A Buffalo Diocese priest and high-ranking administrator whose name emerged last week in a confidential diocese document of cases of alleged misconduct was accused of mishandling an alleged abuse case involving a Boy Scout leader – not of sexually abusing anyone.
Diocese attorney Lawlor F. Quinlan III declined to specify what prompted the inclusion of Monsignor Albert Rung on a June 27, 2018, agenda of the Diocesan Review Board along with about 100 other priests, most of whom the diocese has publicly identified as abusers.
But Robert Rung, the monsignor’s great-nephew, said Quinlan told him that Rung’s name surfaced in a complaint alleging that the monsignor didn’t do enough to address an abuse accusation against a scoutmaster.
“He said there were no accusations naming Monsignor Rung for any sexual impropriety at all,” said Robert Rung, whose grandfather was the monsignor’s brother. As for whether Monsignor Rung more than 50 years ago overlooked a case of alleged abuse when he served as vicar general for the diocese, Robert Rung said Quinlan did not have an answer.
“He said there was nothing substantiated,” said Rung.
In a statement to The Buffalo News, Quinlan confirmed that the diocese received no complaints of abuse against Monsignor Rung.
“The diocese would not be mentioning Msgr. Rung or anything about the complaint lodged against him nearly 50 years after he died if it were not for the publicity he unfortunately has received recently,” said Quinlan. “Because of those circumstances, the diocese will confirm only that the complaint received did not involve a claim that Msgr. Rung abused anyone, and the diocese has never received a complaint that he did.”
The review board primarily examines cases of alleged child sex abuse, although diocese officials sometimes ask the board to give recommendations in cases involving other kinds of misconduct or impropriety.
Bishop Richard J. Malone has publicly identified most of the priests on the June agenda as having been credibly accused of sexual abusing children. But the bishop has been silent on 27 of the priests listed on the agenda in connection with some type of complaint, including Rung.
The agenda was leaked to WKBW-TV, which ran a report connecting at least 13 of the priests to complaints involving sex abuse of minors and questioning why Malone hadn’t included the priests on a diocese list of clergy with substantiated claims of abuse. The diocese declined to clarify to WKBW-TV which of the 27 priests were the subject of sex abuse accusations and which were not, other than to say several were not accused of abuse. Quinlan told The News last week that the diocese received no complaint of abuse about another priest whose name appeared on the agenda, the Rev. Carlton J. Westfield. But Quinlan declined to discuss details about why other priests' names were on the agenda.
Robert Rung said his great-uncle’s name has been unfairly tarnished by the link to abusive priests.
“This man was held to the highest esteem in our family. I was floored when I saw that,” said Robert Rung, who is trying to clear the monsignor’s name. “If anything, it was a clerical issue. His name should not be there.”
Malone’s unwillingness to release the names of all accused clergy has come under fire. While Malone acknowledged in November that 176 priests in the Buffalo diocese were accused of abuse, he’s released the names of just 80 of those priests. Many of the unnamed priests are deceased, and Malone has maintained that it is unfair to identify them as abusers unless they had more than one abuse allegation against them.
The emergence of the names of an additional 27 priests in the review board agenda ignited more criticism of the bishop’s handling of abuse claims.
The bishop said in a lengthy statement that the names are not publicized if the diocese investigates the claim and determines it was unsubstantiated or if the diocese can’t thoroughly investigate a claim because the priest is dead. He also maintained the Buffalo Diocese’s list of abusive priests is more comprehensive than that of other dioceses.
In his role as vicar general, Rung assisted the bishop in the administration of the diocese and acted in his place when the bishop and auxiliary bishops were absent. Rung also served as pastor of St. Joseph University Church and was author of four books. He died in 1971 at age 86.
"He was a stickler for what's right and wrong," said Robert Rung.