7 I-TEAM: Church records show more than 100 accused priests, not 42 as stated by Bishop Malone

 

Editor’s Note: This is Part Three of an ongoing investigation into Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone’s handling of sexually abusive priests. 

Read Part One Here
Read Part Two Here

 

When the Diocese of Buffalo in March released a list of 42 priests “who were removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor,”  Bishop Richard J. Malone billed it as a historic coming-clean of decades worth of secrets.

 

But new evidence obtained by 7 Eyewitness News from inside the diocese’s secret archives shows the true scope of abuse was much larger than Malone publicly let on -- with a total of 106 total priests on the original draft list of accused priests.

A second internal document shows that may be understating the problem.

That document — a database of diocesan employees “who have been accused of criminal, abusive or inappropriate behavior, or who have been the victims of such behavior” — reveals 324 names, mostly priests but also deacons, nuns and lay employees.

Diocesan officials, according to internal church records obtained by the I-Team, made a series of exceptions that excluded the majority of accused priests from the final list and resulted in a much lower number for the public to digest.

The exceptions also allowed Malone, who signed off on the final changes, to publicly state that no priest accused of sexual abuse was still in active ministry — even though in multiple cases, that was not true.

“This is a cowardly way of handling this, and the Catholic Church should not be in the same sentence as a cowardly organization, but they are,” said Barry N. Covert, a criminal defense attorney who represents one of the victims. “The Catholic Diocese is not being transparent. They are hiding, they are deflecting. They are preventing the public, their parishioners, law enforcement, from learning about potentially criminal conduct against children.”

The diocese’s draft abuse list included a total of 117 accused priests. Eleven priests were automatically eliminated from the list because the allegations against them were deemed not credible by the diocese.

But in addition to the 42 accused priests Malone identified in March, records show church leadership had full knowledge of— and failed to reveal to the public the identities of — the following accused priests:

  • 25 accused priests who were members of religious orders like the Jesuits, Franciscans and others.
  • Another 19 diocesan priests who were deceased and had been accused by “only” one victim.
  • An additional 20 accused priests who were kept off the list because they did not fit the diocese’s narrowly defined “categories” for disclosure.  

In some cases, priests were kept off the list because they were still in ministry or because the diocese had previously hidden the abuse from parishioners, documents show.

Counting these three categories, the list of accused priests in the Diocese of Buffalo would have totaled 106 priests. Bishop Malone’s list revealed the names of only 42.

‘We did not remove him...despite full knowledge’

Fr. Fabian Maryanski

Few cases are as glaring as that of Fr. Fabian Maryanski. 

Maryanski first met Stephanie McIntyre in 1984 when he was the pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Barker. 

McIntyre, in a letter she sent to Bishop Malone in April, said the priest abused her for seven years, beginning when she was 15 years old. 

“My abuser not only robbed me of my youthful innocence,” she wrote, “but he destroyed my family.”

McIntyre hired a lawyer and reported the abuse to the diocese in 1995 but said she “was not offered one iota of help to deal with the fallout from Fr. Maryanski’s actions.”

There was little fallout for Maryanski, 77, who first denied the allegations to The News but then admitted he had sex with McIntyre, saying she was not a minor at the time. Maryanski this week again denied the allegations to 7 Eyewitness News. In 1996, he was placed on leave but returned to ministry in 2000 and as recently as May, was saying Masses at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Clarence.

That all stopped when The Buffalo News published McIntyre’s account on May 6. Diocesan officials suspended Maryanski and Bishop Malone told Buffalo News reporter Jay Tokasz that he was not aware the allegation against Maryanski involved a minor, Tokasz said this week.

But diocesan records obtained by the I-Team show church lawyers informed Malone about the Maryanski case in a confidential, 300-page “black binder” of diocesan secrets that included stories of sex abuse, theft and other “pending matters” inherited by the bishop on Sept. 19, 2012.

That document includes a detailed description of the abuse allegations, including the fact that the victim said she was 15 years old when the abuse occurred. 

