What My Tears Taught Me

I will not say_ do not weep; for not all tears are an evil

It was a late morning sometime in MarchAprilMay of 2018. Those dark months have melded together in my mind to such an extent that I think of them as one dreadful month that seemed never to end.

After making sure Bishop Malone had whatever he needed for his latest meeting, I made a swift retreat from the Chancery. Walk-running with my head down, I sped down two flights of stairs to the one spot in the Catholic Center that brought me any consolation: the Chapel. Sitting in front of the tabernacle, I let the tears fall and poured my aching heart out to Jesus. Sobbing silently with my eyes closed, I became aware that someone else had entered the Chapel. “Well,” I thought to myself, “At least I don’t have to explain why I’m crying. Anyone in this building won’t have to guess.” But this unknown person had chosen the seat right next to me! Opening my tear-gilded eyes, I saw my closest colleague- Father Ryszard, who had tears in his own eyes. He smiled sympathetically and whispered, “I’m having a hard day too.” I smiled back at him as tears tumbled down my cheeks. We sat there in front of Our Lord for as long as we could enjoying the peace of His presence. There was great consolation in knowing we were not alone in human or divine terms.

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I was vividly reminded of this Catholic Center Chapel experience last night when I was at Christ the King’s Chapel for my weekly Adoration hour. Overcome with emotion and exhaustion, I began to cry in a way that I haven’t in a very long time. I realized that I was doing the same kind of crying I’d perfected last year in the Catholic Center Chapel: silent, shaking sobbing. Praying to Jesus for consolation, I also reflected as to what brought on these tears. Not all tears are an evil, as Tolkien put it so beautifully, and they are rarely present without cause. The following is the reflection that my tears generated.

The past week has been the most challenging one since all of this began over a year ago. When Father Ryszard’s story was broadcast last Wednesday and Thursday, I was filled with gratitude, admiration and relief. How proud I was of my former colleague for his courage in blowing the whistle and then coming forward with his story of survivorhood! How wonderful it was to hear references to “whistle blowers” with that delightful pluralization. How relieved I was that Father was no longer required to cater to the whims of the bishop who had revictimized and retraumatized him multiple times.

But almost immediately, I began to realize that the same thing was going to happen to him that had happened to me last year: people were going to question his motives, doubt his sincerity and attack him personally. And I learned that it is exponentially harder to have this happen to a loved one than it is to bear it yourself. I’m no longer bothered by anything people say to me and I’ve learned to quickly spot constructive criticism, which I value, amidst the sea of ever-swirling critiques. But now people were saying things about Father Ryszard and oh I couldn’t abide by it! So I devoted myself to defending him at every opportunity.

And what an experience that has been! Because of my defense of Father Ryszard, I’ve been told that I’ve lost my credibility, lost my focus, lost it altogether. I’ve been told that my defense of him is “not a good strategy” as if I’ve ever had a strategy unless you call Telling the Truth a strategy. I’ve been warned that I’ll regret my support for him. I have lost followers and friends (of both the real and Facebook variety). But you know what I haven’t lost? Peace in my heart and in my soul.

I know Father Ryszard. I know that he is honest and that lies are antithetical to his very being. He does not have to prove his honesty or sincerity to me – I saw it in action day in and day out. He never hesitated, equivocated or prevaricated no matter the circumstances. In fact, he can be brutally honest in a way that I often needed! I know that he is faithful. His “office sermons” helped me to maintain my faith during the darkest days of my life. When he celebrates Mass, he raises his hands to heaven as though he is reaching right up to Jesus in love and gratitude. His devotion to Jesus and his example of faith in action inspired me to not give up on the God and the faith I’ve always loved. I know that Father is good because I witnessed his goodness every day for three years: cheerful charity, selfless service, and an energetic eagerness to help anyone and everyone he could.

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Comrades at the Chancery; Competitors at the Corporate Challenge

Father Ryszard once said to me, “You understand without words.” What he meant was that he doesn’t have to explain the details of an interaction with the Bishop or the circumstances of his actions or inactions, his words or his silence. Having been with Father Ryszard on the Chancery battlefield for so long, I understand circumstances and details with no explanation necessary. Likewise, I don’t have to question Father Ryszard’s motives because I understand them without words too.

Lest you think that there have been no words between Father Ryszard and me, I can tell you that we have spoken about the matters at hand. His answers to my questions were immediate and guileless. He has been open and honest with me as always. He has been reasonable and rational as I’ve always known him to be. During one of these conversations, there were tears in both of our eyes because what we spoke about was so serious and intense. Never far from the surface is the reminder of his own abuse by a priest, the subsequent threats from our auxiliary bishop, and the callous complicity of our bishop.

Father has never given me reason to doubt his words, his motives or his actions. My loyalty to him is not blind – it is informed. This is not a loyalty based on naivete or niceness. It is not simply a matter of one whistle blower defending another because she’s so grateful for company in the weird world of whistle blowing. Rather, it is the loyalty between friends and comrades who have never had a reason to doubt each other and who understand each other without words.

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It is appropriate that the anniversary of September 11th occurred during this past week.  That will always be a day of sorrowful remembrance for our country. The terrorist acts of 9/11 were beyond despicable, but in their wake we witnessed unity and charity on a tremendous scale. This country came together in a manner I’ve never seen before or since. People showed their love for each other in ways large and small. In the aftermath of an unthinkable tragedy, we emerged as a people grounded in unity and charity.

