EAST AURORA, N.Y. (WKBW) — In the wake of more than 100 child sex abuse lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act, a sudden departure is now blindsiding a Diocese already in crisis.
Stephen Parisi, a seminarian, is announcing his "immediate withdrawal" over what he calls, "alarming and problematic governance" of the Buffalo Diocese and Christ the King Seminary. Parisi served as Dean of Seminarians at Christ the King Seminary, a leadership role among the young men pursuing a vocation in the priesthood.
Parisi wrote a six page letter to Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone explaining why he left the seminary. While speaking to 7Eyewitness News, Parisi described an "unhealthy, hostile environemtn" at Christ the King in East Aurora since he began there in January 2018.
"If you don't go by what they tell you to do, or suggest that you do, you're told that you can be dismissed. You're reminded you can be dismissed for any reason at any time," Parisi said.
The "difficult year," as Parisi calls it, started last September when Father Joe Gatto was placed on leave last September from the seminary after three allegations of sexual misconduct.
"People were trying to climb to the top...there was really no clear organization chart for the Seminary. It was very chaotic."
Not only did he call for Bishop Richard Malone to resign: "We need change. We need somebody to come in and clean house. We need what the church terms as an apostolic investigation of this diocese."
But he also is asking parishioners to take action. "This culture of blackmail and hypocrisy within the clergy and the hierarchy is so deep, it is so entrenched. The only way for the church to survive is for good and honest lay people to reclaim their church and the first step is to stop putting money in the collection basket."
The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team obtained a copy of Parisi's resignation letter, which outlined his decision to withdraw from the seminary, stating at one point, "My parents instilled in me a basic sense of faith and morals. I have come to the realization that the values and morals of this seminary and diocese do no correspond to my own."
Mr. Parisi makes specific reference to recent revelations concerning a seminarian who was pursued sexually by his confessor writing, "I cannot, in conscience, pursue a priestly vocation within this diocese. The manner in which this case has been handled by the diocese, as well as the manner in which so many of the other clerical sexual abuse cases have been handled is disgusting and revolting." Parisi goes on to reference the RICO lawsuit filed Wednesday under the Child Victims Act alleging widespread corruption, blackmail, manipulation and fraud against the Diocese.
Parisi urges his fellow seminarians to file reports of inhumane, harassing or illegal behavior directly to the State without going through the seminary. He adds, "And if all else fails, you can contact Charlie Specht from WKBW Channel 7 at this web address https:// www.wkbw.com/about-us/contact-us."
Parisi ends his letter by addressing Bishop Richard Malone specifically.
"I close by thanking Bishop Malone and the formation team for my time at Christ the King. The most valuable lessons I have learned at the seminary have not included how to properly write a paper, or even how to nurture a personal prayer life. By observing the behavior of most (not all) priests on the formation staff, I have learned how not to treat people. If there is any doubt regarding the veracity of the examples cited above, documentation, witness testimony and other forms of evidence have been retained. Bishop Malone, for the love of God and for the sake of the faithful of the Diocese of Buffalo, please step down!"
Christ the King Seminary released this statement from Rev. Kevin Creagh, CM:
"Stephen Parisi has discerned to no longer continue as a seminarian. Priestly ministry is a special vocation where the discernment process begins prior to entering the seminary and is ongoing throughout the formational years. The Program for Priestly Formation is a rigorous five-to-seven-year graduate program which adheres to and applies the standards established by multiple accrediting agencies equally to every student. It is not uncommon for a seminarian to discern to withdraw. We respect Stephen's decision and wish him well.
As the new president-rector of Christ the King Seminary, I am proud to serve this compelling mission of formation and academic excellence. As I have come to know the very fine students, faculty and staff within this institution I am deeply impressed with their commitment to ministry and professionalism."
Full Resignation Letter