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Bishop strikes back at ex-secretary, releases emails

Buffalo Diocese Bishop Richard J. Malone struck back against his former secretary, releasing a series of emails she sent praising him before she leaked confidential church records about clergy sexual abuse complaints to a TV station and called for him to resign.

In a statement issued just before midnight Tuesday, Malone's spokeswoman said the bishop "is stunned and dismayed" at critical comments that Siobhan O'Connor made during her news conference Tuesday outside the diocese headquarters.

"Her comments directly contradict her comments to him while she worked at the Chancery and even after she left," Malone's spokeswoman Kathy Spangler wrote. "In fact, her prior written communications to the bishop demonstrate her complete admiration for the bishop and his efforts to lead the diocese. Her comments now are plainly and embarrassingly contradictory."

The bishop's response quoted an Aug. 21 email that O'Connor sent on her last day working as his administrative assistant:

“I’ve missed you and everyone at the Catholic Center very much! … Please know that I would always be willing to come back and assist in any way … I will always be deeply grateful to have worked with you Bishop … In truly countless ways you have inspired and edified me. I am the better for having known and worked with you … May Our Lord richly bless you for all that you do for Him and for His Church!”

The chancery of the Buffalo Diocese. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

The next day, WKBW-TV broadcast a story based on diocese records that O'Connor had secretly provided to a reporter that showed that Malone had allowed the Rev. Art Smith to return to a ministry in 2012 as chaplain of the Brothers of Mercy nursing home in Clarence despite a Hamburg elementary school principal's warning the prior year that Smith had been acting inappropriately with an eighth-grade boy, grooming him for a sexual relationship.

O'Connor, who accused Malone of helping cover up clergy abuses Sunday on "60 Minutes," said Tuesday at her news conference that she has also provided confidential clergy abuse records to the FBI, which is investigating the Buffalo Diocese.

O'Connor said at her news conference that it was awkward saying goodbye to Malone and her co-workers because she had been secretly providing WKBW reporter Charlie Specht with the clergy abuse records and knew he planned to broadcast a story the next day.

On Wednesday, O'Connor responded to Malone in a statement issued by her attorney Mitchell Garabedian of Boston.

“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. 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. Rather than engaging in these necessary discussions, the Bishop has opted for needless deflection."

O'Connor was referring to a list of 42 priests whom the diocese said have been credibly accused of molesting children. Malone issued the list in March.

She has alleged that the bishop did not include on the list the names of many priests, like Smith and Yetter, who had been accused of inappropriate conduct.

The bishop also made public an email O'Connor sent several weeks before her last day as Malone's secretary, when she thanked many of her co-workers for good experiences working with them.

She wrote, “I must thank Bishop Malone without whom none of my Catholic Center experiences would have been possible! Bishop – it has been a privilege to work by your side as you shepherd our diocese."

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Bishop Malone disputed the claim on “60 Minutes” that eight or nine priests were still working following sexual abuse accusations against them. He said the diocese is unaware of any who are still active.

Malone wrote: “We are asking that those who made these claims or anyone who has a claim of a priest still actively working in our diocese to contact Jackie Joy, our victims assistance coordinator, so that appropriate actions can be taken, including immediately removing them from ministry.”

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