A symposium meant to address the ongoing clerical sexual abuse crisis in the Diocese of Buffalo is set for Wednesday evening at Canisius College.
"Restoring Trust: A Path Forward for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo" was organized by The Movement to Restore Trust. That group was founded by nine prominent Western New York Catholics seeking to spur changes within the diocese.
On its website, the group describes the symposium as an event "intended to inspire a respectful dialogue on what has been done and must now be done to protect the vulnerable, hold leaders accountable, and begin to reform, renew, and heal the Church in the Diocese of Buffalo."
It will feature four panelists in a discussion to be moderated by Canisius College President John Hurley. One of the panelists is Father Robert Zilliox, who spoke with 60 Minutes about how the diocese and Bishop Richard Malone handled abuse claims.
The symposium was previously set to feature a controversial panelist who had previously defended a man who was found guilty of sexually abusing children at an orphanage in Haiti. 7 Eyewitness News learned that in a letter, she called his victims "liars."
After the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team alerted the Movement to Restore Trust about the panelist's background, her invitation was rescinded, and a new panelist was invited to attend.
The symposium, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Canisius College's Montante Cultural Center. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Overflow seating with a live stream of the symposium will also be available in the college’s Winter Student Center on Hughes Avenue. Parking is available in the Canisius lot on the west side of Main Street across from the Montante Center or in the parking garage on Jefferson Avenue.
The event will also be live streamed here.
A three-hour follow-up workshop will be held Saturday, December 8 at 9 a.m. in Science Hall. Attendees will be asked to participate in opening sessions involving specific concerns arising out of the sex abuse scandal and to form work groups to develop concrete proposals for reform.
KEY LINKS IN THE BUFFALO DIOCESE SEX ABUSE SCANDAL:
Part 1 of the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team investigation revealed that Malone returned Fr. Art Smith to ministry despite allegations of inappropriate contact with a child. Malone returned the accused priests to ministry after a previous bishop suspended him, documents obtained by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team show.
Part 2 revealed that Malone allowed Fr. Robert Yetter to remain pastor of St. Mary's in Swormville despite multiple sexual harassment allegations by young men.
Part 3 cited church records that showed more than 100 priests in the diocese were accused of sexual abuse or misconduct. Malone in March released a list of only 42 priests "who were removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor."
The investigative series sparked Buffalo civic leaders to call for Malone's resignation and Catholics have mounted weekly protests in front of the Diocese of Buffalo Chancery. Malone in August held a news conference and refused to resign as Buffalo bishop.
In September, the State Attorney General launched a statewide investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and last week, it was revealed the FBI has launched its own criminal investigation into the diocese.
In October, "60 Minutes" aired a national investigative story on Bishop Malone and the Diocese of Buffalo.
In November, I-Team Chief Investigator Charlie Specht traveled to Portland, Maine. Malone served as bishop there before coming to Buffalo. There, Charlie spoke with advocates for victims of sexual abuse about how Malone had been accused of mishandling sex abuse cases. The I-Team also obtained new documents surrounding the cases which paint a much different picture of the bishop’s past.