Embattled Buffalo Bishop Withdraws From St. Patrick’s Day Parade

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by Bruce Walker  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 25, 2019   

After backlash over alleged sex abuse cover-up, Bp. Malone won't attend annual march

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BUFFALO, NY (ChurchMilitant.com) - One of the nation's largest St. Patrick’s Day parades will be absent one Roman Catholic bishop of Irish heritage this year. Bishop Richard Malone of the Buffalo, New York diocese will sit this year's celebration out after multiple sex abuse cover-up scandals over the past year.

Recently, a whistleblower close to him disclosed that he knew about and covered up criminal sexual conduct committed by multiple priests in the diocese. A subsequent petition collected more than 300 signatures from individuals opposed to Bp. Malone's participation in the parade, in addition to widespread calls for Bp. Malone's resignation.

Bishop Malone, with immense regret, has decided not to march in the Parade this year. 

The diocese released a statement over the weekend announcing Bp. Malone would skip the parade, but would conduct a Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral beforehand:

To prevent the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade from being used as a platform to address unrelated issues — however important those issues may be — Bishop Malone, with immense regret, has decided not to march in the Parade this year. The Bishop has chosen Father David Richards, Chaplain of the United Irish American Association, to march in his place as a representative of the diocese. The Parade is an event that honors Saint Patrick and the Irish Catholic heritage and celebrates the many contributions of the Irish people and their descendants to Western New York. It is not the proper forum for controversy.

The announcement was made Friday, in the midst of the Vatican's sex abuse summit, which critics claim was long on obfuscation and stonewalling of the press but short on substantive policy prescriptions and, according to Church Militant's Michael Voris, "a colossal waste of time." 


 

Bishop Malone has been under pressure to resign by many in his diocese. As noted by the petition:

Bishop Richard Malone has been disgraced over the past year after it was discovered he had been covering up the rampant sexual abuse of children at the hands of over 100 Buffalo priests. Several confidants of his resigned from the Diocese and 60 Minutes even ran a segment on the embattled Bishop. Thousands of Buffalo Catholics, including many of his own priests, have called for his resignation yet he refuses to resign, as well as publicly apologize. He, along with the Diocese, have denied settlements to dozens of victims brave enough to come forward and offered small ones to some that don't even begin to cover the decades of counseling bills that have added up. 

He has actively allowed priests to remain in ministry after multiple allegations have surfaced against them, even allowing Fr. Riter back into a church after a father had caught him molesting his son. 

Bishop Malone's actions have proven he cares more about his title and authority than he does for the hundreds and hundreds of children who were raped and molested by his priests. He is the exact opposite of everything a true Bishop should stand for and he has no right marching in a parade, let alone leading a church. 

As reported by local television affiliate WKBW, local politicians also called for Malone's withdrawal from the parade. For example, Buffalo city councilman Chris Scanlon stated, "I don't think he should be out there enjoying the Irish culture and Irish heritage and celebrating it." Pat Burke, a "recently elected assembly member," remarked of Malone's participation, "I don't think it's appropriate."

Bishop Malone has an extensive record of allegedly providing cover for sexually abusive priests in Buffalo as well as during his previous tenure as bishop of Portland in Maine. The issue gained national attention after Bp. Malone's former executive assistant, Siobhan O’Connor, released hundreds of pages of documents to local journalists, which subsequently became the subject of a lengthy segment on an October 2018 episode of CBS' "60 Minutes"; a three-part series on WKBW's Eyewitness News; and substantial Church Militant coverage.


 

story published last year reported that victims of clerical sex abuse demanded Bp. Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz resign and requested law enforcement conduct a criminal investigation of the Buffalo diocese. Since then, the New York attorney general has announced it is investigating sex abuse and cover-up in all state dioceses, including Buffalo.

According to the first of three video reports from WKBW, at least 65 priests in the diocese of Buffalo stood accused of sexual misconduct. After documents leaked from whistleblower O'Conner, that number went up significantly

In addition to the 42 priests named publicly by the diocese under Bp. Richard Malone, the diocese's own internal files list credible sex abuse allegations against another 64 priests — for a grand total of 106. There were also 11 accused priests whose names the diocese removed because the allegations were deemed not credible.

