BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Nearly 86 percent of Catholics want Bishop Malone to resign, a poll by The Buffalo News shows.
Fewer than 3 percent of those surveyed want him to stay, while 12 percent are undecided, The News reported Tuesday morning.
The News hired Cornerstone Research & Marketing in North Tonawanda to perform the phone survey. The News reported the firm asked nearly 500 residents of Erie and Niagara counties the question, "Do you feel Bishop Malone should resign from his duties as bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo?"
Bishop Malone has been under pressure to resign since August 2018, when the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team published an investigation that revealed Malone:
- Returned Rev. Art Smith to ministry despite allegations of inappropriate contact with a child.
- Allowed Rev. Robert Yetter to remain in ministry despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with young adult parishioners.
- Concealed allegations against more than 60 priests when the diocese released a list of 42 accused priests (the diocese's internal list of clergy with allegations against them exceeded 100 and has now grown to more than 150).
But the pressure on Malone intensified two weeks ago, when the I-Team published secret audio recordings where Malone attempts to conceal sexual misconduct allegations involving Rev. Jeffrey Nowak. Malone called the priest "dangerous" but allowed him to remain pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians for more than six months with no notification to parishioners.
In an emergency news conference Sept. 4, the bishop said he would not resign and said he believed most Catholics supported him -- an assertion that, according to the scientific poll conducted by The News, appears false.
“I’m here because I feel an obligation as the one who was sent here to lead this diocese, to carry on, and once again, if I thought that the majority of Catholic people in particular were calling for my resignation, that would be a different story,” Malone said then.
He added, if “most of the Catholic people wanted me gone, then I’d have to look at it in a different way.”
Kathy Spangler, the bishop's spokeswoman, said in an email, "The Bishop very much respects area Catholics' right to express their opinion."
She then wrote, "It is my understanding that the total number of Catholics in the diocese is around 590,000."
But Rhonda Ried, president of Cornerstone Research, said her firm actually surveyed more Catholics than would be necessary to obtain a representative sample size.
"So that is statistically accurate within a 95 percent confidence level and a 5 percent error," Ried said.
She said the takeaway from the poll was clear: "Catholics overwhelmingly want the bishop to resign." (Ironically, Cornerstone counts the Diocese of Buffalo among its past clients).
That message was echoed by St. Joseph University parish in Buffalo, which followed the lead of Annunciation Church in Elma, recently surveying parishioners after Mass.
St. Joe's said 528 parishioners voted and:
- 504 said the bishop should resign
- 24 said he should not resign
That means more than 95 percent of surveyed parishioners there want a new bishop.