A Hard-won Victory

Last week I was despondent about a bill passing into law in Albany.

This week I am delighted by a bill about to pass into law in Albany.

Such are the ups and downs of a pro-life, pro-victim New Yorker.

After fighting for the Child Victims Act for literally decades, survivors of child sexual assault can celebrate a hard fought, hard-won victory today. The New York State Senate unanimously passed the CVA as survivors and advocates looked on. In fact, Buffalo’s own Michael Whalen was there to witness this historic event.

Once signed into law, the CVA allows victims of child sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser and pertinent institutions until they are 55 years old. Previously, victims were only able to sue until they turned 23.

In addition, the Child Victims Act includes a “look back window,” which allows adult victims to sue during a one-year period. Before this law, such action by these individuals was prevented by the statute of limitations. Another important point is that law enforcement will now have additional time to file charges against abusers.

As you likely know, the Catholic Church in New York State has long opposed this law. The eight Catholic bishops of New York State have collectively spent millions lobbying against this legislation. (Buffalonians may recall that on the day the original list of 42 priests was released last year, Bishop Malone was in Albany lobbying against the CVA among other things. The optics were really bad for the Diocese of Buffalo that week.) The bishops’ opposition has gradually eased over the last year most likely as a result of the clerical sexual abuse scandal currently playing out within the Church. As episcopal cover-ups and complicity have become more clear, the bishops’ opposition began to dwindle as well it should.

One important point that the bishops always raised was that public institutions should be included in this bill along with private organizations. I heartily agree with them in this regard. After all, a victim is a victim. Abuse is abuse. Just as it shouldn’t matter when the abuse occurred, it shouldn’t matter where or by whom: a public school teacher, a priest, a Boy Scout troop leader, a guidance counselor, a deacon, etc. – any and every abuser should be held accountable. As far as I know, today’s legislation incorporated the provisions demanded by the Catholic bishops. I’d call that a win-win.

It is important to recognize that this law may have a dramatic impact on the Catholic Church in New York State. Before today, this “look-back window” had been instituted in only 4 states: California, Delaware, Hawaii and Minnesota. Multiple dioceses in those states have filed for bankruptcy after paying large sums to victims. This is not a pleasant prospect for Catholics, but it is wise to be prepared for such an occurrence. While there is no fully adequate earthly justice for what survivors have endured, they deserve every bit of that justice they can obtain.

This is where the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program comes into play. Most of the dioceses in New York – including Buffalo – have initiated such a program. Survivors who participate in the program and agree to the compensation they receive also waive their right to sue. According to various news sources, it would seem that the majority of participating survivors in NYS have signed the “I won’t sue” release.

However, there are survivors who have decided to pursue a civil lawsuit. Cynics will say they’re looking for a larger dollar amount. From my experience, this is not an accurate description. Most survivors are not focused on the financial aspect, but rather on their personal quest for truth and justice. If their quest is best pursued through a jury trial rather than an IRCP judge’s decision, that is their choice. I support survivors no matter which route they choose. I just pray that whichever path they select, it will bring them as much peace and healing as possible. Money cannot heal, but it can help.

I would be remiss if I did not mention adult victims of clerical sexual abuse. While today’s legislative victory marks a long-awaited milestone for child victims, it is a reminder that there is still work to be done in fighting for justice for adult victims of clerical sexual abuse. While we celebrate today’s victory, let us not forget the many adult victims who are still waiting for justice and truth.

Finally, I love this “survivor psalm” and wish I knew its author so that I could give proper credit. To me, these words eloquently express not only the anguish and agony of survivors, but also their ability to rise about their suffering. Their resiliency never fails to inspire me.




Life Lessons from Nana

nana and i motorcycles

When it comes to my Nana, it’s hard for me to adequately describe three things: how amazing she was, how much I love her and how much I miss her. Ellen Christina Quigley was born on January 25, 1919 and returned to her Creator on October 1, 2012. The greatest honor of my life will always be that I am my Nana’s granddaughter. Through the tears of missing her on what would have been her 100th birthday, I thank God for the immense and enduring gift of her life.

