Buffalo’s leading lay Catholic reform group called on Bishop Richard Malone to resign immediately on Thursday, citing what they called his inability to shepherd the diocese through its present crisis.

The Movement to Restore Trust (MRT) said members of the organization — which had once promised to work hand-in-hand with Malone — had made their decision with a “degree of humility and sadness.”

“We had embarked upon our work with the hope that we could be a catalyst for reform and the restoration of trust of the faithful in the diocese,” the statement said.

“While we have made some progress toward that goal by working with Bishop Malone and the Joint Implementation Team, recent events and disclosures have led us to conclude that the diocese is at a critical point and that further progress is not possible,” it said.

“We believe that continuing to press forward under these circumstances jeopardizes MRT’s comprehensive reform agenda and compromises our ability to be agents for positive change,” it continued.

The MRT was founded in 2018 as an independent group seeking to work with the diocese after revelations of its handling of clerical sexual abuse cases. Since its formation, the organization has produced a 68-page report outlining reform initiatives in the dioceses, including hosting listening sessions throughout the region with Malone.

Malone’s loss of the group’s support — at one time, his most critical ally among the Catholic laity — comes after release of secret recordings showing Malone trying to contain another public relations crisis in the diocese related to a love letter between his priest secretary and a former seminarian.

In the audio, Malone can be heard saying he fears that if the scandal is made public, it could force his resignation.

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As recently as Wednesday, Malone had insisted that he would not resign, insisting that he had the continued support of the laity.

“Our decision to ask Bishop Malone to resign was not made lightly and as we have pointed out in the past, the sex abuse scandal in the diocese dates back several decades, long before Bishop Malone arrived here,” said the MRT.

“But it is also true that he has not handled current cases properly and as a result, there is a substantial risk of harm to the diocese and the good works that the Church does in this region,” the group said.

The press release said the group would like the diocese to appoint a temporary priest administrator with no diocesan ties to begin the process of reform until a new bishop is appointed.

“We will be making our views known to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and metropolitan for the Ecclesiastical Province of New York, which includes all eight Catholic dioceses in the state, and to the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre,” the statement continues.

On Thursday, Crux confirmed that, to date, no official Vatican investigation by Dolan had commenced under the new norms for bishop accountability issued by Pope Francis in May and adopted by the U.S. Catholic Bishops in June.

“Our goal remains justice and healing for the victims of sex abuse and the restoration of trust in Christ’s Church. In order for our Church to move forward, and for the good of the diocese, the time has come for new leadership — leadership committed to openness, transparency, and co-responsibility with the laity,” the group said.

“We look forward to developing a rapport with the next spiritual leader of the Buffalo Diocese in order to get the process of reform back on track as soon as possible,” the statement concluded.

Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212 

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