BUFFALO — On the day a law firm held a second press conference calling on the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo to release a full accounting of credible sexual abuse allegations, Bishop Richard J. Malone announced he would sell the longtime home of the diocese’s leadership.
During a press conference in the lobby of downtown Buffalo’s Catholic Center on Main Street, Malone said proceeds from the sale will be added to the diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) for victim’s of sex abuse by members of the clergy. The Oakland Place property has yet to be appraised, he said.
Malone said the residence sale will create significant additional resources for the compensation program, but added he considered it “important” there be an “element of sacrifice in this.”
“What I want going forward after these troubles is for Catholic institutions to be the safest possible place for kids,” he said
The diocese is also in the process of selling its Sheehan Residence on Linwood Avenue, a former home for retired priests. Funds from that sale will be devoted to the Retired Diocesan Priests’ Medical Benefits Fund, the diocese said in a statement.
Malone will be transplanted to a former convent at St. Stanislaus Parish on Buffalo’s Townsend Street.
The bishop was questioned on claims from an earlier press conference on Tuesday in which an attorney, Mike Reck of Jeff Anderson and Associates, P.A., criticized the diocese for its response to confirmed abuse while calling for greater transparency regarding allegations of sexual assault. Reck also called on the diocese leaders to release more information about priests — both living and dead — who have been the subject to such accusations, including the parishes in which they served.
Malone said he did not anticipate further disclosures from the diocese, particularly regarding the parish assignments of clerics who had been identified as child abusers.
“We feel we’ve taken significant steps already in releasing the names after all these many years,” he said. “I’ve said before that I will not release personnel files, those are confidential in any organization.”
“I’m pleased with the steps we’ve taken already, as you know it’s only a minority of dioceses in the country that have even done that,” he added later.
Malone had no update as to the number of claims the IRCP has received since it was announced in March.
“We are still now in the intake aspect of this program,” he said, noting the June 1 deadline for claims.
Malone said he “just learned” Monday of abuse survivors who had contacted the program but had waited weeks for a response to their outreach. He indicated that he would “look into that and see what is the reason for that pace.”
If a survivor is successful in lodging a complaint with the compensation program, Malone said they will be required to sign a “release” pledging “they won’t come back at us again.” It is not a non-disclosure agreement, he said.
“We do not and will not ever ask confidentiality,” the bishop added.
Reck said those seeking recourse through the program should be “very aware” that survivors will give up “future rights” should the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse be changed by the state Legislature.
“In current New York law, the statute of limitations is one of the most draconian and one of the strictest rules anywhere in the country,” he said. “But should that change in the future, participation in the program is a bit of a trade-off.”
In addition, Reck called the Buffalo compensation program “far more restrictive” than those employed by other diocese dealing with the issue.
As to whether previous church leaders were aware of the sexual abuse, and an analysis of what they did or did not do in response to it, Malone said he felt “confident that bishops who served this diocese before me did the best they could do with the information they had” under the procedures that were then in place.
“I do know, I can say this with complete certainty, that for many years now we have been going about this whole thing — when an allegation comes in — in an entirely different way than was done in decades passed,” he said.
Under the current protocol, when an accusation is leveled, Malone said the district attorney is immediately notified, the individual is offered counseling assistance, there is outreach from the victims’ assistance coordinator and Malone’s auxiliary bishop.
“I can’t answer for the way things were done and not done many years ago, but we’re trying to do it right,” he said.