Perhaps I should start by explaining the photo that begins this post. Not surprisingly, it is my favorite photo of all time. During the fall of 2008, I had the privilege of living in my Nana’s hometown of Beverly, MA in order to care for her every day. This was a tremendous gift as my family has always lived at least 400 miles from our nearest extended family. I still can’t believe how fortunate I was to spend three months in the daily presence of my favorite human being. She had total cognitive function, but needed help with staying safe while going about her day. So obviously motorcycles were in order!

We had just finished lunch at Kelly’s, a roast beef sandwich spot akin to Anderson’s in Buffalo. Upon exiting the restaurant doors, we saw these two motorcycles parked right next to my Civic. Nana gave them an admiring appraisal and exclaimed, “Would you look at those motorcycles!” Nana went over to the blue bike and began inspecting it more closely. At this propitious moment, the owners of the bikes emerged from the restaurant. They were far from the stereotypes of my imagining: two diminutive women whose motorcycle ownership was only evidenced by the helmets in their hands. Fortunately, they seemed amused to find us so close to their bikes with Nana literally getting up in one’s grille. Upon realizing their presence, Nana looked up and cheerily introduced herself. Both women were charmed by her, as everyone always was, and introduced themselves in return. It turned out that the owner of the blue motorcycle was also named Ellen. And so it happened that Nana and I got a chance to pose on the motorcycles with Nana eagerly donning Ellen’s proffered helmet.

After the photo was taken, the ladies asked us if we’d like them to take us on a little spin around the parking lot. Nana’s immediate answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!” It was obvious that the motorcycle ladies had just met their new hero. I can still remember Nana’s eyes twinkling over the mouth guard of her helmet. At the same time, I could imagine my mother and my aunts’ eyes if they learned of any Nana/motorcycle escapades I had authorized or participated in. It was oh so very hard to remind myself that I was Nana’s caretaker and couldn’t be her fellow thrill seeker. Nana was very cute when I told her that we’d need to watch from the sidewalk as our new friends rode off: “It’s okay. She wouldn’t let me get a henna tattoo at the fair either.” The motorcycle ladies were still laughing as they waved to us from the road.

We see the mantra often: Live life to the fullest. So easy to say, but rather difficult to do. My Nana lived her life so fully that she had extra life left over that seemed to spill from her in bursts of enthusiasm and joy. She was always up for anything and often surprised us with her zest for life. One time we were passing Fenway after she was discharged from a Boston hospital after a week-long stay. Nana instantly realized that the Red Sox were playing an afternoon game. She immediately checked her watch: “Game probably started at 1:05. If we can get a reasonable parking spot, they might let us in cheap and we could catch 4 or 5 innings.” This elderly woman had just been through a lengthy and depleting hospital stay yet she was more than up for the chance to root for the home team.

Nana lived through the Great Depression, a World War and many other dramatic world events. She raised 5 children while holding a demanding job to help support her family, which never enjoyed financial comfort. She was a natural athlete who excelled at and thoroughly enjoyed every sport she tried. She had a can-do attitude that did not permit pessimism. In her presence, you felt that anything was possible and the world was a brighter place than you previously thought it was.

Among the many lessons my Nana taught me, the foremost one is to love people. Nana just loved people – family, friends, neighbors, strangers, etc. She would truly do anything for a person in need while thinking little and always last of herself. She wanted to know how people were doing and she really listened when they told her. She remembered people’s names with such acuity that it often startled them. She looked for the good in people and was not surprised when she found it. In turn, people adored my grandmother. It could be time-consuming to grocery shop with her. Not because of any mobility issues on her part, but because everyone we passed in the aisles would want to talk to her whether they knew her or not. She was just the sweetest thing. Nana loved people and how they loved her in return! When we took her to West Beach near her coastal hometown, the parking lot attendant would sound the call: “Ma Quigley’s here – make way!” and you would think the Queen of Something had arrived.

Less than 10 years before we lost her, one of my cousins conducted an interview with Nana. I’m so grateful that he did this because her answers are such a lasting gift to us. My favorite is the following Q&A:

What advice can you give me that would help me to live a happy and successful life?

