Buffalo bishop hits back at abuse cover-up whistleblower, attacks accuser’s credibility
BUFFALO, New York, November 1, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A U.S. bishop who has been credibly accused by a former employee of the diocese of covering up for abusive priests is now turning to the media in an attempt to discredit the whistleblower.
Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo said he was "stunned and dismayed" in an Oct. 30 press release at comments made by his former secretary Siobhan O’Connor earlier this week on why she had leaked confidential diocesan documents showing that the bishop had allowed abusive priests to remain in ministry.
The bishop's press release stated that the whistleblower's remarks “directly contradict” remarks she made to him during her employ and afterwards. As evidence, the Buffalo diocese released fragments of O’Connor’s emails and a letter in which she expressed gratitude to, and admiration for, the bishop and her colleagues at the Catholic Center.
It was strange attempt to discredit the whistleblower, however, as O’Connor has never hidden her affection for her former employer and colleagues, including at the Tuesday press conference. She has also revealed her inner conflict over what she has called a “personal betrayal” of the bishop.
Her growing discomfort at the way Malone was handling the Buffalo clerical sexual abuse crisis led O’Connor to begin leaking documents to a journalist she believed respected both the victims and the Catholic Church. The documents made it clear that Malone had privileged the reputation and the financial assets of the Buffalo Diocese over the suffering of the victims. He had also hidden the fact that priests credibly accused of harassment or sexual abuse were still in active ministry.
Unhappy with the diocese’s response to the revelations, O’Connor left her job and was later revealed to be the whistleblower. This brought fresh scrutiny to the cover-up of clerical abuse allegations in Buffalo.
O’Connor responded to the bishop's press release in a statement to 7 Eyewitness News, pointing out that the bishop should be focusing on documents that covered-up for abusive priests, not on her emails.
"It is quite distressing to realize that the longest statement Bishop Malone has released so far is comprised of my emails to him and my Catholic Center colleagues," she wrote. "There are many things I could say in response to each specific email he referenced or included, but this isn't about me. This was never about me. This is about the survivors, our diocese, our community and our Church."
"The documents under discussion should not be my emails to Bishop Malone, but rather his letters of good standing for Father Art Smith. We should be talking about his praise and adulation for Father Robert Yetter — not any admiration I may have expressed to Bishop Malone. Instead of cutting and pasting my emails into a “statement,” the Bishop needs to explain why so many priests’ names were cut from the list of 42. Instead of engaging in these necessary discussions, the Bishop has opted for needless deflection. On this eve of All Saints, I am praying fervently for Bishop Malone and the diocese I love," she added.
Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute indicated on social media that the bishop’s response to O’Connor’s accusations makes Hichborn think Malone is a narcissist with “no concern for the victims of predatory priests.”
“Let’s see how this works ....,” he wrote on Facebook.
“1) Someone leaks documents proving that the bishop of Buffalo shuffled around predatory priests and then lied about it. 2) Said bishop refuses to comment on the leaked documents. 3) The leaker goes public with her story. 4) The bishop THEN releases portions of emails the leaker sent him that praise him,” he continued.
“This is the action of a narcissist who has no care or concern for the victims of predatory priests he has been protecting.”
Hichborn's line of thinking was also expressed by many on Twitter who were responding to the bishop's press release.
This is supposed to somehow deflect from the fact that you buried our truths in the darkness of a cleaning closet, Malone? Are you kidding me?— Stephanie McIntyre (@BluefireV1) October 31, 2018
I am stunned at the ignorance of this release. Why would O'Connor not have conflicting feelings? Even a battered spouse can feel love toward their abuser. This is as tacky as it is shameful. The wheels are coming off, for certain. The #buffalodiocese needs to get a grip!— Amy Giachetti (@GiachettiAmy) October 31, 2018
It still doesn't change the fact that he needs to resign.— Joan Turri (@JoanTurri) October 31, 2018
'I still care about you, Bishop Malone'
Describing what it was like to work with Bishop Malone knowing that documents she leaked to the press would appear in the news the next day, O’Connor said she felt “like I was the enemy.”
“That’s what’s so conflicting about this,” she said. “I love my Church. I love my diocese. I love my bishop. It’s been this personal betrayal...I can’t shy away from that.”
“I really devoted my life to working for Bishop Malone…,” she told reporters as they stood outside the building housing the Catholic Center. “I love the people who work in that building.”
“And Patrick,” she said, addressing a former colleague who had come out of that building to be with her, “if you could just tell them that I still love them, and I’m sorry that I brought difficulty upon that building because I know what those dark days are like.”
O’Connor also had a message for the former employer who would release her emails to underscore her praise of him:
“I still care about you, Bishop Malone. That’s the hard part,” she said. “It would actually be easier if I didn’t care.”
Her inner struggle was obvious even when she called for Malone’s resignation, saying:
“Unfortunately, I believe that his credibility has eroded to such an extent that I don’t believe that he can continue to lead us in this diocese. That’s extremely painful to say. That’s very surreal to say. But I simply don’t believe that he can continue like this, especially with the statements that are coming out.”
“I just would hope that he would have the strength to do the right thing,” she added. “That’s going to be so painful for him, and I’m sure he probably hates me, but I don’t hate him. I just wish he could do what’s right for our diocese.”
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