The Diocese of Buffalo is currently dealing with a tragedy of a vastly different nature, but one that also requires unity and charity in order to be overcome. Sadly, this past week has been filled with division and animosity in so many ways and so many areas. I’ve witnessed the corrosive effect of gossip, slander and rumor, which have been running rampant throughout the diocese. I’ve observed conflict and dissension among people who were previously friends and allies. I’ve raised my eyebrows in alarm at a “mob mentality” that has seemed to take over various discussions or threads. I’ve had people contact me out of concern that all of this division will detract from our mission.

What is that mission? My primary mission is to obtain healing for survivors and for our diocese. Healing for survivors is multi-faceted: justice, empowerment, support, resources, closure and community. For the diocese, that mission is a little simpler: let’s get through this with as much unity and charity as we can. We will eventually be a Post Malone diocese whether it’s in two weeks or two years. We have to move toward healing and that can only occur if we’re united and loving. There are no separate teams here – we are the team – Team DOB! There will be things we disagree on and areas where we don’t see eye-to-eye, but we can’t let that drag us down and distract us.

Bishop Malone has tried to distract us and deflect our attention away from him. This is the same bishop who regularly used a “divide and conquer” strategy when dealing with his priests.

We know that the Devil loves nothing more than to divide good people so as to limit or level their effectiveness. He is a divider, but we know that he is never the conqueror.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, he prays: “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I’d say that’s a pretty good motto to guide us in our mission! We certainly can’t achieve any semblance of harmony without God’s grace, mercy and guidance.

The word harmony ultimately comes to us from the Greek word for “joint” – harmos. If our joints don’t work in harmony, we won’t get very far. If we didn’t have joints, we’d be rigid and inflexible. Of course, we’ve all experienced varying levels of creakiness and/or soreness in our joints. Things do get out of joint sometimes! But just as our joints work in harmony with their anatomical neighbors, we need to work in harmony with each other. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I believe it will be necessary.

This is meant as a reflection to be shared – not a sermon to be delivered. I need to listen to my own words as much or more than anyone! All week, I’ve been feeling very much out of joint. Peaceful though my mind and heart have been, my mind has been troubled and my spirit has been deflated. I’m going to try and take a break from it all this weekend. I will attempt to heed this additional advice from St. Paul: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things… and the God of peace will be with you.”

Peace be with you, my friends. Please pray for me as I will for thee.

Grosz & LiPuma

Trigger Warning for Survivors: This post contains a graphic reference to clerical sexual abuse and the testimony of a survivor who was retraumatized by a member of the clergy.  A general theme is the cover up of clerical sexual abuse. Please read at your discretion.

grosz lipuma joined

Bishop Malone is rightfully our primary focus here in Buffalo because he is the primary leader of our diocese. But he is not the only member of diocesan leadership who has contributed to this debacle. The focus of this post will be on two such leaders: Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz and Msgr. David G. LiPuma, who was the priest secretary for Bishops Mansell and Kmiec and worked for one year with Bishop Malone.

grosz on protocol

As this diocesan protocol indicates, Auxiliary Bishop Grosz was given the responsibility of contacting all victims who reached out to the Diocese – through the IRCP or otherwise. He was also the one who contacted and met personally with all of the accused priests when a new allegation surfaced. He would meet regularly with the men known as “the unassignable priests” or “the unsassignables.” You would think he’d be “good cop” with the survivors and “bad cop” with the accused priests, but it was entirely the opposite as the story below will demonstrate.

Over the course of several months last spring, I read or heard many victim testimonies in one form or another. They were all compelling. They were all heartbreaking. They were all unforgettable. Many of these powerful testimonies are ones that can’t be shared due to the descriptions or references they contain. However there is one that I can share with you due to the nature of the letter and the generosity and conviction of its author.

The author’s name and any identifying elements have been redacted. I can only tell you that the author is a victim of a priest of the Diocese of Buffalo. He wrote this letter to Bishop Grosz last year after receiving a phone call from the Auxiliary Bishop. This remarkable man, whom I will call Brian, offers us a window into the survivor’s world – what they experience as victims and how they are treated by the Diocese in the person of Bishop Grosz.

Brian begins with this haunting description of the enduring trauma survivors experience:

I want to tell you what happens to a sexual abuse victim. The best analogy I have heard is to think of a little glass marble and what happens to it when you throw it very hard at the sidewalk or a concrete wall. It typically doesn’t break, but the shock is absorbed by a crack at the core. This is what happens to sex abuse victims; there is an interior brokenness and intense guilt and self-loathing that manifests in negative behaviors and attitudes as well as additions to sex, alcohol, food, sugars, drugs, gambling, shopping, working out, shoplifting, you name it. These behaviors are repeated and become a destructive pattern with the sole purpose to change and mask the way you feel. The negative actions create more guilt, more interior negativity and the cycle continues until your problems pile up and become incredibly difficult to address. A sexual abuse victim ends up with a hole in their soul.

This is one of the best descriptions of sexual abuse that I’ve ever read or heard of. That last line is heartbreaking. Brian’s concept of the “little glass marble” is incredibly insightful and powerful. After his introductory remarks, Brian then proceeds to explain the primary purpose of his letter – to make Bishop Grosz aware of the negative impact of his phone call to Brian:

Now with respect to our phone call. I was at first hesitant, but then told your social worker that I would like a call with an apology not realizing it would be your highly subjective view of the entire clergy abuse dilemma as well as a new cross-examination regarding the sexual abuse I experienced. I naively expected our call to be a short and contrite apology. This is the number one thing I would suggest to you. Make it a quick call and simply say the church is sorry for what happened and offer the counseling services, etc.

To out of the blue start asking me if (my abuser) entered me anally without first asking permission to discuss what I reported was very crass and insensitive. You asked me if I made this report because of what I saw in the paper. The implication is that I’m just piling on with a bunch of others and looking for a pay check. When you said, “This isn’t a big deal because it happens everywhere,” I really wanted to either start screaming or just hang up on you. But I promised my wife I would be decent if you ever called.

