BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone announced
Dec. 4 he asked Pope Francis to allow him to retire early so the people
of the diocese “will be better served” by a new bishop who is “perhaps
better able” to bring about “reconciliation, healing and renewal” in
addressing the abuse crisis.
In a three-page letter, he said that
“despite the measurable progress we have achieved together,” he made his
decision “after much prayer and discernment.” The “spiritual welfare”
of the faithful will be better served by a new bishop.
Malone released his letter as Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic
nuncio to the United States, announced Pope Francis had accepted Bishop
Malone’s resignation and named Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of
Albany, New York, as Buffalo’s apostolic administrator.
Bishop Malone is two years shy of the age at which bishops are required
by canon law to turn in their resignation to the pope.
than a year, he has faced questions about how he has addressed the
clergy sex abuse crisis, particularly a situation involving two priests’
relationship with a seminarian that he has called “a very complex,
Bishop Malone has headed the Diocese of
Buffalo since 2012. Pope Benedict XVI named him the 14th bishop of
Buffalo May 29, 2012, and he was installed in August of that year.
Bishop Scharfenberger, 71, has headed the Albany Diocese since 2014. In
his five and a half years in Albany, he has been a national leader in
responding to the clergy abuse crisis.
“I want to do a lot of
listening and I want everybody to feel that they do have my ear. I don’t
want anyone to feel excluded,” Bishop Scharfenberger said in an
interview with The Evangelist, Albany’s diocesan newspaper. “I am very
well aware that there has been a lot of hurt and polarization and trust
breaches,” he added. “We only have one healer and that is Jesus, and we
are going to turn everything into his hands and trust that he will guide
Bishop Scharfenberger said he plans to visit the
Diocese of Buffalo in western New York weekly. As for how long he could
be in the dual role, he said: “I have no idea … these things can take
over a year.”
In his letter, Bishop Malone referred to the
apostolic visitation the Vatican had assigned Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio
of Brooklyn, New York, to conduct in October. When the visitation was
announced, Bishop Malone welcomed it.
On Oct. 31, the Brooklyn
Diocese announced completion of the visitation and said Bishop DiMarzio
had submitted his report to the Congregation for Bishops. It has not
been made public.
“Inevitably some will surmise that my decision”
is the result of this visitation, Bishop Malone wrote. “While I was made
aware of the general conclusions of the report, which were a factor in
my discernment, my decision to retire early was made freely and
voluntarily” and reached “after honest reflection” and with ” a deep and
abiding commitment” to the best interests of the church in western New
Bishop Malone did not share details of what the report contained in his letter.
Malone said in his letter that some have attributed the Buffalo
Diocese’s turmoil “to my own shortcomings.” “But the turmoil also
reflects the culmination of systemic failings over many years in the
worldwide handling of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.”
crisis our Church is facing relates not only to the immoral and
criminal acts of those who committed unconscionable offenses toward the
most vulnerable,” he said, “but also to the failure to regard these
violations as grave offenses that warranted the full weight of civil and
Much has been accomplished in addressing
the abuse crisis by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since
passage of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People”
in 2002, but “injury caused by past abuse continues to bring immense
suffering around the world and here in our diocese,” Bishop Malone said.
have met with many survivors of child sexual abuse and felt deeply
their anguish, which words and gestures alone are inadequate to soothe,”
he said, and he has acknowledged on “many occasions the mistakes I have
made in not addressing more swiftly personnel issues that, in my view,
required time to sort out complex details pertaining to behavior between
The Diocese of Buffalo, too, has “made much progress” in
many areas including accountability and ensuring safe environments, but
in listening sessions he has held across the diocese, he said, “I have
heard your dismay and rightful concerns.”
“I have been personally
affected by the hurt and disappointment you have expressed, all of which
have informed our actions. I have sought your understanding, your
advice, your patience and your forgiveness,” he said.
Contributing to this story was Mike Matvey, staff writer at The Evangelist.
The full text of Bishop Malone’s letter can be read at bit.ly/34PZaMy.