By Anthony J. Ogorek
As recently as last Wednesday, Bishop Richard J. Malone said at a news conference that he hadn’t “taken a poll” of local Catholics, but he believed more of them want him to stay and continue leading the diocese through the crisis,” according to a story in The Buffalo News.
A distinction needs to be made between “leading the diocese through the crisis” and “dismantling the diocese through his intransigence and destructive leadership.”
Let us count the ways:
• Catholic Charities, the “drive that never fails” failed miserably this year, missing its goal by an estimated $1.5 million. People were reportedly withholding their contributions as a protest against Malone’s handling of the sex abuse crisis.
• The seminary, rather than being a training ground for future priests, has turned into a soap opera.
• Central office leadership has witnessed unprecedented turnover since the scandal broke.
• Collections are down at most parishes, even the strong ones, as people vote in protest with their wallets.
• Perhaps most damning, Mass attendance is down across the board – People are voting with their feet as a means to protest how the evolving revelations of malfeasance in the diocese are being handled.
I participated in the Movement to Restore Trust because I wanted to light a candle, rather than curse the darkness that has enveloped our diocese. I can now see that those efforts have been for naught.
The church is not a democracy, it is a monarchy. At ordination priests are required to pledge their obedience to the bishop. Asking priests for dissenting opinions in front of the person who has the power to assign them to the far reaches of the diocese is effectively burying dissent and claiming it as a vote of confidence. In fact, it is a sham.
It is time for the priests of this diocese to reclaim the moral authority that the church has represented over millennia. The Rev. Robert Zilliox of St. Mary’s Church in Swormville is circulating a no-confidence petition to be delivered to the chancery. While well-intentioned, this petition will likely not change the bishop’s mind. The church has its own legal system.
In order to effect change the College of Consultors as well as the Presbyteral Council, who are staffed by local priests and report directly to the bishop, need to make their opinions known. Now is the time for the church’s institutional voice to be heard.
The bishop needs to find out whether he has the support he believes he has, or whether the emperor has no clothes.
Anthony J. Ogorek, founder and CEO of Ogorek Wealth Management, is a member of St. Joseph University parish and a working group member in the Movement to Restore Trust.