CHEEKTOWAGA, New York — Embattled Bishop Richard Malone added 36 names Monday to a public list of priests with substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a child, bringing the number to 78, and described a “tsunami” of victims who came forward following the creation of a program to compensate victims.
Addressing criticism over his handling of clergy abuse complaints, Malone acknowledged that some priests in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo have joined in calls for his resignation, but said stepping down wouldn’t necessarily help.
“I know that there may not be a high level of trust right now, but I do believe that working with others who continue to believe in me, we can steer through this storm into a calm sea,” Malone told reporters following a meeting with priests. Two priests at the meeting asked for his resignation, he said.
Outside Infant of Prague church in suburban Cheektowaga, where the meeting took place, a handful of people carried signs calling for Malone’s resignation and told priests entering the church they were praying for them.
“The secrets have gone on for far too long,” said Mary Ellen Sanfilippo, who attends St. Mary’s in Swormville, where a priest resigned over the summer amid allegations of misconduct involving a young man. “This has been like an explosion to the people and to our faith.”
Pressure on Malone has intensified in recent weeks following revelations that his former executive assistant, Siobhan O’Connor, secretly copied and leaked internal emails to reporters after becoming concerned that Malone had left accused priests in ministry and purposely excluded others from the list of 42 names he made public in March.
Malone has acknowledged making mistakes handling cases involving adult complainants, including recommending one for a job as a cruise ship chaplain, but said he never knowingly allowed a priest accused of child abuse to remain in ministry.
The establishment of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program in March, he said, added to a flood of new complaints.
“We asked the victims to come forward. They have, and the numbers were overwhelming,” Malone said. “I think the image, the word tsunami is not inappropriate.”
The diocese received 191 new complaints in the past year, compared with seven complaints the previous year and four the year before, Lawlor Quinlan, an attorney for the diocese, said. Virtually all of them involve allegations from the 1950s through the 1980s, and none allege abuse from 2000 on, he said. No priest ordained in the past 20 years has been accused, Quinlan said.
The revised priest list released Monday includes priests from other religious orders, which had previously been excluded. Diocesan officials said they would not name an additional 66 dead priests who were the subject of a single complaint.
The diocese is cooperating with state and federal investigations into clergy abuse, attorney Terrence Connors said.