“What the heck was he doing at my parish?”

“Fr. Maryanski’s faculties were temporarily suspended and he was on leave from the Diocese,” the document, addressed to Malone from the Connors & Vilardo law firm, stated. “He has since been returned to ministry.”

Another document shows the diocese considered placing Maryanski on the list of 42 accused priests but concluded, “We did not remove him from ministry despite full knowledge of the case, and so including him on list might require explanation.”

Malone withheld Maryanski’s name from the list. 

He also allowed Maryanski to stay in ministry at Nativity in Clarence until The Buffalo News published its story in May.

“What the heck was he doing at my parish?” William Ogilvie, a parishioner at the church, said in an interview with 7 Eyewitness News. “Why did the bishop let him come to my parish and serve, and nonetheless a parish with a Catholic school? It makes no sense to me.”

Ogilvie was alarmed after reading the story about Maryanski since his 14-year-old daughter served as an altar server with the priest. He recalled Maryanski telling him recently his daughter was beautiful and he enjoyed when she served.

“I thanked him and shook his hand, thinking nothing sinister of it,” he wrote to the bishop. “I now recoil at the thought of what may have really been going through his mind during our conversation.”

Ogilvie said the bishop never responded to his letter.

But Maryanski wasn’t the only priest the diocese kept off the list for what Ogilvie considers questionable reasons.

‘He is still functioning as a pastor, and so should not be on list’

Diocesan officials kept another current priest off the list because he “credibly denied” the claims made by a woman that the priest made her sons parade around in their underwear.

But then they gave a more urgent reason for not disclosing the allegation to the public.

“He is still functioning as a pastor, and so should not be on [the] list.” 

Sources say this document was prepared by Sr. Regina Murphy, diocesan chancellor, and Lawlor F. Quinlan, a Buffalo attorney who works for the church. 

The pastor, in a phone interview, said he had no memory of the claims but remembered the family of the woman who made the claim. He said the family belonged to his church more than 40 years ago. 7 Eyewitness News is not naming the priest because we were not able to reach the woman who made the complaint to verify the information.

Another priest, Fr. Joseph Rappl, was accused of showing pornography to a 14-year-old. Rappl has since left the priesthood.

“He does not fit our categories, and so we would have to change them to include him,” officials wrote. 

In April, a former altar boy at St. Peter Catholic Church in Lewiston held a news conference, alleging Rappl molested him in the 1980s. 7 Eyewitness News discovered that Rappl, who is no longer a priest, was a counselor at Camp Turner, the diocesan youth camp. The diocese quickly removed him from the camp after 7 Eyewitness News aired its story.

“They never affirmatively disclose the abuse that occurred,” said Covert, McIntyre’s attorney. “It’s always going to be forced out into the public by some other entity, whether it’s the media [or] law enforcement.”

Secret database: 246 Buffalo priests

If the draft documents show the diocese misrepresented the true number of allegations against its priests, a secret diocesan database suggests that even the number of 106 accused priests may be a conservative estimate.

A summary of that database, titled “A Summary of the Confidential Files and Allegations as of 5/1/2017” spelled out how Sister Regina Murphy, who was then the diocesan archivist, summarized “all the confidential files recently inventoried.”

“A database has been created that lists all persons who have been accused of criminal, abusive, or inappropriate behavior, or who have been the victim of such behavior,” the introduction to the document states.

A church official confirmed the context of this database. The source said those offenses are not exclusively sexual and many do not appear to include violations against minors. The number of “charter” violations, or offense against minors, roughly matches the diocese’s working number from the first document.

The list includes:

  • 324 total names
  • 202 diocesan priests (including former priests)
  • 44 religious order priests
  • 61 lay persons, or non-ordained employees of the church
  • 7 deacons
  • 7 women religious
  • 3 people or institutions who fall into other categories

Memos between Sister Regina and Bishop Malone indicate she created a database last year while reorganizing priest files in locations at diocesan headquarters that were nicknamed the “Well” and the “Secret Archives.”

