Emails show Bishop Malone's reaction to federal probe of Buffalo Diocese

U.S. Attorney served subpoena this summer
Posted at 7:57 PM, Oct 18, 2018

For the first time in history, the federal government is gearing up to investigate sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

One of the first places the feds are looking is the Diocese of Buffalo. 

7 Eyewitness News has confirmed through a church source that U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. has served the Diocese of Buffalo with a subpoena. The news was first reported by CBS News. A spokeswoman for Kennedy said it was against policy to confirm or deny active investigations, but the news was greeted warmly by advocates and attorneys for sex abuse victims.

"Pope Francis has to be deeply concerned about what the federal investigation will reveal within the Diocese of Buffalo," Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who represents victims in Buffalo, said in an email. "The federal investigation represents hope for clergy sexual abuse victims in all of Buffalo and also worldwide. The time for transparency has arrived."

Earlier Thursday, the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal reached new levels when the Associated Press reported the U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, where seven of the state's eight dioceses were served with subpoenas. 

The U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia is seeking "any evidence that anyone in their ranks took children across state lines for illicit purposes; sent sexual images or messages via phone or computer; instructed anyone not to contact police; reassigned suspected predators; or used money or other assets as part of the scandal," AP reported.

In Buffalo, federal prosecutors appear to have demanded documents from the Buffalo Diocese in late May and early June, although the existence of the subpoena was not made public until Thursday.

7 Eyewitness News has obtained internal church emails referencing the investigation.

In one email between Bishop Richard J. Malone and attorney Terrence M. Connors -- with a subject line of "Grand Jury" -- Malone states that his office "will need guidance ASAP about searching of relevant files in reponse to the subpoena. Please advise."

Then on June 13, Sr. Regina Murphy, the diocesan chancellor, gives an email update to Bishop Malone and Bishop Edward M. Grosz in which she says diocesan lawyer Lawlor F. Quinlan helped gather documents and left "with a relatively small amount of documentation from 16 files."

"If any prosecutions result, it would probably be only a few," Murphy states.

"If any prosecutions result, it would probably be only a few," Murphy stated. pic.twitter.com/6z1poDoHob

— Charlie Specht (@Charlie_Reports) October 18, 2018

Bishop Malone found it "encouraging" that "there would not be much in the files" on criteria federal prosecutors were looking for, emails show. A source tells 7 Eyewitness News the subpoena was related to pornography, taking victims across state lines and use of cell phones/social media.

Diocesan lawyers said they struck a deal with the Assistant U.S. Attorney to "allow us to limit the production to living priests." Still, it produced a "substantial amount of material," one attorney said.

"Good work as always," Bishop Malone said. "Now we hope for the best."

"Good work as always," Bishop Malone said. "Now we hope for the best." pic.twitter.com/vb5VhQaapc

— Charlie Specht (@Charlie_Reports) October 19, 2018

Later that evening, diocesan attorney Terry Connors wrote, "Our judgement is that there may be two or three cases that will interest him and he will review to see if they are prosecutable."

The bishop responded, "I hope the ones that may be prosecutable are all men removed from ministry."

The bishop responded, "I hope the ones that may be prosecutable are all men removed from ministry." pic.twitter.com/n4TP39ZSic

— Charlie Specht (@Charlie_Reports) October 19, 2018

The diocese is now dealing with two investigations by law enforcement. The State Attorney General's Office in September launched its own probe of the diocese.

On Thursday evening, the spokesperson for the Diocese of Buffalo issued this statement:

"Several months ago, we received a call from the local U.S. Attorney’s office with a request to review documents. A subpoena was provided and after some discussion, an agreement was reached to produce documents. We have heard nothing since early June. As far as we know, our response has nothing to do with the current Pennsylvania investigation that has just begun."

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