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Buffalo Catholic diocese to release names of priests accused of sex abuse

In memo, Bishop Malone calls it a "very dark time"
Posted: 5:40 PM, Mar 19, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-19 23:52:44-04

It took a victim's courage, a priest's confession and a scandal that deepened by the day.

But after decades of secrecy, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is taking an unprecedented step toward transparency.

Bishop Richard J. Malone -- giving in to mounting pressure from sexual abuse victims -- announced in an internal memo obtained by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team that Tuesday he will release the names of "all priests of our diocese who were removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor." 

Each of Malone's predecessors -- including bishops Edward Head, Henry Mansell and Edward Kmiec -- refused to name suspected pedophile priests in the diocese, even after the international clerical abuse scandal first broke in Boston in 2002.

In an email to priests, Malone called the move "difficult but necessary," acknowledging the church in Western New York is going through "a very dark time."

Malone has made some strides on the sexual abuse issue, announcing a settlement program for abuse victims on March 1. 

But the bishop -- who earned his stripes in the Boston Archdiocese where the sex abuse scandal was first revealed by The Boston Globe -- had to be pushed five years into his tenure to take the first step toward transparency in Buffalo.

This latest development comes in the wake of mounting pressure for the Buffalo diocese to be more transparent about how it deals with the issue of abuse.

Last month, a South Buffalo man came forward with allegations that date back decades. Michael Whalen told reporters he was abused by a priest in the 1980s.

Whalen's courage spurred others to come forward. 

Last week, attorneys representing numerous alleged victims exposed thirteen Buffalo-area priests who were either quietly put on "medical leave," moved into remote and rural areas, or removed from ministry altogether.  The attorneys criticized the Catholic Church for not revealing the identities of all priests accused of child sex abuse, calling it a "public safety issue."

Malone said last week the practice of keeping secret the names of accused priests was "the policy I inherited."

It's a policy that -- to the relief of victims -- is finally going to change.