Amid calls for resignation, Bishop Malone says he's staying put

James Neiss/staff photographerThis file photo shows Bishop Richard Malone of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese during a press conference laster at the Infant of Prague Church in Cheektowaga. Malone called a press conference on Wednesday where he said he will not heed calls for his resignation amid new reports aired by WKBW-TV news Channel 7 that featured audio recordings of the bishop's internal discussions about media coverage of allegations of sexual abuse involving clergy and other matters. 

Diocese of Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone held a press conference Wednesday following the public release of an audio recording that sparked renewed calls for his resignation.

Malone met with members of the local press in the City of Buffalo hours after news channel 7 WKBW-TV aired a report featuring audio from conversations involving the bishop that were secretly recorded by a former diocesan secretary. 

During his press conference, Malone said he does not intend to heed the call of U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins and others who on Wednesday suggested that he should step aside as leader of the diocese.

Malone said, based on his recent visits to local parishes and schools, he believes he is still "well-received" by the majority of Catholics in Western New York and does not think it is time for him to move on.  

"I think the ones that would like to see me move on are truly the minority," Malone said. 

Higgins, who months ago called for Malone to resign following earlier reports on his administration's handling of sexual abuse allegations involving clergy, renewed his call on Wednesday following the airing of the Channel 7 news report. 

"Western New Yorkers have been hurt by decades of lies and coverups," Higgins said in a statement issued by his office. "These recordings are conclusive evidence that the coverup continues to this day. Bishop Malone is clearly not the right person to lead the Buffalo Diocese forward." 

WKBW reporter Charlie Specht, who diocese officials barred from attending the press conference, aired a report Wednesday morning that featured portions of secret recordings of Malone made by diocesan vice chancellor Father Ryszard Biernat. A separate WKBW reporter was later allowed to attend the press event.

On the recordings, made between March and August, Malone can be heard discussing a series of topics, including:

• the diocese's handling of a rash of sexual abuse allegations as a "true crisis administration" for his administration.

• allegations of sexual harassment involving Father Jeffrey Nowak, a former pastor at Our Lady Help of Christians in Cheektowaga, whom Malone can be heard describing as a "sick puppy."

• concerns regarding the media potentially reporting on a story related to allegations of love letters and sexual harassment claims by a diocesan priest at Christ the King Seminary. WKBW reported that the matter involved Biernat, seminarian Matthew Bojanowski and Nowak.

“I think we’re gonna blow this story up into something like an atom bomb if we start talking about that. You know?” Malone told Biernat in the recording. “Cause then it sounds like, it sounds like a soap opera. It sounds like a love triangle. And you know what the media can do with that.” 

The bishop placed Nowak on leave in August pending an investigation of complaints received by the diocese but, according to WKBW, Bojanowski had notified the diocese in November 2018 that he had been harassed by Nowak following a confession for nearly two years. 

Specht's report featured an interview with Biernat who said he recorded conversations with the bishop out of a sense of loyalty to the people of Buffalo.

“I feel I have a responsibility to come forward and ask Bishop Malone to please resign. For the love of God and for the sake of your people here, please resign,” Biernat said, as reported by ABC News. 

The diocese released a statement on Wednesday, reiterating that Malone does not plan to resign while defending his administration's handling of allegations against Nowak. 

“The diocese had never received – and still has not received – any allegation that Fr. Nowak ever engaged in sexual contact with anyone, child or adult,” the statement reads. “While the diocese did receive allegations of questionable behavior – behavior which was concerning enough to Bishop Malone that he felt Fr. Nowak needed a professional assessment – the diocese was and is aware of no behavior that threatened harm to the public.”

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