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As Fr. Yetter resigns, critics say Bishop Malone is deflecting

Bishop compared to Cardinal Bernard Law
Posted: 7:15 PM, Aug 27, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-27 19:25:19-04

Bishop Richard J. Malone -- refusing Sunday to take questions from reporters -- dismissed calls to resign over his handling of sexual abuse allegations against two priests, as revealed by a 7 Eyewitness News I-Team investigation.

Malone spent much of his brief news conference promising new procedures for dealing with claims of sexual abuse of adult parishioners, like the claims brought forth against Father Robert Yetter. 

(Internal church documents show Bishop Malone allowed Yetter to remain pastor of St. Mary's of Swormville despite at least two allegations of sexual advances toward young men, and Yetter resigned Monday after an allegation of abuse of a minor was reported to the diocese).

“All of God's children deserve the same protection against sexual harassment or contact, including adults,” Malone said. “We can do better. We will do better.”

But critics say Malone is side-stepping the most serious allegations revealed in Part 1 of the I-Team investigation -- that the bishop re-assigned Father Art Smith to multiple positions despite allegations of inappropriate conduct with an eighth grade boy.

He would later give Father Smith a recommendation to serve as a chaplain on a cruise ship, saying he was “unaware of anything in his background which would render him unsuitable to work with minor children.”

“He talked yesterday about, ‘They failed when it came to the interactions with adults,’ but when it came to the issues with the abuse of children, they followed the letter of the law of their charter,” said Buffalo Common Councilman Christopher P. Scanlon. “In my estimation, then your charter's wrong and as the spiritual leader of the Catholic diocese and as an adult, you should know better and he should have done better.”

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents dozens of abuse victims in Buffalo, said the bishop may be avoiding the issue of Father Smith because it's the most damaging to his future.

“Bishop Malone has a serious credibility problem because of the way he's handled previous investigations of clergy sexual abuse of children,” Garabedian said. “He should do the right thing and resign.”

Garabedian, who was portrayed in the movie “Spotlight” as helping to uncover the abuse crisis in Boston 15 years ago, sees parallels between Malone and his former boss, the now-disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law, who eventually resigned his post.

“Bishop Malone's actions are quite similar to the actions of Bernard Cardinal Law in that he represents that he's trying to cure the problem, investigate the problem when in fact he's not, trying to help victims heal when in fact he's not,” Garabedian said. “All he's really trying to do is save his own position.”

Since Malone refused to take any questions Sunday, the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team reached out to the bishop today asking for a sit-down interview. A spokesman did not return our message about the interview request.