The truth is, and you can verify with your social worker, what happened to me earlier this year was plunging me into a deep depression for about 2 months as I felt bombarded with messages about abuse by priests. [Experts] are sure this is a post-traumatic stress response and I clearly see that point. Sex abuse has been a topic I have not wanted to read or hear about over the years. The reason I am making this request is to try to stand up for ‘little Brian.’ That is also why I am writing this letter.

[A priest I talked to over 10 years ago] was very kind and understanding with me even sending me a note of encouragement and support and I very much appreciate the embodiment of Christian love he extended to me. I think that is what you need to do on these calls. Keep it short, be loving, be apologetic, offer help within the confines of the programs you have established, but don’t try to explain how you see things or share your opinions. It’s just not a good approach.

It was gut-wrenching to read about Bishop Grosz’s call to Brian. I was utterly appalled. I’d already heard from multiple victims that they had not benefited from their phone call with Bishop Grosz, but I had no idea just what he was saying to them. Several survivors told me that they didn’t want Bishop Grosz to know their name, but that he would not accept their telephonic anonymity and insisted on calling them “Joe” despite their protests. One of them became very upset at being called that incorrect name repeatedly.  Still others would get very upset if I even mentioned that Bishop Grosz was willing to speak with them: “Oh no, no! Please don’t transfer me to him! I don’t ever want to talk to that man again! Please don’t do that! You’re not going to transfer me to him, right? Because I don’t even want to hear his voice!” These were all comments that I heard from survivors last spring. I was always startled by the tone of their voice – some sounded truly panicked at the thought of speaking with Bishop Grosz.

After reading Brian’s letter, I understood their distress in a much more vivid way. I am deeply grateful to Brian for allowing me to share his letter with you so that you might gain a better understanding of Bishop Grosz’s horrible treatment of survivors.

To this day, Bishop Grosz continues to be directly involved with the abuse scandal response within our diocese. He is the bishop survivors hear from and we know how that goes. Meanwhile, Bishop Malone publicly lauds himself for reaching out to survivors while hardly ever meeting with them. So very many survivors came forward to the diocese last year in response to Bishop Malone’s public call for them to do so. But Bishop Malone has met with 4 or 5 of them over the past year. Instead, he has Bishop Grosz take care of such “outreach.” Based on Brian’s testimony, it’s no surprise that very few survivors have anything even remotely positive to say about Bishop Grosz.

In recent days, Father Ryszard has shared the unbelievable story of how Bishop Grosz harassed, threatened, bullied and silenced him regarding Father Ryszard’s abuse by Father Art Smith. Bishop Grosz’s actions seem criminal and are certainly morally reprehensible. What he did to Father Ryszard is unthinkably cruel and calculating.

It is important to remember that Father Art Smith is one of Bishop Grosz’ classmates. It has been well known for years – especially among the priests – that Bishop Grosz covers for and protects his classmates and other select priests. These select priests are usually Polish Americans since Grosz is Polish American well. Yet Bishop Grosz does not protect an actually Polish seminarian who has been abused!!

Of the 15 members of Bishop Grosz’s 1971 seminary class, 5 of them have been publicly accused of sexual abuse and misconduct. Leising and Riter were reinstated, Maryanski was kept safe for decades, Nogaro was recently named in a CVA suit and thus suspended, and Father Art Smith was given a $1,300 a month condo for years (on the diocese’s dime) along with a host of other very special treatments.

Bishop Grosz is not fit for any kind of leadership let alone serving as Auxiliary Bishop of a diocese. The fact that he’s been in that position in our diocese for nearly 30 years is appalling. (He was consecrated on 2/2/1990). Next February 16th, he will turn 75. He has made it abundantly clear for several years now that he wants to retire as soon as possible upon reaching that magic number when bishops must submit their resignations. He is literally counting down the weeks.

Bishop Grosz should not be allowed to ride off into a rosy sunset as Yetter and others have tried to do. Bishop Grosz must be held accountable for his appalling actions, multiple cover-ups, and utterly complicit behavior. We cannot permit him to get away with what he has done over the course of three decades and to victims like Ryszard and Brian. Bishop Grosz has hidden away and avoided public scrutiny for long enough. He cannot get away with it any longer!

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malone lipuma biernat

The photo above captures Bishop Malone with his former and current priest secretaries – Msgr. David G. LiPuma and Father Ryszard Biernat. This photo was taken in October of 2013, which was less than 4 months after Father Ryszard took over for Msgr. LiPuma as Secretary to the Bishop. But it was nearly 10 years after Father Ryszard was abused by Father Art Smith, as he describes in this heartrending video.