Study. Gain as much knowledge as you can. You never know when it will come in handy. Keep your mind on your work and retain as much of the information as possible. Be honest with yourself and others. Live a good life and live your faith. Follow the Golden Rule. Appreciate yourself for who you are. You know what is right – don’t stray from that. Just do it. Keep company with the right kind of people. Value your life – don’t let yourself down.

These words of wisdom continue to inspire me. Last summer, I thought of my Nana’s advice when I was wrestling with the idea of leaking diocesan documents. I tried to imagine what she would say if I could ask her what I should do about my dilemma. Then I could almost hear her saying, “You know what is right… just do it.” So I did.

NANA & Me.jpg

Thank you, Nana, for all that you taught me and the innumerable, literally heartwarming memories I have of you. I miss you more than I can say, but I can’t wait to see you again in the life that will never end. I always loved it when you’d call me “your darling girl.” My darling Nana, I love you!

beverly salem

In an interesting twist that proves life is never boring, Bishop Malone was born in Salem, Massachusetts, which is the closest geographic neighbor of Beverly, my Nana’s hometown. In fact, they’re so close that there is a Beverly-Salem bridge that crosses the slender river separating the two towns. Bishop Malone was raised in the same parish – St. Mary, Star of the Sea – at which my Nana and my mother received all of their Sacraments. It was a neat experience to share this connection with my bishop and my boss. Sometimes he would talk about his hometown region and would mention a spot such as the Beverly Depot. I would smile and say, “Oh yes, over on Rantoul Street!” He would do a double take to hear such a unique street name uttered so familiarly by a Buffalonian. I would tease him just a little when fatigue would lead him to drop a couple “R’s” from his speech as a native Beverly/Salemite is wont to do. For Christmas the first year I worked for him, I gave the Bishop a few “Cat’s Meow” pieces of iconic Beverly buildings such as St. Mary’s itself.

st mary church

He placed it on an end table near the “Distinguished Alumni Award” that St. Mary’s School gave him in 2009. I would smile when I saw it as I turned on and off his office lights every day. I thought it was so cool to have Beverly in common with the Bishop.

It’s a little less cool these days, I must admit. I cringed when I realized that the Red Sox had a chance to win the World Series on Sunday, October 28th for that was the night when the 60 Minutes episode about our diocese would air. I clearly remembered how all through that summer, Bishop Malone had eagerly watched as many games as he could. He is a true baseball fan who knows all the stats and watches games all the way through. He was very hopeful that the team would have a long season and win it big come autumn. I never root against my Nana’s beloved baseball team*, but I was hoping the Dodgers would win on October 28th so that the Red Sox could win the World Series on another night. Instead, the Sox won it 5-1 that evening. At the press conference I held two days later, I apologized to Bishop Malone for one thing only: ruining the World Series for him. I was happy that they’d won for him and for my Nana, but the timing was rough.

How I wish that I could share my Nana’s advice with Bishop Malone at this time:

You know what is right – don’t stray from that. Just do it. 

Praying for you, Bishop Malone. Don’t let yourself down.


*Lest any of my fellow Buffalonians worry, I do not root for my grandmother’s other teams: the Bruins or the Patriots. Over the years, I often debated with Nana about Tom Brady and his henchmen. For such a sweet lady, she sure could talk some serious smack!


Let Nothing You Dismay

Disappointed. Dismayed. Distressed. Getting close to disgusted.

This is a statement from Alessandro Gisotti, the Interim Director of the Holy See’s Press Office. The statement addresses the aims of Pope Francis’ abuse summit next month at the Vatican.

Summit meeting.JPG

Major Problems:

1) It is to be a meeting “on the protection of minors” exclusively? Absolutely unacceptable. This meeting must address the abuse of any of God’s children regardless of their age.

2) It is to be an “assembly of pastors not an academic conference.” Yes, the meeting should certainly include prayer and discernment. But by making this an exclusively pastoral gathering, the Pope is avoiding and excluding the input of many important groups: survivors (!!!), lay men and women, psychologists, experts in abuse detection, prevention & treatment, and members of law enforcement.

3) This meeting is a “stage along the painful journey” and part of the Church’s “unceasing and decisive” work on this issue for “over 15 years”?!!!! The only unceasing work seems to have been the cover up. The only decisive action has been covering up the cover up. Most everything else has been arbitrary, inconsistent, deceitful, apathetic and ineffective.

