NEW YORK — Buffalo’s embattled Bishop Richard Malone said he would be “very open” to a Vatican review of the diocese to “let all the truth come out” as he faces yet another week of scrutiny over his handling of the clergy abuse crisis.
Malone, who has resisted calls among priests, seminarians, and the most prominent lay reform group in the diocese to step down over the past year, once again said he would not resign.
The interview took place on WBEN, a local Buffalo station, with hosts Tom Bauerle and David Bellavia, on Thursday afternoon.
In recent weeks there has been speculation that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York would initiate an investigation into Malone based on the new Vatican guidelines issued last May pertaining to bishop accountability.
A spokesman for Dolan has said that the cardinal is consulting widely over the matter.
On Thursday, Malone said that every few weeks the bishops of the 8 dioceses within the state have regularly scheduled conference calls to discuss claims against the Church that have been filed under the Child Victims Act, which took effect last month and lifts the statute of limitations for a yearlong period for abuse claims against the Church and other institutions.
Malone added that he and Dolan also discuss his “situation” in Buffalo.
He said that while he has not had any direct contact with officials from the Holy See, he has been told that they are receiving “information and communication” which he said he assumed was related to “both sides.”
Malone said that the diocese currently has 138 abuse lawsuits since the “look back” window took effect last month. He said that his advisors estimate a total of 250-275 will be filed and that the diocese is still in “very serious discernment” over whether the diocese will file for bankruptcy.
The bishop also addressed allegations that his former priest secretary, Father Ryszard Biernat, engaged in a longtime relationship with Matthew Bojanowski, a former diocesan seminarian. Despite the publication of correspondence between Biernat and Bojanowki that appears romantic in nature, Malone once more said that he has no reason not to believe the relationship to be platonic.
The bishop also announced that next week the diocese would release new policies for handling abuse related cases against adults at the hands of priests, seminarians, and bishops.
Earlier this week the Buffalo News reported that 86 percent of residents of the diocese would like for him to resign. While Malone acknowledged the poll, he said he continues to receive letters from priests and other Catholics in the diocese offering him encouragement to stay on board until his mandated retirement at age 75.
The 73-year-old bishop acknowledged that by some accounts, weekly collections are down by up to 13 percent among parishes in the diocese and that “many” parishes are facing a decline in Mass attendance.
When asked if priests who had signed an open letter calling for his resignation would face retribution, he said they would not.
Malone said he believed the current crisis in the diocese is a result of the “participation of the evil one.”
“I know the evil one is real. I think that’s part of what’s going on here too,” he said. “That doesn’t take away people’s free will, but it can influence it.”
Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212
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