Guess who knew about Father Ryszard’s abuse as soon as it was reported to the Diocese? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who did absolutely nothing to help Seminarian Ryszard? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who assisted in the ongoing cover up of Father Art Smith’s crime against Seminarian Ryszard? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who knew that Seminarian Ryszard’s case was not properly processed and never even sent to the diocesan lawyers yet did nothing about it? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who was Bishop Kmiec’s right-hand man when he suspended Father Art Smith’s ministry in the spring of 2012? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who was Bishop Malone’s right-hand man when he reinstated Father Art Smith to ministry at the Brothers of Mercy in November of 2012? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who personally called and arranged with the Brothers of Mercy for Father Art Smith to minister at their campus without warning the Brothers of Mercy about Father Art’s history of abuse? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who was informed of two allegations of sexual misconduct by Father Art Smith at the Brothers of Mercy but did nothing to hold Father Art Smith accountable or inform proper authorities? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who communicated regularly with Father Art Smith and conveyed his requests and concerns to Bishop Malone as this detailed, handwritten memo indicates? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who was continuously solicitous and attentive to a priest with multiple allegations against him while ignoring the plight of a seminarian who was abused by this very priest? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who unscrupulously handed off his significant Chancery role of Secretary to the Bishop and Vice-Chancellor to the young Polish priest who he knew was abused as a Seminarian? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who is the current Chairman of the Presbyteral Council (priest advisors) for our Diocese? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who spearheaded the “Year of Healing” initiative within the Diocese of Buffalo? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who Bishop Malone appointed Rector of Our Lady of Victory Basilica, the crown jewel of our diocese, this past June? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who was appointed by Bishop Malone to the Movement to Restore Trust’s Join Implementation Team as a diocesan representative? Monsignor David LiPuma.

JIT

Guess who stifled a survivor’s attempt to publicly speak about their experience as a survivor and a Catholic? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess which priest “plays the game better than anyone else,” according to more than a few of his brother priests? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who has long been considered the favorite (of Mansell, Kmiec and Malone) to be named a bishop himself? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Guess who will become a bishop over my dead body? Monsignor David LiPuma.

Monsignor David LiPuma is a high-ranking, card-carrying member of the Good Old Boys Club. He is a significant, long-term part of the corrupt, corporate culture that exists within our Diocese. He has covered up crimes. He has shown much more concern for an accused priest than for an abused seminarian. Yet he has been routinely promoted and regularly lauded by Bishop Malone, who considers him a personal friend.

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There needs to be a total house cleaning at the Chancery*. As soon as I can, I will write a piece about Sister Regina Murphy, Chancellor, and Steve Halter, Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility. But for now, I want to focus your attention on Bishop Grosz and Msgr. LiPuma.

Malone must go. Grosz and LiPuma need to follow him out the door. They cannot remain in leadership in our diocese. 

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*Female administrative staff not included.

Photo of Bishop Malone and priests taken from this article: https://www.wnypapers.com/news/article/current/2013/10/04/112881/buffalo-bishop-richard-malone-visits-our-lady-of-peace

 

 

The Letter

Friends,

I have been receiving many comments/messages/texts about the infamous letter. I am sure many of you are hearing about it as well. The following are my final comments on the matter.

The letter in question is only part of this story because a priest and confessor betrayed his parishioner and penitent by illicitly obtaining* the letter and sharing it. The letter is a personal correspondence and should have remained so.

I do not believe it is a love letter. I genuinely believe that it was a letter of friendship, which is a form of love and a very important one at that. Have we forgotten that love is a multi-faceted term? The Greeks distinguished four types of love:

Storge: affection – the love between family
Philia: friendship – the love between friends
Eros: passion – the love between lovers
Agape: unconditional love – the love of God

People are spreading this letter around our diocese (and beyond) along with their erotic interpretation of it. Salacious rumors are running rampant and people are using their erotic interpretation as “proof” of their claims. It disgusts and disappoints me in equal measure. These are good, faithful people I have respected in the past and want to still respect now and in the future. We are being divided – at a time when we most need unity!! – over personal interpretations of a letter none of us should ever have seen in the first place. Talk about compounding a tragedy!

Bishop Malone wants us to focus on this letter – that’s why he referenced it so much during this press conference on Wednesday! He wants this letter (and its author, recipient and thief) to deflect attention away from himself. We know how horribly he has treated Father Ryszard in the past – as this story makes heartrendingly clear – so it should not surprise us to realize that he is doing it again. Don’t let Bishop Malone get away with this pathetic diversionary tactic!

One of the most beautiful lines from The Little Prince is this one:

“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

Eros is so very visible in our society. We are surrounded by it in many forms.

Let us not allow our eyes and hearts to be blinded to the essential reality of philia.

And for the love of God – agape – stop spreading slander!

I will entertain no further comments or questions on this matter. Please join me in prayer for all involved. Thank you!

*Yes, I am fully aware that I “illicitly obtained” documents from Bishop Malone. They were of an obviously different nature and import.

Wealth Speaking to Power

Calendar

The Bishop’s public calendar for this week is quite interesting. Yesterday, he met with the “Independent” Review Board. Wonder what “independent” decisions they’ll be publishing soon.

Today at 1 pm, Bishop Malone is scheduled to meet with the Joint Implementation Team that he created as a bridge between the Movement to Restore Trust (MRT – click for their website) and the Diocese. I am fervently praying that the JIT members will have the strength to forego any joint implementing in favor of demanding Bishop Malone’s resignation.

JIT group phoot

But just look at this JIT group photo! You’ve got Msgr. LiPuma there on the far left – a priest secretary to THREE bishops who DID and SAID NOTHING for decades. Then there’s Fr. Peter Karalus and Sr. Regina Murphy, who are members of the Bishop’s Senior Staff and were well aware of the Nowak situation and DID NOTHING. John and Maureen Hurley are there – will they value influence and power over truth and justice? This week we will learn their final answer to that vital question.

At 4:30 pm on Thursday, the Bishop will gather with his Council for the Laity – a group of influential, wealthy Catholics including such well known names as Don Postles and Terry Connors. (Yes, you read that right – Terry Connors is on the BCL.) Will these folks be cheerleaders for the Bishop or will they finally take a stand?

Bishop Malone listens to influential, wealthy people MUCH more than he does ordinary Catholics. He doesn’t listen to anybody, really, but certainly not the likes of us. If someone is prestigious, powerful or prosperous, he will at least listen to them and might be influenced by them. Let us pray for all of these men and women that they might act with faithful fortitude and demand the Bishop’s resignation. 

