ALBANY – Bishop Richard J. Malone said Tuesday that it was important for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and for victims of clergy sexual abuse that he publicly identify 42 priests who have been accused of sexual misconduct involving children.
In an exclusive interview with The Buffalo News hours after he released the list of 42 priests, Malone said the diocese may struggle because of its new transparency, but it will be a good struggle.
"We've been working on this for months. Reviewing old cases and all of that. I have just become more and more convinced it was time to put those names out. The main reasons are really transparency. You've heard of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It calls us to transparency. I wanted that transparency to happen," he said. "We know if a sexual abuse victim sees the name in print of the abuser, sometimes that person might have been ashamed and hidden away. Seeing the name in print, acknowledged by the church, can liberate and empower that person to come forward. And we want them to come forward for help."
"I think the tendency decades ago was perhaps like a family. You don't want to hang out the dirty laundry. But clearly there was dirty laundry. I hate to use that metaphor for human beings. But I felt it was time to bring it into the light."
He noted that about 30 Catholic dioceses out of 197 in the U.S. have publicized the names of priests involved in sexual abuse allegations.
"The majority have not," he said.
Malone said he could not estimate how many children were molested by diocese priests and he did not know how much the diocese has spent to settle sexual abuse complaints.
"I have no idea what that figure is," he said, when asked about the total diocese funds and insurance funds spent to settle complaints. "The people in my finance office would know that but I do not."
He admitted the church, in the past, made mistakes by allowing some priests who had been accused of sexually abusing children to return to a parish after they had received psychological treatment.
"You know the custom in the past, when an allegation would come decades ago, they would typically send that priest to assessment at some institute that specializes in that. Sometimes the institute would recommend a follow up plan of therapy. Sometimes, and we see now this was a mistake, they would recommend to the bishop, he's OK, you can put him back in the ministry. We would never do that now."
"Pope John Paul II said there is no place in ministry for a person who would abuse the young," Malone said. "Zero tolerance is what we operate with."
Malone said the list of 42 priests does not include the names of accused priests who worked in diocese churches and schools, but belonged to religious orders.
"They do not come under my authority. A religious order priest, his authority is the provincial superior, let's say of the Franciscans or Jesuits or any religious order," Malone said. "When they come into the diocese, I have to give them the authority to say sacraments and the Mass. But their coming and going depends on the order. When we get an allegation of abuse by a religious order priests … whatever it is, we immediately offer that victim who called, that alleged victim, counseling and pastoral outreach. But all of the information goes from us to the religious order authorities. It's their responsibility to take it from there. They are not really my responsibility."
Listen to the interview:
He said diocese officials contacted the living priests on the list on Friday to alert them their names would be included on the list of priests involved in sexual misconduct with a minor.
He said the diocese is not releasing the addresses of the priests on the list.
"We're hoping that just seeing these names that will be widely spread by the media would be enough for people to recognize people in their own community. So and so is living down the street," he said.
Malone was in Albany on Tuesday with bishops from across New York lobbying on a number of issues, including opposition to expanded abortion rights as well as a provision in the proposed Child Victims Act to create a one year window where lawsuits could be brought by adults who were victims of sexual abuse as a child, no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred. The statute of limitations now bars many victims of clergy sexual abuse from suing their churches and their abusers. Malone, and the other bishops, favor increasing the statute of limitations for civil and criminal prospective filings of sexual abuse allegations, but oppose the temporary look-back period idea.