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Brooklyn bishop finishes probe of Buffalo Diocese, will report to Vatican

The Brooklyn bishop directed by the Vatican to investigate Buffalo Diocese Bishop Richard J. Malone’s handling of a sex abuse scandal has wrapped up interviews in the Buffalo area with nearly 80 people.

The Brooklyn Diocese issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio concluded his Apostolic Visitation of the Buffalo Diocese.

DiMarzio made three trips to Western New York following the Oct. 3 announcement of the Vatican-ordered visitation. He spent seven days interviewing area clergy and lay people, mostly at an Amherst hotel.

Among the people interviewed were: members of the Priests Council; College of Consultors; Diocesan Finance Council; Diocesan Pastoral Council; territorial vicars; and senior priests. DiMarzio also spoke with representatives of outside groups such as the Movement to Restore Trust, college presidents and other interested parties, according to the statement.

DiMarzio will compile the information gleaned from his interviews and prepare a report that will be submitted to the Holy See.

The statement said no further information will be shared “at this time.”

DiMarzio first visited the area less than a week after the initial announcement from the office of Papal Nuncio Christophe Pierre.

Pierre was quoted earlier this month in a newspaper published by the Brooklyn Diocese as saying that Pope Francis asked DiMarzio to “examine what is really going on.”

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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.

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 has 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.

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