BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — After reading through the New York State Attorney General’s scathing report on the Diocese of Buffalo, Fr. Ryszard Biernat feels “believed.”
“My first feeling was that they believed us,” Biernat said. “For me, I’m very much at peace...even more so now, with this.”
It was Biernat, along with fellow whistleblower Siobhan O’Connor, Bishop Richard J. Malone’s former administrative assistant, who first exposed to the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team a massive cover-up of sexual abuse under bishops Malone and Edward M. Grosz in 2018.
“I remember...speaking many times to various folks [about] how the Diocese of Buffalo was hiding the priest pedophiles from [the] Vatican, even though it was mandated by the pope [to report them],” Biernat said during a brief phone interview.
That was a major conclusion of the 218-page complaint filed by the AG in State Supreme Court: that the diocese -- under the leadership of five bishops, two future bishops and its legal counsel -- misled parishioners and violated the Catholic Church’s Charter for the Protection of Young People dozens of times.
“They did not follow their own procedures,” Biernat said. “They were telling people that they were, but they were not.”
For the first time, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec -- who retired in 2012 and died this past July -- is directly implicated in a cover-up. Documents obtained by the attorney general showed that Kmiec wrote two letters of recommendation in 2010 for Fr. David Bialkowski that stated, “I am unaware of anything in [his] background which would render him unsuitable to work with minor children.”
Prior to that, the report listed an extensive history of Bialkowski allegedly being in “inappropriate” situations with young boys and men.
Two years ago, former Bishop Malone said in internal emails that the prospect of a state investigation would be “scary” and that he was praying that it would never happen.
But Malone’s former secretary sees the report differently.
“I see this as an effort, on the part of [the] attorney general, to help us,” Biernat said.
Biernat, himself a victim of an attempted sexual assault by a diocesan priest, was suspended by Malone for revealing Malone’s attempt to conceal alleged misconduct by an active priest.
Nearly a year later, interim Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger has failed to return Biernat to ministry.
But through disillusionment, persecution and now vindication, Biernat remains a committed Catholic.
He said, “The church itself, as a group of people wanting to follow the Gospel...we were hijacked by bishops who decided to do something else.”