"I wish there was more I could do to help you!"
When last I wrote, I shared the greeting that I extended to the survivors who called Bishop Richard J. Malone's office earlier this year. Now I share with you the words with which I closed those haunting conversations. After hearing survivors’ accounts of the abuse they suffered and the trauma they are still enduring, I was overcome with the desire to assist them with more than a sympathetic ear and the promise of prayer.
By now you know that I eventually decided there was something I could do to help the survivors. While they were my primary motivation and inspiration, my love for my Church and my community played a significant role as well. I would eagerly lay down my life for Christ and His Church. My Catholic faith is the greatest gift my parents gave me after the gift of life itself. They also gave me the tremendous gift of being born and raised a Buffalonian. I am a proud and grateful member of our wonderful Western New York community.
While my love for the survivors, my Church and my community gave me the strength to do what I did, there was still a great deal of internal conflict to overcome. As I have stated publicly, I bear no ill will toward Bishop Malone and previously held him in the highest esteem as recently released emails indicate. Indeed, I still care about him and pray for him with a sincere heart. In many ways, I miss my rose-colored days at the Chancery when Bishop Malone and I worked together with ebullient ease and effortless efficiency.
Yet once those rosy glasses slid off my nose, there was no turning back. What I was witnessing boggled my mind, broke my heart and burdened my soul. My conscience felt as though it were in a vise that was tightening at an alarming rate. I began to experience insomnia, crying spells and even my first panic attack. Sitting incapacitated in a Wegmans parking lot in early July, I uttered a desperate prayer: "God, help me!"
The Lord answered my plea three weeks later when I met the tenacious reporter Charlie Specht from WKBW Channel 7 in a different parking lot. Since then, I have met other new friends – Rosa, Guy, Lucy, Bill, Anne and Rich to name a few – who, along with Charlie and Buffalo News reporter Jay Tokasz, have shown great respect for the Catholic Church and genuine concern for our diocese. They have worked extremely hard to bring the truth to light in an accurate and measured manner. All of them have my deepest gratitude.
Bishop Malone's episcopal motto is a beautiful one: "Live the Truth in Love." From the beginning of this tumultuous journey, I have been in service to God and to the truth. I have acted out of love for the survivors, my diocese, my community and my Church.
In his encyclical Charity in Truth, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI shared the following insights: "Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person ... Love is an extraordinary force, which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth. To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity." I beseech Bishop Malone to truly live out the motto that he sits below at the Cathedral, sees on his stationery and finds in various spots throughout his home. Be truthful with us, Bishop Malone. Put an end to this toxic secrecy and painful silence. And, if you love us, begin the process of allowing new episcopal leadership to come to our diocese.
The year 2018 has been an agonizing one for the Diocese of Buffalo. Clergy and laity alike have experienced tremendous turmoil. My heart especially breaks for our many wonderful priests and deacons, who have suffered deeply throughout these long months. I thank them for their faithful fortitude and commit myself to working with them to rebuild our local church with courage and charity. We know now that there is a tremendous need for reform within the Catholic Church not just at the local level but nationally and globally as well. I urge my fellow Catholics and our clergy to join in this fight for the soul of our beloved Church. It may seem an impossible task, but we know that God specializes in impossibilities.
Although my heart remains heavy, it is also filled with gratitude.
To God first and foremost for His love, guidance and peace; to the survivors, who are the only heroes in this story and whose courage inspires me to this day.
To my fellow Catholics for grappling with these disturbing truths and responding with great love and conviction
To Charlie – who was assisted by Jeff Wick – and the members of the media who have brought this truth to light and given voice to the survivors.
To the members of law enforcement who listened to all that I had to tell and answered my prayers for truly independent investigations.
To my fellow Buffalonians and Western New Yorkers, who are so dear to my heart and who deserved to know the truth.
To my family, friends and all those who have sent such heartfelt messages of support, which have been overwhelmingly beautiful to receive. Your love and prayers have sustained me more than you will ever know.
Faced with extraordinary circumstances, this very ordinary person found the strength to blow the whistle. Now I must take on the role that is most important to me – that of a faithful Catholic whose greatest desire is to assist with the reform and renewal of the Church she loves with all her heart.
May God – eternal love and absolute truth – help us.
Siobhan O'Connor is the former administrative assistant to Bishop Richard Malone. O'Connor was featured on "60 Minutes" as the source of clergy sex abuse documents leaked to a local television station.
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