America’s Catholic bishops Wednesday said they have come up with a new plan to hold themselves accountable in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups by bishops across the country, including in Buffalo.
A committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement saying that some bishops, “by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a whole.”
The statement referenced only one bishop by name -- Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, who is alleged to have abused both seminarians and minors as he rose through the ranks of the church -- although bishops from Wyoming to West Virginia to Buffalo have come under fire in recent months for their handling of sexual abuse allegations either by themselves or by their priests.
In addition to supporting an investigation into McCarrick, the bishops vowed to:
- Create a “third-party reporting system” for parishioners to report sexual misconduct by bishops.
- Create new policies on how to deal with bishops who are accused of sexual misconduct.
- Start a new Code of Conduct for bishops regarding sexual abuse. Read the full statement by clicking here.
American bishops created similar policies for priests in 2002 but exempted themselves from those policies.
The move comes as Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks for his handling of sexual abuse and harassment by priests, as revealed in a three-part 7 Eyewitness News investigation.
Part 1 revealed that Malone returned Fr. Art Smith to ministry despite allegations of inappropriate contact with a child. 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 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. In September 2018, the State Attorney General launched a statewide investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Malone in August held a news conference and vowed to stay as Buffalo bishop.
A spokeswoman from the Diocese of Buffalo did not immediately respond to questions Wednesday about whether Malone would reconsider resigning or whether the diocese has received any sexual abuse or misconduct allegations against its bishops.
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