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Malone among several U.S. bishops under fire for abuse complaints

BALTIMORE – Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone is among several Catholic bishops gathered here this week who are under fire in their home dioceses or former dioceses over how they handled sexual misconduct complaints.

That list even includes Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop William E. Lori, the head of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which is hosting the USCCB’s fall assembly.

“The evidence is abundant. Some of the men at this meeting this week, themselves, while speaking about transparency have failed to be transparent, have failed to rescue victims,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of BishopAccountability.org, an advocacy group that since 2002 has chronicled cases of clergy sex abuse around the world.

Doyle specifically named Malone, who has resisted calls to resign by prominent Western New York Catholics.

The Buffalo Diocese has been roiling since late February with revelations of alleged sex abuse and cover-up that escalated in August with the leak of internal diocesan documents to a television station and again in October, when “60 Minutes” aired an episode that was highly critical of Malone’s handling of abuse claims.

But Doyle also said Malone has plenty of company among his brother bishops, and it’s one of the reasons bishops are reluctant to criticize each other on their records of handling abuse cases.

She mentioned current Syracuse Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, who served as chancellor and vicar general in the Buffalo Diocese prior to being appointed as a bishop in Ogdensburg.

“In Buffalo, he controlled the management of accused clergy for many, many years. He was the point man for former Bishop Henry Mansell, and he did nothing to take those abusers out of ministry, as we now know,” said Doyle.

Cunningham continues to refuse to identify the names of accused Syracuse Diocese priests, she said.

DiNardo, too, is under scrutiny in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston over complaints he didn’t investigate two reports of alleged sexual abuse lodged against the Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez. La Rosa-Lopez has denied the allegations, according to a statement from the archdiocese. The archdiocese also said it immediately referred the reports of alleged abuse to Child Protective Services.

DiNardo has become a leading spokesman for U.S. Catholic bishops on how they plan to hold each other more accountable in abuse cases, following a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August that showed bishops across the state had worked to keep abuses quiet, kept abusers in ministry and protected them from being prosecuted.

The two people who accused La Rosa-Lopez of abuse told the Houston Chronicle that DiNardo didn’t take them seriously, just a few weeks after the cardinal called for more transparency in handling abuse complaints.

As bishop of the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese, Lori – who is currently the head of the Archdiocese of Baltimore – allowed a monsignor to stay in ministry despite an allegation that he molested a teenage girl in the 1970s. The monsignor denied the claim, and the diocese settled a lawsuit in the case.

“Many of the bishops in here meeting are responsible for countenancing abuse, transferring abusers, not stepping up to the plate. They all ought to hand in their resignations and thereby put pressure on the pope to accept the resignations that ought to be accepted and to start an investigation into what has been happening over the decades in the American church,” said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org.

Other bishops in attendance accused of lacking transparency on abuse issues included:

  • Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh Diocese, one of several church administrators mentioned in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
  • Bishop R. Walker Nickless of the Sioux City, Iowa, diocese, who was forced to reveal in October that the diocese had taken faculties away from an admitted pedophile priest more than 30 years ago but didn’t tell anyone and transferred the priest to New Mexico. DiNardo preceded Nickless as Sioux City bishop and also knew about the Rev. Jerome Coyle, who admitted molesting 50 boys.

More than 250 bishops, meeting inside a waterfront hotel, were supposed to vote Tuesday on measures aimed at making themselves more accountable in abuse cases.

Those plans were scuttled when the Vatican told DiNardo to hold off on the voting until after a February meeting of bishops from around the world.

DiNardo described the Vatican move as “quizzical” but he also said it amounted to a bump in the road on the way to future reforms.

“We have not lessened any of our resolve for actions,” he said.

At Vatican's behest, bishops postpone votes on clergy abuse measures

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