BUFFALO (WKBW) - Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone has criticized one of the highest-ranking cardinals in the Catholic Church in America.
Malone through a spokeswoman Thursday released a statement responding to Cardinal Sean O'Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, who said earlier this week that he was "deeply concerned" by the handling of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Buffalo under Malone.
"It is unfortunate that Cardinal O’Malley never contacted the Diocese of Buffalo to check on the facts and hear our side of the story," Malone said in a written statement released by the diocese. "Bishop Malone has the utmost respect for Cardinal O'Malley and his leadership role as Chair of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children. The television reports provided to the cardinal’s spokesperson misrepresented the truth about how the Diocese of Buffalo did in fact respond to both child and adult victims of clerical misconduct."
Buffalo Diocese spokeswoman Kathy Spangler did not respond to a request to identify which parts of the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team's three-part investigation into Malone she was referring to, but the diocese has not previously challenged the accuracy of any of the stories, which were based primarily on the church's own internal records.
But O'Malley seemed convinced by the evidence presented in the reports, saying through a spokesman earlier this week that he was "deeply concerned by the absence of recognition of the abuse experienced by the survivors and the responses or absence of response provided to the survivors" in Buffalo.
O'Malley's spokesman added, "It is the Cardinal’s assessment that the information in your reports should be reviewed by the Church authorities who have oversight and jurisdiction for the action or inaction of diocesan leadership in Buffalo with regard to the reports of abuse. "
O'Malley said he would forward the information in the reports to the Apostolic Nuncio, who is the Vatican's top diplomat in the United States, based in Washington, D.C., for investigation. That move has drawn attention from national media outlets inside and outside the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley says the Vatican should investigate reports that Bishop Malone of Buffalo mishandled clergy sexual abuse cases. Sends @Charlie_Reports stories to the Pope's US ambassador as evidence. https://t.co/N8WWbkzVMf
"For those reasons, Cardinal O’Malley will send the documentation of your reports to the Most Rev. Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, with note of the content and allegations in the reports," the email stated.
Malone's statement read, "The Bishop welcomes any review with the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States."
While O'Malley does not have direct authority over Bishop Malone -- only a pope can technically remove a bishop -- he wields great influence with the Holy Father, especially on the controversial topic of sexual abuse. O'Malley was appointed Boston archbishop in 2003 after then-Cardinal Bernard F. Law resigned in disgrace over his handling of sexual abuse in Boston. Malone was an auxiliary bishop under Cardinal Law but has said he did not play a major role in that crisis.
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."