The memos stated that civil authorities should be granted full access to the files “only when a court order or subpoena has been properly served.”

"A database has been created that lists all persons who have been accused of criminal, abusive, or inappropriate behavior, or who have been the victim of such behavior"

“Due to the volume of some of the documentation related to court cases, there are materials temporarily stored in ‘the well’ pertaining to seven priests,” Sister Regina wrote to Malone in a memo dated May 3, 2017. “We are awaiting our lawyers’ confirmation that these materials can be shredded.”

When the clergy abuse scandal broke in February and Malone came under intense pressure to name abusive priests, a group of chancery officials that included Sister Regina and diocesan attorney Quinlan spent weeks narrowing down the list of accused priests, emails show, with final input from diocesan lawyer Terrence M. Connors.

“Right now, we need more time to prepare very carefully the list of names,” Bishop Malone wrote in a March 13 email to Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz and other top advisers. 

Stephanie McIntire (right) sent a letter to Bishop Malone in April, saying Fr. Fabian Maryanski (left) abused her for seven years, beginning when she was 15 years old.

Quinlan’s emails show the diocese came up with what he called a set of “carefully crafted criteria” for inclusion on the list. The final list only included priests “who were removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.” 

If a priest did not fit that criteria – for instance, if he was credibly accused of abuse, but was not removed from ministry, or if the allegation was reported to the diocese after he left the priesthood – his name was not added to the list. 

As pressure mounted on the bishop in March to release a list, diocesan spokesman George Richert emailed the bishop, saying a final list from Connors would be ready soon. 

‘That makes us look shady’

Randall D. White, an attorney in Connors’ firm, “thought it’s not a good idea to publicly say that ‘we need time to work on it,’” Richert wrote to the bishop. “He thinks that makes us look shady and that the public believes it should be simpler.”

Diocesan leaders in March told reporters the list of 42 priests was only a starting point and more names could be added when additional victims came forward to take part in the diocese’s settlement program. 

But when a former administrator at St. Teresa’s parish in South Buffalo called the diocese to inquire why two high-ranking priests were not on the list despite allegations he had previously heard or reported to the diocese, Quinlan urged Malone to remain firm.

“We need to stand strong on this list for now,” Quinlan wrote in a March 20 email. “This is probably the first of many complaints about the list’s not including every priest against whom we have ever received a complaint. 
We need to weather this storm for a while without changing our list.”

Malone said he agreed, and in another email, hinted that the list was perhaps not as complete as the diocese wanted the public to believe.

Thomas R. Beecher, a prominent Buffalo lawyer who sources say is one of the bishop’s key supporters – wrote a letter-to-the-editor in the March 12 edition of The Buffalo News titled, “Great majority of priests have never harmed a soul.”

“We need to stand strong on this list for now,” Quinlan wrote in a email.

He also referenced the claims of a victim advocate who suggested the true number of abusive priests could be double or triple the 19 that was being reported at the time. 

Beecher called those claims “unsubstantiated” and “speculation.”

“Great letter to the editor,” Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz wrote in an email.

Bishop Malone responded, “Except that we know there are more names than Tom and others would like to think.”

Diocese Response

“The Diocese is committed to bringing healing, support, and some measure of closure to survivors of priest abuse. It is in this spirit that we conducted an extensive, deliberate, and careful process of releasing the names of diocesan priests about whom we have received substantiated allegations of abuse, a standard of transparency to which we will continue to hold ourselves moving forward. However, because the issues you raise are currently the subjects of a civil investigation by the New York State Attorney General, providing further details, at this time, would be inappropriate.”

Additional Documents related to this investigation

Charlie Specht

Charlie Specht is the Chief Investigative Reporter for WKBW. 

I-Team Photojournalist Jeff Wick contributed to the images and video in this report.

Have a tip for the 7 I-Team? Email them at iteam@wkbw.com

You can read more I-Team investigations here