Bishop Richard J. Malone on Friday admitted he mishandled the reassignment of a priest who was accused of inappropriate contact with a child, but the embattled leader of Buffalo Catholics said he had no plans to resign.
In an interview with WBEN radio, the bishop said he had a “good” record on child abuse despite what he calls his recent “mistakes.”
"When I did sign off on his request to be a chaplain on a cruise ship, that was a mistake on my part, and I kick myself for having done that," Malone told radio hosts Tom Bauerle and David Bellavia. "We had decided with Art Smith, because again, the Facebook incident did not rise to be technically sexual abuse, to keep him in some limited ministry."
He added, "Now that backfired, too, because even sending him to work in a old folks home, in a nursing home, nothing happened with children but there was some inappropriate actions with adults. And so we were dealing with him but not in a way I would do it now. And I admit my failure there."
The cases of Fr. Smith and another accused priest -- Fr. Robert Yetter -- were examined in a two-part 7 Eyewitness News I-Team investigation that revealed Malone allowed one priest to remain in ministry and returned another to ministry despite sexual misconduct allegations, including one instance that involved a child. Part Three of the investigation showed Malone released a list of 42 accused priest in March despite knowing there were more than 100 priests actually accused in the diocese.
Malone on Friday said he would not resign as bishop despite intense pressure, but Catholics who braved the rain to protest outside the Catholic Center said he needs to do just that.
"The bishop and staff need to be removed," said Mary Ellen Sanfilippo of St. Mary's of Swormville. "Step down and an entire cleaning of house needs to happen."
Catholic Nicole Wright, who helps lead a Facebook group of active Catholics, said of Malone, "He hasn’t had that change of heart. He’s acting like a politician and he’s using scare tactics and threats. He’s disparaging people’s reputations instead of actually making statements that are answering to the allegations and it’s about time he manned up and was the shepherd that he was meant to be."
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.