The names of those 64 priests were left out of Bp. Malone's statement for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Twenty-five of them were members of religious orders, 19 were deceased with only one alleged victim and another 20 accused priests were left off because they did not meet the diocese's narrowly defined conditions for disclosure — according to WKBW's investigative report published Wednesday.

The documents showed the diocese smuggled abusive priests between parishes for nearly five decades, "feigning surprise" whenever allegations of clerical sex abuse came to public light.

An October 2018 Church Militant report showed that Bp. Malone was "being edited out of videos aimed at preventing sex abuse." The videos were produced by VIRTUS, a Catholic organization that trains diocesan staff in child protection. Although Malone had appeared in such videos in the past, the controversy over his failure in protecting minors from abuse resulted in the diocese cutting him out of the videos.

The story reported on Fr. Art Smith, an accused priest for whom Malone offered a glowing letter of recommendation:

A series of investigative reports by an ABC affiliate in Buffalo, WBKW, as well as by Church Militant, have exposed Malone as a protector of homosexual predator priests. One of those priests is Fr. Art Smith, who was removed from ministry in 2012 by the former bishop of Buffalo, Bp. Edward Kmiec, owing to credible allegations of sex abuse of minors, but was reinstated to active ministry by Malone. Smith was again removed from ministry in April by Malone after allegations of sex abuse were reported. He is now on administrative leave.

The most egregious case was perhaps the reinstatement to active ministry of Fr. Dennis Riter, credibly accused of forcing a 6-year-old boy to perform oral sex. The aftermath of the abuse was reported in writing by a third-year seminarian of the diocese back in 1992. The victim, Anthony Ravarini, has gone public with the allegations, which were also witnessed by his legal guardians as the incident unfolded. There are three legal cases now pending against Riter, who also was removed from active ministry briefly, but reinstated in July 2018 after an internal investigation found the claims "not credible."

The most egregious case was perhaps the reinstatement to active ministry of Fr. Dennis Riter.

Evidence also reveals that Bp. Malone "failed at acting against sex abuse" in his previous assignment as bishop in Portland, Maine. Quoting John S. Brennan, a permanent deacon and former director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Portland diocese, in correspondence with WKBW, Bp. Malone knew that a parish priest, Fr. Paul E. Coughlin, allowed a known pederast to live with him in the rectory:

The man in question, John Skinner Sr., was indicted earlier that year for sexually abusing two teenage boys repeatedly between 1990 and 1994. Skinner met his victims by volunteering as an adult supervisor at a Catholic youth group in a different parish.

In July 2004, Skinner was indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury for sexual crimes, and his arraignment was scheduled for late August. It was early August when the diocese found out he was living with Fr. Coughlin at the rectory and removed Fr. Coughlinfrom active ministry.

The diocese found that Fr. Coughlin had a long-time association with Skinner and that, during the 90s, Skinner had introduced Fr. Coughlin to a 15-year-old boy he had raped but Coughlin failed to call police about it.

In a story in The Buffalo News last September and updated at the end of January 2019, reporter Jay Tokasz indicated Bp. Malone significantly increased security after the initial leaks became public.

In the aftermath of a leak of internal emails, memos and letters showing how Bishop Richard J. Malone handled sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior allegations against two priests, the diocese posted security guards at the doors to the headquarters, changed locks, set up a video camera and brought in a computer expert to install encryption software on email accounts and examine information systems for weaknesses that would enable security breaches, according to multiple sources connected to the diocese. Even priests who enter the building are required to wear an identification badge. ...

The leak followed six months of media scrutiny of the diocese's handling of clergy sexual abuse. The scandal erupted after retired Rev. Norbert Orsolits admitted [in a February 2018 article] to The Buffalo News that he had molested "probably dozens" of boys. The documents obtained by WKBW-TV helped show how Malone had allowed two priests accused of inappropriate conduct to remain in ministry, even as the bishop maintained publicly that he was not covering up for abusive priests.

 

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