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Brooklyn bishop investigating Buffalo Diocese interviewed dozens of clergy, lay people

The Brooklyn bishop investigating the Buffalo Diocese and Bishop Richard J. Malone interviewed more than 30 people in a visit to Western New York this week.

The Diocese of Brooklyn released a statement Thursday afternoon stating that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio “is determined to continue the fact-finding mission he has been directed to carry out by the Holy See.”

“Both lay faithful and clergy, members of the diocesan staff, and others have been invited to be a part of this process so that Bishop DiMarzio can gather information from several perspectives as part of this fact-finding mission of the Buffalo Diocese,” the statement reads.

DiMarzio was in town as part of an “apostolic visitation” announced last week in statements from the Buffalo and Brooklyn dioceses and from the office of U.S. Papal Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the pope’s ambassador to the U.S.

The statement from the Brooklyn diocese said DiMarzio plans to return to Western New York for additional meetings later this month.

Pierre on Monday told The Tablet, a newspaper published by the Brooklyn Diocese, that DiMarzio was selected for the investigation because the Vatican trusts him.

“The Holy Father said, ‘We need to do a total investigation to go to the roots of the problem,’ and Bishop DiMarzio, because of who he is, was given this task,” Pierre was quoted as saying. “Certainly, it is a sign of trust toward Bishop DiMarzio.”

Pierre also was quoted as saying that the pope asked DiMarzio to “examine what is really going on.”

DiMarzio, 75, has been Brooklyn bishop since 2003. He is being assisted by the Rev. Steven Aguggia, judicial vicar of the Brooklyn Diocese.

The Buffalo Diocese has been in crisis for more than a year and a half, since the retired Rev. Norbert F. Orsolits admitted to The News that he had molested “probably dozens” of boys from the 1960s through the 1980s. The admission led to revelations of cover-ups of clergy sex abuse from decades ago that resulted in $17.5 million in settlement payments to 106 childhood sex abuse victims, a civil investigation by the state Attorney General's Office, an FBI probe including a subpoena of diocese records and more than 165 lawsuits filed against the diocese under the Child Victims Act.

Buffalo Diocese facing more Child Victims Act suits than any other defendant in NY

Nearly all of the cases of alleged child sexual abuse by priests occurred decades before Malone arrived in Buffalo in 2012, and there is no evidence showing he actively covered up new allegations of child abuse against a priest. But Malone has been accused of ignoring complaints about priests misbehaving with adults and of allowing a priest who had made inappropriate comments on Facebook to an eighth-grade boy to return to "limited ministry."

Calls for Malone’s resignation intensified following the release in September of private audio recordings that suggest the bishop tried to keep a lid on an alleged sexual harassment by a priest of an adult seminarian and on another priest’s love letter to the seminarian.

A lay group of prominent Catholics called the Movement to Restore Trust pulled its support of Malone and urged him to step down immediately. A subsequent Buffalo News poll found that only 3% of 473 Catholics and lapsed Catholics surveyed wanted him to stay on as bishop.

Malone repeatedly has said he plans to continue as bishop until he’s required to submit his resignation when he turns 75 in 2021.

A year later: More than 100 Buffalo priests linked to sex allegations

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