Please God, help these people to use their power for good!

My Friend Ryszard

The bee is more honored than other animals, 

not because she labors, but because she labors for others.

~ Saint John Chrysostom

My first statement to the media last year ended with these words:  “My heart is heavy, but my soul is at peace.” There were many reasons for that heaviness of heart, but one of the foremost was that I felt as though I’d left a comrade on the battlefield. Father Ryszard, my colleague of three years and hopefully a forever friend, was still working closely with and for Bishop Malone. Last autumn, I was so desperate to get Father Ryszard out of there that I practically staged an intervention. Fortunately, it did not occur as planned and Father had the stamina to persevere in his role as Secretary to the Bishop. Without his strength, we would not have The Malone Recordings.

As I noted in a statement to the media, none of the information revealed in the Malone Recordings is shocking to me. It simply confirms what I came to learn about Bishop Malone – that he is an arrogant, cowardly and self-centered prelate who is incapable of effective, pastoral leadership. He must resign immediately.

The real story of the Malone Recordings is the heroic courage and quiet strength of Father Ryszard Biernat. He is an immigrant, a missionary, a survivor and a priest. It was appalling to learn about and then witness how the Diocese and Bishop Malone treated Father Ryszard. They revictimized and retraumatized him repeatedly. If this is how they treat a survivor priest who was a member of Senior Staff, no wonder they treat other survivors so deplorably! All last year, I desperately hoped that Bishop Malone would be the man I had thought him to be. At every turn, he dashed those hopes. Father Ryszard, on the contrary, became even more the man I thought he was – a man of God devoted to the good of His people.

Before he became a whistle blower priest, Father Ryszard was best known as the beekeeper priest. His affinity for bees began in the 5th grade and has only grown stronger since then. I used to love it when Father Ryszard would stop by the Chancery in his bee suit on his way to the bees. I don’t have a picture of that ensemble, sad to say, but I do have a photo of his “bee truck” parked in the Catholic Center lot:

Bee truck
That’s a whole lot of holy hives!

Father Ryszard was always filled with such tangible joy when he was heading out to see his bees. I used to laugh and say that I was one of his millions of co-workers since he had so many bees in his hives! Father is very well suited to the craft of beekeeping as it requires a love for animals and nature, a curious and resourceful mind, a resilient and humble spirit, great trust in God and a calm demeanor in the face of potential stings! Father devoted so much time, effort and energy to caring for his bees and cultivating their golden gift so as to share it with others. It was clear that Father cherished his time with the bees as an opportunity to reconnect with nature and rejuvenate his spirit.

In addition to creating his renowned Holy Honey, Father Ryszard used his beekeeping experience to enrich his homilies and talks. In a 2014 interview, he explained that “honey bees in Eastern and Central Europe are a symbol of the Christian religion because they work together and sacrifice. Their instinct is to protect the hive. Hives are a living organism with different bees taking the role of collecting water, nectar, pollen, feeding the young and cleaning the hive. They take many roles with one goal – producing something good. [Hence] the parallels between the hive and the Church.”

Father Ryszard lived out this hive symbolism in his person and in his priesthood. He was the ultimate team player: helpful, hard-working and humble. Never once – not once in three years! – did I ever ask him for help without receiving an immediate, affirmative response. He would almost literally drop what he was doing to help someone in need whether they requested a bus pass, a Bible or a blessing. He did many good deeds in quiet, unassuming ways. Father likely never realized that I noticed his humble acts of service or generosity. He was not doing good for accolades or applause – as Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz are wont to do – but to serve God and His people. I often thought that in so many ways, Father Ryszard embodied this description of Jesus from the Acts of the Apostles: “He went about doing good.”

Father was always seeking out or responding to opportunities to minister to the people of God in WNY. Gifted with tremendous empathy, he was often at the bedside of the dying or consoling those who grieved their loss. A humorous and holy preacher, he was constantly being asked to say Mass, lead a mission or give a talk. Naturally comfortable with people of all ages, he was beloved by children and revered by adults. More than a few times, people would find out where I worked and say, “Oooh, you get to work with Father Ryszard every day??!!!” Usually this query came from a parishioner at one of the parishes where Father Ryszard was stationed before he was assigned to the Chancery. “Father Ryszard used to be at our parish and we just loved him and we miss him so much” were words that I heard frequently. I remember one little girl telling me just how lucky I was to work with Father Ryszard. She was so very right.

In addition to his generous ministry, Father Ryszard lived out the hive symbolism through his many sacrifices for the Church of Buffalo, as he always referred to our diocese. He came to Buffalo as a young Polish man who barely spoke English and was still acclimating to our U.S. culture. Sexually abused by a priest when he was a seminarian, he would be revictimized by Bishop Grosz and retraumatized by Bishop Malone. Yet Father persevered through it all and was ordained here in 2009. He has generously served the people of our diocese since then. Like the bee, as St. John Chrysostom said, Father has labored for others. He even accepted the hardest assignment of them all: Secretary to Bishop Malone.

Some of the priests seemed to think that Father Ryszard was living on easy street with his Chancery assignment. No, he was living on servitude street. You want to know the first thing that tipped me off that Bishop Malone was not the man I thought he was? His treatment of Father Ryszard. Bishop Malone was mercurial in the worst way. One day he was treating Ryszard like a beloved nephew — the next day Father would be on his black list for some unknown (and likely asinine) reason. No matter how the Bishop was treating him, Father Ryszard continued to do the following with admirable grace and good cheer: drive him every where, share most meals with him, attend almost all of the same meetings, coordinate and direct all of his liturgies, arrange for all of his travel, and listen to him day in and day out. In Father Ryszard I witnessed heroic charity in the face of hubristic cattiness. So often last year I braced myself for 5-6 hours of Bishop Malone only to realize that Father Ryszard routinely spent every waking hour with him. Such realizations always made me cringe… and left me in awe of Father.

