A longstanding symbol of power and prestige in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo has been sold for $1.5 million, which will go toward paying childhood victims of clergy sex abuse.
A deal to sell the residence of Bishop Richard J. Malone at 77 Oakland Place closed Tuesday afternoon.
A diocese news release said the buyer was Carmel Oaks LLC, but didn’t identify a person connected with the sale.
The limited liability company is affiliated with Eric Stenclik, according to a search of public records. Stenclik co-owns another mansion at 94 Oakland Place, according to city property records. He did not return multiple calls seeking comment about the sale of 77 Oakland Place.
Diocese spokeswoman Kathy Spangler confirmed in early January that the diocese had a buyer for the bishop’s residence, but declined to comment further. The deal wasn’t official until Tuesday.
The diocese said in its news release that the mansion will continue to be used as a residence.
The Tudor manor house, on one of Buffalo’s most exclusive streets, had been home to Catholic bishops since 1952, when the diocese purchased it for $50,000. At one time it was the most valuable home in the city.
It has nine bedrooms and six bathrooms in 11,050 square feet of living space, four massive stone chimneys and a separate apartment above a five-car garage.
Malone, the sixth bishop to live in the house, announced last April that the diocese would put it on the market with the intent of using proceeds from the sale to shore up its resources as it compensates childhood victims of clergy sex abuse.
The diocese so far has offered more than $8 million in compensation to at least 50 victims.
Malone moved into a former convent at St. Stanislaus Church on Buffalo’s East Side last fall.
Some Catholics had urged bishops for years to sell the mansion, saying it was too much of a luxury to maintain at a time when parishes, schools and some Catholic missions were forced to close.
But the house was exempt from property taxes because of the diocese’s status as a religious organization and diocesan officials maintained that the home saved the expense of renting hotel, restaurant and conference room space for many events and visits.
Malone had lived in the house with his secretary and the diocesan chancellor. It was often used for fundraisers and to accommodate visiting bishops and other clergy.
Malone has said the sale would represent a small sacrifice on the part of the diocese to victims who have endured the trauma of being abused by a priest.
“We're going to need that money to help us pay for the IRCP. I don't want diocesan ministries and programs to have to suffer because of this. That's not fair to the programs or to the people of our diocese who've given money to support them,” Malone said in an interview with The Buffalo News last year, referring to the diocese's Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. “So I said I need to give up something, too. That's not my house. It's been the diocesan house for 66 years, so it's not mine. It doesn't belong to the bishop. We used it for all kinds of diocesan events. But I said you know, besides needing that money, which is all going to go towards the IRCP, also I need to be able to give something up that has been comfortable for me, as a sign that we're serious about this.”
The Tuesday closing was the second million-dollar property sale of the year for the Buffalo Diocese.
Mingo Junction Steel Works paid $1.3 million in February for the former Sheehan residence at Linwood Avenue and West Utica Street. The three-story historic mansion, a former church rectory, had housed retired priests since the 1970s. The proceeds from that sale went towards the Retired Diocesan Priests’ Medical Benefits Fund.
The new owners said they intend to convert the former Sheehan Residence into 10 to 12 luxury market-rate apartments.
A retired priest’s admission in 2018 that he had molested likely dozens of boys in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s led to the unraveling of decades of alleged clergy abuses in the Buffalo Diocese kept hidden for decades.
There are now accusations of abuse against more than 100 priests who served in the diocese, some of whom were still in active ministry and are now suspended; multiple calls for Malone to resign; a civil investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office; and a federal probe including a subpoena of diocese records and FBI agents interviewing victims of abuse.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in February signed into law the Child Victims Act, which will give childhood sex abuse victims a one-year look back window to file lawsuits against their abusers or the organizations that employed their abusers – even if the alleged abuse dates back decades.
The new law potentially could result in costly lawsuits against the Buffalo Diocese, in addition to compensation payments to victims.
News Staff Reporter Jonathan D. Epstein contributed to this report.
Story topics: Clergy sex cases