ROME, December 4, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis today accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert J. Malone of Buffalo, amid allegations that he covered up sexual abuse perpetrated by priests in his diocese.
In a brief statement this morning, the Vatican also announced that Pope Francis has appointed Edward B. Scharfenberger, Bishop of Albany, as apostolic administrator of Buffalo until a permanent replacement is installed.
Today’s news confirms reports yesterday by Buffalo media outlets that Malone would step down on December 4. Vatican blogger Rocco Palmo of “Whispers in the Loggia” also wrote an extensive post on December 3, saying: “Dear Buffalo: It’s Over” – after year of crisis & torment for Western NY church, Whispers ops confirm that +Malone set to resign on Wednesday.”
Palmo said that four people had confirmed a report that he received on Sunday, saying it was “the first and most important outcome of October’s Apostolic Visitation of the Buffalo church.”
Hitherto, Malone has professed himself determined to remain Bishop of Buffalo until tendering his resignation on his 75th birthday. Kathy Spangler, the spokeswoman for the Diocese of Buffalo, had told the Buffalo News that she had “no comment” on the rumors published by Palmo. The Diocese of Albany told National Catholic Register: “There has been no announcement from the Holy See regarding the Diocese of Buffalo. Unless and until the Holy See makes an announcement, we cannot offer any comment.”
Siobhan O’Connor, Malone’s former secretary and diocesan whistleblower, told LifeSiteNews yesterday that the move would be “overdue.”
“While Bishop Malone’s resignation is long overdue, I will still be grateful for it,” O’Connor told LifeSiteNews.
“His continued presence within the Diocese of Buffalo has been a source of increasing frustration and distress for survivors and parishioners alike,” she continued.
“Bishop Malone’s departure from our diocese is the first, vital step toward the wholesale change that’s needed within our diocesan leadership. Until we know for certain, I continue to wait, hope and pray.”
The Diocese of Buffalo has been in the headlines since O’Connor photocopied and leaked documents to WKBW’s Charlie Specht last summer. Hundreds of pages showed that Bishop Malone had allowed priests accused of sexual assault to stay in ministry. It was not known that O’Connor was the diocesan insider until she gave an interview last October to “60 Minutes”. Following the publication of information in the documents, and O’Connor’s interview, there has been incessant pressure on Malone to resign.
Since then there have been other embarrassments to Malone, including the publication of secret recordings another diocesan secretary made of private conversations he and others had had with Bishop Malone. The discussions centered on allegations that a parish priest of the diocese had sexually harassed a seminarian. The now-former secretary, Fr. Ryszard Biernat, said that he had released the secret recordings because they implicate the bishop in covering up abuse of the seminarian by the parish priest.
“We are in a true crisis situation,” Malone told Biernat in the recorded conversation. “True crisis. And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop. It could force me to resign if in fact they make a story…”
Fr. Biernat also alleged that he himself had been assaulted by a Buffalo priest, Fr. Art Smith, soon after arriving in the United States as a seminarian. He also said that Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz told him that if he didn’t stop talking about the abuse, he would never be ordained to the priesthood. Fearing deportation, Biernat waited until he became an American citizen before speaking out.
Fr. Smith, who has been accused by others of sexual assault, has denied the allegations.
October’s Apostolic Visitation to Buffalo by Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was complicated when DiMarzio himself was accused of sexual abuse of a minor. DiMarzio has denied the allegations.