There is much that can and will be said regarding the content and context of the Malone Recordings. It is not the purpose of this post to dwell on those specifics although I am familiar with such matters. Instead, I wanted to take this opportunity to speak to you about Father Ryszard and the good man of God that he is. Like his bees, Father Ryszard has continuously worked and sacrificed to “produce something good.” He is as honest as he is genuine. He sincerely strives for holiness. And he always seeks to do good.

At the end of the aforementioned interview, Father Ryszard was asked what makes him happy (other than working with bees and kids – albeit not simultaneously). His response is pure and beautiful: “Celebrating the Eucharist behind the altar – I feel as if I belong there. Nowhere else in the world do I feel as comfortable; it’s like a puzzle piece that just fits. There is a great affirmation – like drinking satisfies thirst; for me, celebrating the Eucharist affirms my calling. I can’t picture myself any happier than I am right now, doing what’s right and following the Lord.”

I believe that Father Ryszard has done what is right and is following the Lord. Father is making the truth known and bringing light into our ongoing diocesan darkness. It is hard to express both my pride in him and my loyalty toward him.

Father Ryszard used to be my trusted colleague. Now, he is a fellow whistle blower. But most of all – he is my good friend. He has my heartfelt gratitude, admiration and support.

O'Brien Castle.jpg
Father Ryszard at O’Brien’s Tower at the Cliffs of Moher in October 2017

 

Lessons Learned

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to each and every person who attended the DOB Laity Protest yesterday. It takes a great deal of conviction and zeal to commit several hours to protesting of this nature not to mention the time it took to make their signs. I am grateful to my fellow lay people for making those time commitments. Very special thanks to the survivors who joined us as their strength continues to inspire us.

With that being said, I want to publicly note that there were signs present at yesterday’s protest that troubled me greatly. Two signs particularly distressed me as they cast aspersions upon two sets of priests (one of them Bishop Malone) and suggested inappropriate relationships between them. Anyone who has followed me over the last year knows that I am not afraid to call out priests and/or prelates for actions that are morally wrong, corrupt or complicit. But I cannot support efforts to publicly attack or smear anyone based on assumptions or speculation. There are enough fact-based allegations against Bishop Malone to fill up quite a few signs for quite some time!

There were several other signs yesterday that I felt detracted from the overall message of our protest. At this challenging time, we must be as united as possible in fighting the corruption in our diocese. We must avoid anything that distracts or detracts from that central focus. Michael Whalen, my first survivor hero, gave us a perfect example of going straightforward and strong – not to mention big and bold – with his message:

Mike's awesome sign
Mike Whalen was the essence of cool on that warm summer afternoon

Thank you, Mike, for being there and for creating the most epic protest sign I’ve ever seen! And thank you for keeping your message clear and direct. In so many ways, we protesters need to emulate Mike and another survivor who was present with us – Deacon Paul Emerson. Both of them were peaceful and amiable while also being filled with zealous courage. Special thanks to Deacon Paul for protesting with us when he could have been picnic-ing with the Bishop and his fellow deacons and the priests!

first amendment

Of course, I am aware that everyone at the protest yesterday was utilizing their first amendment rights. They also may be coming from perspectives and places that have been very challenging and/or damaging. I respect every single person who was there yesterday even if I may disagree with their message or method. The very fact that I do respect them makes this all the harder.

Despite our differences, we were able to get through the afternoon without any internal incidents. I desperately wanted to avoid arguments among us as that would be the worst possible visual especially with so many priests and deacons passing us by and members of the media present. Thank you to the media for being there yesterday to document our protest and to help our voices to be heard beyond the front lawn of Christ the King Seminary.

Some of us stayed there until around 7:30 last night in the hopes that Bishop Malone might make an appearance. Knowing his prowess for sneaky escapes, I decided to get going in case he had tunneled his way out or Kathy Spangler had arranged for a Mercy Flight for him. After jumping in my car, I drove to the place I most wanted to be: one of our diocese’s Adoration Chapels. I poured out my heart to Jesus asking Him to help me navigate these turbulent times and challenging situations. That time of prayer and reflection was so restorative. It not only helped me to overcome any sadness about the day’s protest, but also inspired me to start planning the next one. Thank you, Lord, for Your guidance and grace!

As the poster below indicates, the next DOB Laity Protest will be distinctly different from the one held yesterday. For starters, I added “prayerful” before protest and have planned an hour of prayer to start us off. There will also be a moment of prayerful silence for those survivors who are no longer with us. The rosary will be offered for all survivors. Also notable is the fact that no personal signs will be permitted. I am working to have signs printed for this event – thank you to those who are assisting me in this endeavor. These signs will focus on the primary point that I believe we can all agree on and which we need to emphasize above all else: the corrupt leadership in our diocese must cease for the sake of survivors, lay people and the future of the Diocese of Buffalo.

DOB Laity Prayerful Protest 9.5.2019
The 5th of September is Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s feast day hence the prayers in her honor

I appeal to you, bethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10

If you are local and able to attend next week’s prayerful protest, I encourage you to do so. I believe it is essential that we, the lay people of the diocese, continue to publicly call for the leadership change that this long-suffering flock so desperately needs. It is my prayer that we will be able to accomplish this with as much unity, charity and dignity as possible.

