Weekly Feature



2018-11-07 / Front Page

Two Clarence priests investigated for abuse as Bishop Malone dismisses resignation calls

by ETHAN POWERS
Editor

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo held a press conference on Monday at Infant of Prague Parish in Cheektowaga as Bishop Richard J. Malone and church officials provided an update to the public on the ongoing abuse crisis. Left photo: Malone speaks to reporters.The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo held a press conference on Monday at Infant of Prague Parish in Cheektowaga as Bishop Richard J. Malone and church officials provided an update to the public on the ongoing abuse crisis. Left photo: Malone speaks to reporters.
The total number of priests within the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo with substantiated claims of abuse against minors is 176. Sixty-six are associated with a single allegation and are now deceased, while 20 of those priests are currently under investigation.

Those are the numbers offered by Bishop Richard J. Malone and other diocesan officials at a press conference held Monday at Infant of Prague Church in Cheektowaga.

The event was held just a day after Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Clarence saw its pastor, the Rev. Ronald P. Sajdak, and his predecessor, Monsignor Frederick D. Leising, both suspended from ministry while an investigation is conducted into claims regarding them.

Peg O’Connor, left, Jacob Kamholz and James Arlotta protest outside during the event. Photos by Jim Smerecak Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.comPeg O’Connor, left, Jacob Kamholz and James Arlotta protest outside during the event. Photos by Jim Smerecak Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com
The accusation against Rev. Sajdak relates to an alleged incident that took place prior to him being ordained by the Buffalo Diocese in 1996.

“We all just found out on Saturday afternoon, right before all of the Masses, and spent yesterday announcing at all four Masses,” wrote Amy Vossen Vukelic, pastoral associate for Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, in an email to The Clarence Bee. “[We’re] spending the next two days as a staff trying to find a way to communicate to [the] larger parish community.”

As the Diocese of Buffalo attempts to navigate the increasingly tumultuous abuse crisis, calls have risen for the resignation of Bishop Malone as abuse victims continue to come forward.

In September, the bishop sent a letter to area churches and their parishioners titled “Message to the Faithful.” In it, he called for unity within the church community and committed to resisting resignation calls.

“Many of the criticisms of the leadership are justified. Many of you have voiced your opinions, directly or indirectly,” he wrote. “Pointing to my own failures and errors in judgment, some have called for my resignation. As I have prayerfully considered all of this, I am convinced that I must continue to lead our diocese forward as your bishop and face this crisis together with clergy, religious and laity.”

Bishop Malone pointed toward changes that the church has made in the wake of the crisis, noting that the diocese is working to establish a new task force to recommend better methods for honoring adult survivors “in a manner consistent with our clearly defined protections on behalf of children.” He also detailed an Office of Professional Responsibility, “whose mission will be to review our Code of Conduct, strengthen it wherever necessary and enforce it.”

Additionally, Bishop Malone indicated his support of the establishment of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which provides monetary settlements to individuals who were sexually abused by a priest as a minor.

His pointed message in the September letter clashed with the meandering, sometimes derivative press conference, which featured five speakers, began nearly an hour late and then lasted for roughly two hours.

Bishop Malone said Monday that a “tsunami of victims” has come forward in recent months, which has overloaded the diocese’s staff and systems, and that the diocese is working to address all claims filed against priests.

“Finding the truth can be difficult in these cases. There have been priests that have been placed on administrative leave, and I would like to resolve those cases as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that priests being placed on administrative leave does not indicate they are guilty. “I know there might not be a high level of trust right now, but we can steer from this storm into a calm sea.”

The diocese released a list on Monday of 36 priests with substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor. The list is in addition to the list of 42 priests with abuse allegations that was released in March.

According to Sister Regina Murphy, diocesan chancellor, no priest ordained in the last 20 years has had an abuse allegation lobbied against him.

The bishop frequently dismissed claims that he should resign, telling reporters that “resignation can exacerbate instability” and that the ongoing crisis requires stability.

Despite two priests within his own diocese that have called for Bishop Malone’s resignation, his rhetoric at Monday’s press conference echoed the sentiment he expressed to parishioners in his September letter.

“Leaving this diocese in the middle of this daunting challenge would probably be easier for me personally, but I intend to meet it in the best way I can for the next few years, until my retirement in 2021 is accepted by the Holy Father.”

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