New Bishop in Troubled Diocese

News: US News
by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  December 4, 2020   

Bp. Michael Fisher tapped for Buffalo

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The diocese of Buffalo is getting a new bishop while facing a lawsuit from the state attorney general.

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New York Attorney General Letitia James

It was announced Tuesday morning that Pope Francis has named Bp. Michael W. Fisher the next bishop of the Buffalo diocese. Bishop Fisher is currently an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese of Washington.

This comes after New York's attorney general filed suit against the Buffalo diocese and three bishops tied to it.

Attorney general Letitia James filed suit Nov. 23 against former Buffalo bishop Richard Malone, former auxiliary bishop Edward M. Grosz and acting diocesan administrator Bp. Edward B. Scharfenberger.

Lawsuit: Three Bishops Targeted

Scharfenberger was named apostolic administrator — a temporary post overseeing the diocese until a permanent bishop could be assigned — after Bp. Malone resigned in disgrace late last year. Malone's resignation came amid numerous allegations of sexual abuse cover-up in the diocese of Buffalo.

The pope accepted Bp. Grosz's resignation as auxiliary bishop in early March this year. Grosz has been accused of providing cover for the late Fr. Dennis Riter, who allegedly sexually abused multiple underage boys.

The attorney general's suit includes 25 case studies of how the Buffalo diocese mishandled sexual abuse allegations.

The attorney general's suit includes 25 case studies of how the Buffalo diocese mishandled sexual abuse allegations.

It states the diocese and the bishops failed to "seek or reasonably document the assessments of allegations by an advisory board established to assist the bishop's evaluation of sexual abuse claims."

 

Bishop Fisher is facing scrutiny for his ties to now-laicized ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a prolific homosexual abuser — as well as his connection to Cdl. Donald Wuerl, who on multiple occasions helped cover for sexual abuse.

Buffalo-based reporter Charlie Specht, on WKBW's investigative team, said Tuesday on Twitter, "Bishop Fisher's coat of arms on the Buffalo Diocese website also mentions both McCarrick (who has been defrocked) and Wuerl."

Specht drew attention to the explanation for Fisher's coat of arms provided on the Buffalo diocese's website, which states, "The colors are used also in the arms of James Cardinal Hickey and Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, under whom the bishop served as a priest."

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(L to R) Bp. Fisher Embracing Cdl. Wuerl

It also states, "The crosses here are red, to refer to the red cross on the tower in the arms of Cardinal Wuerl."

A Plagued Diocese

The Buffalo diocese has faced numerous scandals, including sexual abuse allegations against clergy.

In March 2018, the Buffalo diocese released a list of 42 priests who were removed from ministry, left ministry or retired after allegations they had sexually abused minors. The release of this list was done as a supposed act of transparency.

But the investigative team at WKBW revealed that the list was deceiving. The diocese's own internal documents show that they narrowed down the list of accused priests from 117 to 42.

In January this year, the Buffalo diocese, amid a slew of abuse lawsuits, filed for bankruptcy.

Eleven priests' names were removed because the allegations against them were deemed not credible, narrowing the list to 106. Additionally, 25 accused priests were members of religious orders. Nineteen accused priests got taken off the list because they are deceased with only one alleged victim. Another 20 priests were left off because they did not meet the diocese's narrowly defined conditions for disclosure.

Later in 2018, there were protests calling for Bp. Malone's resignation.

In January this year, the Buffalo diocese, amid a slew of abuse lawsuits, filed for bankruptcy.

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