Embattled Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone, who has come under fire for allowing an accused priest to work again with children, is being edited out of a national child abuse training video.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is the first diocese in the country to remove any references to Malone from its training videos, which are titled “A Time to Protect God’s Children” and “A Plan to Protect God’s Children," the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The training videos are used across the country and are produced by Virtus, a national Catholic insurance group that conducts training sessions for Catholic churches and schools. Employees and volunteers who come in contact with children in Buffalo and elsewhere are required to view the videos as part of their training sessions.
“Despite our best efforts, there is a nightmare which no child should have to face and no parent should have to worry about,” Malone says in the videos. “I speak about childhood sexual abuse.”
Church officials in Cincinnati told the Enquirer that the national Virtus group is editing out Malone's video and the video of a New Orleans archbishop who are accused of failing to protect children from abusive clergy. They received complaints from Catholics who recognized the accused bishops. 7 Eyewitness News has received similar complaints from Catholics across the country in recent weeks.
Malone has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks for recommending that Fr. Art Smith -- a Buffalo priest accused of inappropriate contact with youth -- be allowed to work with children again. Malone returned the accused priests to ministry after a previous bishop suspended him, documents obtained by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team show.
Jamie Wunneberger recognized Bishop Malone in the training videos when she was attending a training session at her church in Washington State.
“I follow the stories and so I recognized the name and I said, ‘Surely they wouldn't have that bishop on these videos,’” she said.
During a break in the training, she pulled out her phone and found 7 Eyewitness News’ investigative news stories about Malone.
“After that, like my blood was just basically boiling,” Wunneberger said, “because he's the poster child for protecting children in this video and he's the worst possible person that could be on those videos.”
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.
The Diocese of Buffalo issued a statement Wednesday evening regarding the video alteration. In the written statement, Kathy Spangler, the diocese's spokeswoman, suggests the removal of Bishop Malone has nothing to do with the current clerical sex abuse scandal. In addition, Spangler defends the diocese's record under Malone's leadership:
The Diocese of Buffalo prides itself on its compliance with the VIRTUS program and its record in the protection of children. The diocese has trained and background checked over 40,000 adults since 2003. Students in Catholic schools and parish faith formation have received safe environment training each year. Additionally, since Bishop Richard J. Malone was installed, the diocese has passed its annual Safe Environment audit, indicating that outside auditors have found the Diocese of Buffalo to be in compliance with all audited points for the protection of minors.
- Diocese of Buffalo
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."
In September 2018, the State Attorney General launched a statewide investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Malone in August held a news conference and vowed to stay as Buffalo bishop.
Through a spokeswoman, Kathy Spangler, Bishop Malone did not respond to requests to comment for this story.