BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A media report is highlighting the work of a whistleblower in the diocese of Buffalo, New York, who provided hundreds of pages of internal documentation detailing Bp. Richard Malone's mishandling of the clergy sex abuse crisis in the diocese.
An ABC Nightline report aired Friday focused on the the abuse scandal in Buffalo, interviewing Siobhan O'Connor, Malone's former personal assistant, who was dissatisfied with all the missing names that should have been on the diocese's list and Malone's poor handling of the sex abuse crisis.
"I was seeing from the inside that there was a deplorable lack of transparency and I had to try to do what I could to bring the truth to light," said O'Connor.
O'Connor supplied Charlie Specht, the chief investigator for the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team who has been reporting on Bp. Malone since August 2018, with hundreds of pages of internal files that detailed cases of clergy sex abuse going back decades.
Among the documentation was a large binder containing all past and pending litigation. The binder would have been given to Malone when he assumed the role of local ordinary.
O'Connor thought this binder with sensitive information would be necessary for law enforcement.
"I felt that law enforcement particularly needed to have that information. I was worried that they [diocesan officials] would start to shred things once the stories came out," she said.
O'Connor had tried to talk with Malone twice prior to exposing his poor handling of the crisis.
"He was always very eager to placate me, to tell me not to worry about it because it wasn't my concern; that it wasn't my job ― don't get involved," she said, contradicting Malone's statement in the interview: "To tell you the truth, and this my recollection, there was never a time when she [O'Connor] said, 'Bishop, we need to sit down and really talk about this.'"
Prior to resigning, O'Connor also emailed Malone to outline her disappointment and concerns.
The interviewer handed a copy of that email to Malone.
"Yeah, yes, I recall this. But I am willing to admit that I didn't handle that properly, and I have learned ― believe me ― I have learned from it," he said.
Malone denied that his handling of the crisis was damage control or a cover-up.
"I don't believe it was damage control. I know that has been said often. And I say it wasn't a cover-up because every single case that has come in has gone to our diocesan review board," he said.
The diocesan review board cleared Fr. Dennis Riter, but based on its own investigation, Jeff Anderson & Associates tells a different story.
"The truth must be told and the truth is Riter is a serial offender, poses a risk and a danger to kids, he should not be in ministry, he should not be in the priesthood, he should be behind bars," said Jeff Anderson.
When asked, "Yesterday, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk, Fr. Riter was celebrating first Communion. Are you completely comfortable with that?" Malone responded: "I am because I have to rely upon the good people who are in place independent of me. Our review board is independent."
One recommendation is that the diocese hire more sex abuse investigators and that investigations be completed within 45 days.
The diocese responded positively to the report: "The MRT and the Diocese of Buffalo are committed to reviewing the recommendations through the Joint Implementation Team. This ongoing collaboration has already addressed some of the recommendations and we look forward to continuing this good work."
How that collaboration plays out remains to be seen.
In the meantime, Malone assured Nightline that there are no priests facing credible allegations in active ministry anymore.
"There is no priests with a substantiated [claims] — what you call 'credible allegation' ― of abuse of a minor in ministry in this diocese; I can testify to that honestly and 100%," said Malone.