BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Vatican has authorized an investigation into the Diocese of Buffalo and embattled Bishop Richard J. Malone.
"The Holy See has authorized an Apostolic Visitation for the Diocese of Buffalo to take place in the near future," the Vatican's ambassador to the U.S. said in a news release. "An Apostolic Visitation is a fact-finding mission which reports directly to the Holy See, specifically the Congregation for Bishops, to evaluate situations in dioceses."
The probe will be conducted by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y.
"This is a difficult period in the life of the church in Buffalo," Bishop DiMarzio said in a news release. "I pledge I will keep an open mind throughout the process and do my best to learn the facts and gain a thorough understanding of the situation in order to fulfill the mandate of this Apostolic
Bishop Malone said in a statement that he "welcomes" the visitation from his counterpart in Brooklyn.
"Bishop Malone has committed to cooperate fully and stated that this Visitation is for the good of the Church in Buffalo," Malone said in a statement. "The purpose of an apostolic visitation is to assist the diocese and improve the local Church’s ability to minister to the people it serves."
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 last month, 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.
Bishop Malone has said he will not resign as bishop of Buffalo.
Nearly 86 percent of Catholics want Malone to resign, a scientific poll by The Buffalo News shows. Fewer than 3 percent of those surveyed want him to stay, while 12 percent are undecided.