For those who are not close by, thank you for being with us in spirit and for joining your prayers to ours. That prayer support is most important of all.

Thank you for reading this post. It was not an easy or enjoyable piece to write, but I felt it was a necessary one.

The Bishop in the Chapel with a Press Conference

A year ago today, Bishop Malone held a press conference in the chapel of the former convent that would later become his residence.

It was a Sunday last year. Charlie’s Smith and Yetter stories had broken just a few days prior and this press conference would be the Bishop’s response. Many people – including Deacon Paul Snyder and various government officials – were calling for Bishop Malone to resign. Strange as it is to say now, I did not immediately echo those calls. Wait, I thought to myself. I should let the Bishop respond and listen to what he says and how he reacts. 

Was I hopeful? Not exactly. Skeptical? Not entirely. I was concerned by the diocese’s immediate response to Charlie’s stories: the Fort Knoxing of the Chancery and a myopic obsession with “finding the leak.” Yet I felt that I owed it to my former boss to let him respond personally before I made any decisions about whether he should resign or not. This was an opportunity for him to finally right his course. I had witnessed him pass up multiple such opportunities throughout 2018, but I tried not to be cynical because of it.

Even before the Bishop said a word, I had a strong feeling that he wouldn’t be resigning that afternoon. The location of the press conference – his future residence – was a statement in itself. Why would he host this media event there if he planned to resign and leave the diocese? It was highly unlikely. And why would he hold the press conference in the chapel? It was an unseemly backdrop for such an event. Yet I still wanted to hear from him – how would he respond in word and action?

Bishop Malone watches Charlie as he wraps up his live remarks before the Bishop’s press conference

Watching Bishop Malone waiting in the doorway about to enter the chapel, I was overcome with emotion. The last time I’d seen the Bishop, he’d given me a hug and told me how much he already missed me. Now he was carrying a familiar USCCB folder into a press conference to address allegations that were brought against him because of my actions. Normally I would have typed up the remarks that would have gone into that folder. I frequently reviewed his remarks with him as he adapted and fine tuned them. I so often knew exactly what he was about to say.

His first words and actions left me shaking my head. He walked brusquely across the chapel as though it were a conference room while holding that USCCB folder and a beverage container. Holding up the container, he remarked:

This is my iced tea, I’m not sure the Felician nuns who lived here forever would be happy I brought it in the chapel, but here it is.

iced tea

If the iced tea remark was supposed to break the ice, it epically failed. I remember being shocked at his seeming indifference to his surroundings. The red tabernacle light was not lit, so I assumed Our Lord was not present sacramentally in that room. But even so, his demeanor was not what you’d expect from a bishop in a chapel.

Within his first few sentences, we knew he wasn’t going anywhere:

You are the first group to come into what is soon to be the official residence of the Bishop of Buffalo. There is a little bit more work to be done to make it ready for that, since most of this floor will be for events. So we’re happy to have you. And I thank you very much.

He went on to thank the “good people” of our diocese for staying “steadfastly focused on Jesus.” He reminded us of the good work of the diocese and the Church while acknowledging people’s concerns as to whether “we are adequately equipped to meet the heart-wrenching, persistent challenge of clergy sexual abuse.”

We. A disconcerting use of that plural pronoun. I thought to myself: We’re not worried about our collective response to this challenge, Bishop Malone, we are worried about yours. Singular. Very singular.  

Eventually, he got to the heart of it:

With the benefit of hindsight, other, more recent allegations, which at the time, may have seemed hazy or difficult to substantiate, warranted more firm, more swift action.

Let me be clear: My handling of recent claims from some of our parishioners concerning sexual misconduct with adults unquestionably has fallen short of the standard to which you hold us, and to which we hold ourselves. We can do better, we will do better.

We? We can do better? We will do better? Wait a second, I thought. You just acknowledged that you fell short of the standard and now you’re employing the royal we again?

As my blood pressure continued to rise, he started talking about one of his favorite things – the Charter for the Protection of Children and People. He talked about it being the “guiding mandate” for all bishops and his “personal charge.” He went on to note:

However, reflecting on my handing of recent allegations of sexual misconduct with adults, I fear that in seeking to uphold the charter to the letter — and remember the charter is for young people — I may have lost sight of the charter’s spirit, which applies to people of all ages. All of God’s children deserve the same protection from sexual harassment or contact, including adults.

That last sentence stunned me. He spoke those words as though they were a new concept, a bright idea, a revelation. Having witnessed his repeated disregard for young adult victims of clerical sexual abuse (including seminarians at his own diocesan seminary), I was not surprised to hear him hiding behind the Charter as though it were a shield. But the way he threw in that “including adults” line made my stomach turn. It also brought me to my knees.

Yes, I dropped to my knees and started to pray. I prayed that the Bishop would put down his prepared remarks, look us straight in the eye and be genuine with us. No more royal we-ing and charter-ing and the like. I prayed that he would be sincere and honest, remorseful and contrite. This was the time for a heart-to-heart conversation with his hurting people. Instead, we were hearing a carefully crafted, legally approved address.

The Bishop went on to address the calls of “some within our Catholic community” for him to resign. He had prayed about it, he told us, and received guidance and support from “colleagues, friends, brothers and sisters in ministry.”

This is what happens when you surround yourself almost entirely with cheerleaders and brown nosers. How grateful I was to no longer be among his “sisters in ministry.”

His next line was essentially the thesis statement of his address:

And I stand before you today recommitted to my calling to serve as Bishop of Buffalo.

But it was the next one that brought stinging tears to my eyes:

The shepherd does not desert the flock at a difficult time.

But you DID desert us, Bishop Malone. Time and time again!