According to this statement, these bishops coming to Rome are to leave with an understanding of “the laws to be applied” and how they must “take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried.”

Given how obtuse our Church and Her leaders have been regarding the aforementioned laws (all readily accessible and applicable) and (simple and straightforward) steps, how can we expect a 3-day meeting to accomplish these goals?

The statement mentions “high expectations” for this meeting. I have no such high expectations. I’m trying to not even have any expectations. I will pray, but it is hard to hope. Jesus, help us. We trust in You… even when it is so very hard.

Full news release from the Vatican available here:



A Scene of Constant Leave-Taking

Edited on 1/19/2019 to include this preface:

The following post has quickly become the most-read piece on this blog. In the week or so since I posted it, I’ve heard from two of my former Catholic Center colleagues whose names were included on the “exodus list,” as I’ve come to call it, because of their resignation or retirement. They were both distressed that I had included their names on this list and referred to their retirement/resignation as “personal diocesan information” that was “not authorized for publication.” I was genuinely stunned and saddened by their distress. To be completely honest, I would not consider the news of someone’s retirement/resignation to be “personal diocesan information.” It is not what I’d consider a confidential matter such as a firing would be. I meant absolutely no ill will toward them or any of my former colleagues by including them on this list. At their request, I have removed the mention of their names. I have also removed the names of other individuals in case they too would be upset to have their name included on this list. However, I have maintained their slot on the list in order to still demonstrate how many people have departed the Catholic Center over the last 12 months. 

After Father Mark Noonan and I resigned last summer, Bishop Malone remarked that 2018 was a “tough year for losing good people.” If he only knew.

Below you will find a list of the employees who have left (or been laid off) the Catholic Center since the clerical sexual abuse scandal began on February 27, 2018. I included each person’s job title plus any circumstances specific to them. Scheduled retirements are indicated as such to differentiate from resignations. I added the retirements and lay-offs to illustrate just how many people have left the Catholic Center in less than a year.

  1. March 13: Kim Petrella – Accounts Payable – RESIGNED
  2. March: Employee whose position was eliminated due to lay-offs related to financial concerns stemming from the IRCP/”declining parish income”
  3. April 4: Msgr. Paul Litwin*, Chancellor, begins his appointment as Pastor of Christ the King Parish, Snyder
  4. June 1: Father Bob Zilliox – Tribunal – Did not accept reappointment to his position in the Tribunal as he focused on his role as Pastor of St. Mary’s, Swormville and his ongoing recovery as a survivor of clerical sexual abuse
  5. June 1: Msgr. David Slubecky, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, begins his scheduled retirement
  6. End of June: Sr. Carol Cimino – Superintendent of Catholic Schools – Scheduled retirement
  7. July: All EIGHT employees of Daybreak Productions were laid off as their beloved department was entirely eliminated due to financial concerns stemming from the IRCP/”declining parish income.”  (This spot is given to Claire Rung, Director)
  8. July: Daybreak 2 – Paula DeAngelis Stein
  9. July: Daybreak 3 – Ann Przybylski
  10. July: Daybreak 4 – Ashley Czarnota
  11. July: Daybreak 5-  John Epolito
  12. July: Daybreak 6 – Andy Gołębiowski
  13. July: Daybreak 7 – Bob Karaszewski
  14. July: Daybreak 8 – Pete Herrmann
  15. August 10: Siobhan O’Connor – Executive Assistant to the Bishop – RESIGNED
  16. August 16: Fr. Mark Noonan – Vicar General & Moderator of the Curia – RESIGNED
  17. September 7: George Richert – Director of Communications – RESIGNED
  18. September: Employee name removed at their request
  19. October 12: Employee name removed at their request
  20. December 28: Scheduled retirement
  21. December 31: Scheduled retirement
  22. January 4: Dir. of Parish Financial Services & Sr. Operations Accountant – RESIGNED
  23. January 11: Colleen O’Connell Jancevski – Director of Human Resources and In-House Legal Counsel – RESIGNED 
  24. January 31: Steve Timmel – Executive Director of Financial Administration – RESIGNED 

Father Mark was there for a little over three months.

