Weekly Feature

2018-11-08 / Editorial

Bishop’s press conference failed to clear the air

Managing Editor

About 30 journalists and hundreds more listening via radio, television and the internet waited anxiously for additional facts about the Buffalo Catholic Diocese sex abuse scandal on Monday afternoon, but the press conference fell well short of the mark.

Bishop Richard Malone met privately prior to the event at Infant of Prague Church in Cheektowaga with priests and transitional deacons. The press conference was billed as having a one-hour limit, and although it started about 20 minutes late, the media was told the lost time would be tacked on to fulfill that full amount of time.

What happened was that the press conference lasted a total of almost two hours and that Bishop Malone was only a small part of it. And that’s a shame.

Parents want to know if their children are safe at church and in school. Others wonder if the youth of their friends was marred long ago by clergy sex abuse.

Attorney Lawlor F. Quinlan III took up most of the press conference, citing legal precedents and the timeline of the local investigation. While it was intended to show how such cases have been handled, it was thick with legalese.

“From the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s to today, there has been tremendous change,” he said. “It is absolutely not true that there’s rampant sexual abuse in the [Buffalo] diocese.

“Most abuses occurred between 1960-70. No priest ordained [here] in the last 20 years has a claim against him of abusing a minor.”

Those words came from an attorney, not the bishop.

Bishop Malone spoke briefly at the beginning of the event, telling the media how thankful he is for its attention to the facts. He also said that when the number of claims of abuse began to grow, “The numbers were overwhelming. The word tsunami would not be inappropriate.”

Diocesan officers were unable to cope with phone calls and inquiries, forcing other employees to take information and try and meet the expectations of those who had earlier been encouraged to come forward. “I want to resolve these cases as soon as possible,” Bishop Malone said.

He also dismissed the calls for his resignation.

“The diocese deserves stability. That could exacerbate it.”

The most substantial piece of genuine news to surface Monday was the fact that the diocese released a list of 36 additional priests against whom credible complaints of sexual abuse of a minor have been filed. That number is in addition to the 42 priests Bishop Malone identified in March as having been credibly accused of child sexual abuse.

The diocese will not release the names of an additional 66 dead priests against whom the diocese received only one allegation of sexual abuse.

Quinlan said that no attorney in

America would attempt to prosecute a dead person since “they cannot answer to the charges.” Oh.

In closing his brief appearance, Bishop Malone said he believes the diocese will build stability and “restore faith and trust.”

When the question and answer period finally kicked off, the mood turned contentious. Impatient reporters grew weary of Bishop Malone turning to Quinlan and fellow attorney Terrence M. Connors for answers. That could have been avoided if so much time had not been dedicated to law school.

I turn instead to a few lines from “A Prayer for Healing:”

“Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts, heal your people’s wounds and transform brokenness into wholeness.” David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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