  • You deserted us when you hid a 300-page black binder in your vacuum closet instead of dealing with the darkness it contained.
  • You deserted us when you rolled out an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program that focused on protecting the diocese’s assets while leaving survivors confused and vulnerable, unanswered and unheard.
  • You deserted us when you wrote multiple letters of good standing for Fr. Art Smith despite knowing of the multiple, serious allegations against him.
  • You deserted us when you offered Fr. Robert Yetter public praise and an easy retirement while ignoring all recommendations to pull him from ministry due to abuse allegations.
  • You deserted us when you made other significant, unwise decisions or allowed indifferent staff to make such decisions for you. (I have to be vague here.)
  • You deserted us when you lied to a victim by telling him “you’re the only one” despite the fact that you had read the accounts of multiple other victims that very morning.
  • You deserted us when you lied to us by saying that there were only 42 priests in our diocese who had been accused of sexual abuse when you KNEW the number was more than double that published figure.
  • You deserted us when you did not respond to letters from survivors or their family members, but instead forwarded them to Lawlor Quinlan for a terse, legal reply.
  • You deserted us when you left for the Cape every single chance you got – especially when things became difficult here in the diocese.
  • You deserted us when you traveled to all sorts of committee meetings and administrative meetings that you didn’t need to attend – rightfully gaining the “airport bishop” title you so loathed – in order to avoid the hard work of leading our diocese.
  • You deserted us when you failed to provide paternal and pastoral leadership to our priests – stating at times that you would “divide and conquer” any priests who dared to challenge or question your decisions.
  • You deserted us when parishes would contact the Chancery seeking help after priests were pulled from ministry leaving their parish family devastated. You would offer them absolutely no support or guidance. When St. Mary’s in Swormville reached out for help after the Yetter story rocked their parish, they were told you were “emotionally distraught” and would not have anything to do with them.

I thought to myself: You’ve already deserted us so many times and in so many ways, Bishop. Don’t talk about shepherding your flock when you’ve failed to do so so many times. 

After talking about his “moral compass,” which made me roll my teary eyes, the Bishop told us that “now is the time for action.” He went on to make “a few promises:”

  • The establishment of a “task force to examine the diocese’s procedures for handling claims of inappropriate conduct with adults and to recommend methods for honoring all victims in a manner consistent with our protection of children.”
    • We have been told that this task force has been formed, but exactly a year later, we have yet to see anything produced by or decided by this entity. It is a figurehead of the ghost ship Captain Malone is sailing.
  • The establishment of a new Office of Professional Responsibility “whose mission will be enforcement of our diocesan code of ethics.”
    • Steve Halter got this job. I do not believe he is independent. I do not trust his judgment. I need to write a blog post about him sometime soon. 
  • The diocese’s cooperation with “any investigation initiated by the New York State Attorney General or District Attorney.”

The Bishop closed with an apology and a request for prayers:

Most importantly, to the victims of clerical abuse of all ages, children and adults, I am profoundly sorry for the pain this has caused you. While nothing I can say to you could heal the hurt of this tragic breach of trust, as bishop of this diocese I do extend my most heartfelt apologies. I want you to know that we will do all we can to restore your faith, to help you heal and to help you begin to move forward.

Please join me in praying first for victims of abuse everywhere.

And please find it in your heart, if you can, to pray also for me, and for all those who are trying to overcome the darkness of this sin, and bring back the true light of what the church should be for everyone.

I was saddened that the Bishop was still reading his remarks when he issued that apology to survivors. Put down those papers, Bishop, I wanted to scream at the television, The survivors deserve so much better than a scripted apology from you! 

looking down

But there would be no heartfelt, genuine apology that afternoon. Neither would there be questions:

As you know, I usually do Q and A, but not today. Today is a day simply for this statement. At other times of course in the future, I’ll be available to entertain those.

As we know, the Bishop did not entertain questions until November 5th so he really was talking about “the future.” And even when he did take questions that autumn afternoon, he relied heavily on his legal team while doing so.

After he was done, Bishop Malone took his folder and headed toward the side door from which he’d come. This time, he paused to bow reverently before the altar and tabernacle. It was an odd sight given how he strode into the room not ten minutes before without a glance at the tabernacle. It was almost amusing to note that he’d forgotten his darn iced tea by the podium where he put it.

This press conference marked the official end of my lingering hope that Bishop Malone might be able to lead us out of this darkness. His words were scripted, his attitude was arrogant and his demeanor was disconcerting. Not to mention that he talked much more about “we” than about “me.”

He must resign, I said that afternoon as the tears dried.

A year later, I echo those words while holding back tears. It has been a full year and what has changed in our diocese? Nothing. There is a new task force, a new officer, a now “independent” review board, but there is nothing actually new here. It is business as usual with some new names and faces thrown in as a diversion attempt. The Bishop is using the same exact tactics he was utilizing a year ago as this story makes clear. He is “listening” his way around the diocese while desperately hoping that we’ll all “move on” and get over this.

We cannot do that, Bishop Malone. This is our diocese. We live here. We love it here. We don’t escape from the diocese at the first opportunity.

We want healing and hope, truth and transparency.

A year later, we have none of these things.

We deserve better.

We demand better.

You must resign.

 

 

All screen grabs were taken from this WGRZ video, which I selected because it includes Charlie’s closing line and the Bishop’s expression as he watched Charlie:

https://www.wgrz.com/video/news/local/bishop-malone-full-press-conference/71-8232002

Direct quotes were taken from the following transcript courtesy of the Buffalo News:

https://buffalonews.com/2018/08/26/transcript-of-bishop-malones-statement-regarding-abuse-calls-for-him-to-resign/