I made a strategic exit after three years.

Steve Timmel has worked for the Diocese for three DECADES. 

Amidst this incredibly long list of personnel, it is the last two names that are the most staggering. I know from firsthand experience just how much Bishop Malone relied on Colleen and Steve. They were frequently summoned to his office to assist him with time-sensitive decisions or to put out various fires within the Diocese. I cannot fathom how Bishop Malone is going to function without the two of them – particularly Steve. Steve has worked for the Diocese of Buffalo for over 30 years and has always provided much-needed steadiness and stability. He is not of retirement age. It was everyone’s expectation that he would eventually retire from the institution he’s devoted his career to serving. Instead, his resignation sent shockwaves throughout the Catholic Center and the Diocese.

I must admit that I was not shocked when I learned the news about Steve and Colleen a few months ago. Would you want to be the Diocese’s Executive Director of Financial Administration when the Feds show up and start asking questions?! I think not. For similar reasons, you would not want to be the Director of Human Resources and In-House Legal Counsel for the Diocese of Buffalo. Suffice it to say that Colleen and Steve are very intelligent people and their resignations prove that.

Some of the people on the above list did not have any choice and were laid off. Most of the rest of the folks on the list had specific reasons for getting out. For some, it was a planned and scheduled retirement. Others had very particular and important reasons for taking their leave:

Accounts Payable involves writing diocesan checks to credibly accused priests. I believe that Kim could no longer stomach this revolting but regular part of her job.

Father Bob was being grotesquely overworked in the Tribunal and by Bishop Malone in ways that were detrimental to his health and to his recovery as a survivor. 

I knew it was wise to be a former employee before one starts blowing whistles. 

Father Mark left because of his integrity – not due to any incompetence as was suggested at the time.

Like the most famous George of them all, Mr. Richert could not tell a lie or speak for liars.

Colleen & Steve must not have relished the prospect of pointed conversations with the Feds.

How I wish the above list could include two more entries:

25. February 27, 2019: Richard J. Malone – Bishop of Buffalo – RESIGNED

26. February 27, 2019: Edward M. Grosz – Auxiliary Bishop of Buffalo – RESIGNED 

February 27th will be the one year anniversary of Michael Whalen’s heroic press conference, which is now recognized as the start of the abuse scandal in our diocese.

I can think of no better anniversary gift for Mike, all of the survivors and the people of our diocese than for both bishops to resign by or on that date.

It could happen. It should happen. I’m praying it will.

emergency exit.png

* I put an asterisk by Msgr. Litwin’s name because of the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Chancery. I believe that he made his (emergency) exit in order to avoid being held accountable for the manner in which he carried out his duties. He announced his return to parish life very soon after Msgr. Slubecky made his retirement known. I believe that Msgr. Litwin knew that having a new sheriff in town, as it were, would mean changes to the Chancery that would negatively impact him. Of course, it didn’t hurt that a plush parish assignment opened up at the same time. Litwin’s luck, you might say.

Msgr. Litwin was also aware that the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) was rolling out in the Diocese on March 1st. He couldn’t have known that a full blown scandal would erupt at the same time, but he had good reason to make his exit before such a program went into place. The Chancellor of a diocese is supposed to assist the bishop by notarizing official documents, maintaining the diocesan archives, overseeing all priest files, and providing clearance for visiting clergy and religious. Knowing that job description, you can see why a Chancellor like Msgr. Litwin might want to be off the scene before the IRCP began since that program necessarily involves official documents, the archives and the priest files!

Please note: The title of this blog post is taken from R. M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island.


Added 1/23/2019: I received a comment today from a former Catholic Center colleague asking: “Where’s the comments from the folks that are angry you placed their name on the list? In the interest of fairness, shouldn’t they still be available? I resent your insinuation that we are all anxious to get out of the Catholic Center!” I have approved her comment so it will appear below this blog post as well.

I have received two comments from former colleagues requesting that their names be removed from the exodus list. Immediately upon receiving those messages, I removed their names and titles. Initially, I approved their comments to be included below this post, but then I thought better of it. If I kept their comments on here, their names would appear and essentially defeat the purpose of their request to remove their names. It was a catch-22 and I aired on the side of respecting their wish to have their name removed. However, upon receiving today’s message, I am including their comments below “in the interest of fairness.” I have removed their names, however, because I still want to honor their request.

