The Diocese of Buffalo is hitting back against the woman who blew the whistle on the sex abuse crisis and cover-up involving Western New York priests.
In a statement e-mailed just before Tuesday turned into Wednesday, a spokesperson for the diocese said Bishop Richard Malone was "stunned and dismayed" at what his former personal secretary Siobhan O’Connor said during a news conference on Tuesday.
The statement knocked O'Connor for making comments that were "plainly and embarrassingly contradictory." It included numerous e-mails reportedly sent by O'Connor to the Bishop. Most of them were sent around the time of O'Connor's departure from the diocese, and well after she began acting as a source for 7 Eyewitness News I-Team Chef Investigator Charlie Specht. O'Connor revealed her identity this past weekend in stories that aired on locally on WKBW and nationally on 60 Minutes.
The diocesan spokesperson made a point to note that the e-mailed communications "demonstrate [O'Connor's] complete admiration for [Bishop Malone] and his efforts to lead the Diocese."
— Charlie Specht (@Charlie_Reports) October 31, 2018
The most recent e-mail included was dated August 21, after O'Connor had already started her new job outside the diocese. One portion reads, “I will always be deeply grateful to have worked with you Bishop…In truly countless ways you have inspired and edified me."
Another was reportedly sent in March 2016, two years prior to the wave of allegations about sexual abuse committed by Buffalo-area priests, and well before O'Connor found documents that implicated Bishop Malone in the mishandling of sexual abuse allegations.
In response, O'Connor released a brief statement to 7 Eyewitness News, responding to the bishop's remarks:
"It is quite distressing to realize that the longest statement Bishop Malone has released so far is comprised of my emails to him and my Catholic Center colleagues," she said. "There are many things I could say in response to each specific email he referenced or included, but this isn't about me. This was never about me. This is about the survivors, our diocese, our community and our Church."
"The documents under discussion should not be my emails to Bishop Malone, but rather his letters of good standing for Father Art Smith. We should be talking about his praise and adulation for Father Robert Yetter — not any admiration I may have expressed to Bishop Malone. Instead of cutting and pasting my emails into a “statement,” the Bishop needs to explain why so many priests’ names were cut from the list of 42. Instead of engaging in these necessary discussions, the Bishop has opted for needless deflection. On this eve of All Saints, I am praying fervently for Bishop Malone and the diocese I love."
Tuesday, O'Connor spoke at a news conference about why she decided to come forward, tell her story to the media and provide information to the FBI.
KEY LINKS IN THE BUFFALO DIOCESE SEX ABUSE SCANDAL:
Part 1 of the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team investigation revealed that Malone returned Fr. Art Smith to ministry despite allegations of inappropriate contact with a child. Malone returned the accused priests to ministry after a previous bishop suspended him, documents obtained by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team show.
Part 2 revealed that Malone allowed Fr. Robert Yetter to remain pastor of St. Mary's in Swormville despite multiple sexual harassment allegations by young men.
Part 3 cited church records that showed more than 100 priests in the diocese were accused of sexual abuse or misconduct. Malone in March released a list of only 42 priests "who were removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor."
The investigative series sparked Buffalo civic leaders to call for Malone's resignation and Catholics have mounted weekly protests in front of the Diocese of Buffalo Chancery. Malone in August held a news conference and refused to resign as Buffalo bishop.
In September, the State Attorney General launched a statewide investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and last week, it was revealed the FBI has launched its own criminal investigation into the diocese.
In October, "60 Minutes" aired a national investigative story on Bishop Malone and the Diocese of Buffalo.
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