BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The Movement to Restore Trust has issued a 68-page report offering reforms in wake of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Diocese of Buffalo.
In issuing the Initial Report of the Movement to Restore Trust that the group said seeks “increased support and compassion as well as justice for survivors of sexual abuse and recommends the implementation of meaningful reforms, with a goal of restoring the faithful’s trust and confidence in the Church and its leadership.”
“The report represents the best thinking of the approximately 150 people who participated in the work groups,” said John J. Hurley, MRT Organizing Committee member. “This initial report includes the Executive Summary that was prepared and released by the Organizing Committee in March as a way of framing the process, findings and recommendations of the work groups for Bishop Richard Malone. It also includes a summary of the recommendations by work group, again prepared by the Organizing Committee, that have already been part of our discussions with the Diocese of Buffalo.”
The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is being asked for complete transparency surrounding clergy sex abuse. This was one of the reforms recommended by MRT. 7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley met with MRT member and Canisius College president John Hurley.
The discussion I heard in the various work groups, and in the sessions we’ve had at Canisius here, is that there is a significant level of anger and frustration out there that has to be addressed,” stated Hurley.
Hurley says this report examined transparency, accountability and greater involvement of women and laity in the Buffalo Diocese.
Among other recommendations, the report calls for hiring more sex abuse investigators in order to speed-up process of claims of clergy abuse. The group also calls for those investigations to be completed within 45-days of a complaint filing.
Hurley noted there have been missteps by the diocese in reporting names of priests accused of abuse.
“How can we get more to a point of complete disclosure, so that people feel the information is out there,” Hurley explained.
Sara Shiley, who is now 47, says she was abused repeatedly a buffalo priest between the ages of 7 and 14. She says it was first reported to the diocese in 1994, but the priest remained at a church until his death in 2006. His name was not on the original list. It was finally added last November. She says she is pleased to see one of the recommendations calls for counseling and trauma informed care to victims.
“That's a good thing, but they could write a 100-pages...But if they are not going to follow through with this - it's all for nothing,” Shiley responded. "Things were not handled properly and I still don't think they are being handled properly by the diocese."
“Bringing a level of trauma informed care to people – recognizing that this is serious trauma,” Hurley said. “I suspect that when the window opens for the Child Victims Act n mid-August we are going to have a clearer picture of this – even without voluntarily disclosure by the diocese.”
Shiley said she will not being field a suit under the Child Victims Act. Sadly, Shiley said she has never heard from Bishop Richard Malone regarding her abuse case.
"He has not reached out to me and I don't feel that should be, as a victim survivor, my responsibility," Shiley said.
“Are you concerned that the diocese of buffalo will go bankrupt”? asked Buckley.
“I suppose there’s that problem. It depends on the number of cases and the magnitude of the claims – that’s something that’s going to have to be shorted out,” answered Hurley.
The Movement to Restore Trust is made up of a group of lay Catholics. They are working to urge changes by by the diocese in its handling of the priest sex abuse cases.
The work groups addressed the following:
· Transparency around the nature and scale of the abuse in the diocese and financial and spiritual reparations for victims/survivors
· Transparency about all diocesan operations
· Accountability for bishops
· Selecting and monitoring bishops
· Greater involvement by women and laity in the Church
· Improvements in the formation of priests & priestly life
The Executive Summary states: “There is enormous anger in the diocese over the sex abuse crisis. The wounds that priestly sex abuse has wrought are many: the broken lives of victims; indifference to their suffering on the part of fellow members of the Church; a dearth of accountability for priests and bishops involved or complicit in abuse; a failure to reveal the full truth about abuses; and a deficit of genuine apology, penance and reparation.
The result has been a significant erosion of trust in the Catholic Church at large and in the Diocese of Buffalo and the laity have a lack of confidence in the institutional Church and its leaders. This has led to laity feeling disillusioned, frustrated and alienated.
“Throughout our meetings, we heard again and again about the need for the bishop to be committed to rebuilding trust. People believe that trust can only exist where there is honesty, openness, transparency and a commitment to authentic listening.”
7 Eyewitness asked the diocese to respond to the reform recommendations. Diocesan spokeswoman Kathy Spangler issued the following written statement:
"The Diocese acknowledges the hard and thoughtful work of the Movement to Restore Trust (MRT). The MRT and the Diocese of Buffalo committed to reviewing the recommendations through the Joint Implementation Team (JIT). This on-going collaboration has already addressed some of the recommendations and the JIT looks forward to continuing this good work. The recommendations compiled in the MRT report predate the creation and work of the JIT, which has already begun to study, prioritize, and address the recommendations. Bishop Malone and others in diocesan and parish ministry thank John Hurley and the other members of the MRT and the JIT for their dedication and hard work and are encouraged and energized by the initiatives already in place as a result of this united partnership. We are grateful for and embrace their efforts to assist victim-survivors and our Diocese to heal."