Richard J. Malone, the embattled Bishop of Buffalo, isn't going down without a fight.
“I stand before you today recommitted to my calling to serve as Bishop of Buffalo,” Malone said in a news conference Sunday at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church. “The shepherd does not desert the flock at a difficult time.”
Business, political and religious leaders on Friday all called on Malone to step aside after a 7 Eyewitness News investigation revealed a continuing cover-up of sexual abuse allegations in the Diocese of Buffalo under Malone.
“My handling of recent claims from some of our parishioners concerning sexual misconduct with adults unquestionably has fallen short of the standard to which you hold us and to which we hold ourselves,” Malone said. “We can do better; we will do better.”
But the bishop's attempt at repentance is not convincing abuse survivors like Jim Faluszczak.
“He conducted a press conference in a chapel in front of a tabernacle,” said Faluszczak, who is an abuse survivor and a Catholic priest. “He seems to be using Catholic imagery and Catholic sensitivities to style himself as someone who's gonna act differently than he has up to this point. I regard this news conference today as shameless.”
Parishioners at St. Mary's in Swormville were blindsided by allegations against their pastor, Father Robert Yetter, whom Malone allowed to remain pastor despite multiple allegations of abuse of young men.
Malone did not go out to the parish himself, instead sending Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz to read a letter. Parishioner Mary Ellen Sanfilippo was not satisfied with the diocese’s response.
“My questions have not been answered, it was not addressed by what he has read today,” Sanfilippo said. “And I feel that this is just continuing a lie that has been going on for a long time.”
Buffalo Common Councilman Christopher Scanlon released a statement saying Malone's speech "only reinforces my belief that he is unfit to lead the Diocese of Buffalo." He referenced allegations against Father Art Smith, which Malone has not addressed since the airing of the 7 Eyewitness News investigation into the bishop’s re-assignment of Smith to various posts in the diocese.
County Legislator Patrick Burke said in a statement, “I do not believe Bishop Malone appreciates the gravity of this situation. His association with child predators makes him unfit to lead the Buffalo Diocese.”
Faluszczak added, “The fact that he stood up today and defied the representatives of our citizens suggests he has no shame. He has no compassion. He isn't following his own moral compass up to this point. He should step aside.”
Malone in the news conference focused mostly on the claims of a cover-up of adult sexual abuse, saying he “may have lost sight” of the spirit of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Young People, a document created by American bishops in 2002 to deal with sexual abuse.
He did not address Smith’s case or why Smith and Yetter were not on the original list of accused priests released by the diocese in March. He also did not address his role or Grosz’s role in the alleged cover-up of those claims.
Instead, Malone promised to create a task force “to examine the diocese’s procedures for handling claims of inappropriate conduct with adults and to recommend methods for honoring ALL victims…”
Malone also said he would also establish an “Office of Professional Responsibility whose mission will be enforcement of our Diocesan Code of Ethics.”
But Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, rejected those steps as sufficient, telling The Buffalo News, "The Catholic diocese has lost its moral clarity and its moral authority. You don't need a task force, you need a strike force."