest and bishop, and as one whose kindness, warm and pastoral spirit guided, comforted and revealed Christ to so many throughout his nearly 60 years of priesthood. We mourn his passing, but are also joyous in the sure knowledge that he is now with the One who motivated his life's purpose and who has called this good and faithful servant home.
Kmiec was ordained to the episcopacy in 1982 and served as an auxiliary bishop in the diocese of Trenton, New Jersey. In 1992, he became the bishop of Nashville, Tennessee.
In 2004, Kmiec became the 13th local ordinary of Buffalo, where he retired in 2012.