Comment 1:

“Siobhan, please take my name off this list; there is personal diocesan information that I have not authorized for publication. Besides, the title and “unexpected retirement” are incorrect. I’m not sure where you got the idea my retirement was unexpected. It is something I had planned since before I can remember. Please delete all of it, including my name. Thank you and hope you are doing well. Sincerely, Name Withheld”

[I would not characterize the above comment as angry. Indeed, it was cordial, which I certainly appreciate. My response to the above individual noted that I had heard from multiple, current Catholic Center staff that this person’s retirement announcement was unexpected and a surprise to them. I would not have included that adjective without due cause. I’m sure this individual had planned their retirement in a general sense since before they could remember, but it was not something that was expected or spoken of the way a distinctly planned retirement would be. Also, I looked up their former job title on their LinkedIn and assumed their LinkedIn page would list their job title accurately. Lastly, please note that this person especially wanted their name deleted, which is why I did not approve their comment to appear in full because it would necessarily include their name.]

Comment 2:

“Please remove my name from your blog. You do not have my permission to post my employment history. You did not ask me for it and I’m sure you did the same with all of the other names. The reason I left the Diocese is none of your business. I do not support anything you did. I consider you a common criminal who stole confidential clergy employee documents. Rather than going to the proper legal authorities with your issues, you chose to steal documents and run to the media. Your 15 minutes of fame are over. I completely support Bishop Malone. Nothing you say or do will change my mind.”

These are the only two comments I have received. Thank you.

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Another Way

January 6th, 2019. 

Epiphany Sunday.

Epiphany comes from the Greek and means “manifestation.” Today, the Church celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world. On this feast, we especially remember the Magi who traveled from the East to find “he who has been born king of the Jews.” Whenever I consider the Three Wise Men, I always reflect on how arduous their journey must have been. Even if they were knowledgable astronomers, it can’t have been easy to have a star as your GPS. Their journey would have taken many weeks as they traversed hundreds of miles in search of a newborn king. They also risked political peril as foreigners traveling through the territory of the Roman Empire. It is quite inspiring to consider all that these three men risked to follow the star.

Matthew’s Gospel offers this simple yet profound description of the Wise Men:

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

It has always struck me that the Wise Men had to travel home by another way. Another way?? How did they determine this other way? They had no celestial guide to follow on the return trip. It would probably have been difficult enough just to backtrack hundreds of miles of difficult terrain. Now they needed to find an alternate route? Departing by another way may have presented challenges to them, but they faithfully followed the directives of their dream. Their response gave the Holy Family more time to seek safety from Herod’s wrath. By finding another way, the Wise Men helped to save the Christ Child they had adored in the manger.

The Wise Men are usually depicted as regal men of humility, dignity and reverence. Let us not forget that they were also heroic men of courage, trust and resiliency. They found another way.

wise men again

January 6th, 2002. 

Seventeen years ago, the Spotlight team of The Boston Globe published their first story on the clerical abuse scandal within the Archdiocese of Boston.


Five intrepid investigative journalists uncovered widespread sexual abuse by scores of priests within the Boston region. The victims’ stories were equally gut and heart wrenching. But the Spotlight team also revealed another atrocious reality: the cover-up of this abuse and the relocating of abusive priests to different parishes. These incredible, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigations set off shockwaves throughout the country. Ultimately, many priests were criminally prosecuted, vast numbers of victims came forward, and Cardinal Law eventually fled to Rome in disgrace. U.S. Catholics were in disbelief as the issue of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy emerged as a matter of national awareness.

The Spotlight articles marked the beginning of a challenging chapter in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. At the time, many Catholics thought the scandal was essentially a problem in the Archdiocese of Boston. Sure, there might be isolated cases here and there, but nothing on the scale of Boston. How very wrong we were.

Beginning in 2002, Catholics in the United States have been faced with the challenge of looking at our Church in another way. We have had to acknowledge that some of our priests were capable of heinous crimes against children and adults alike. We have been forced to reckon with the reality that the leaders of our Church have often been involved in covering up these crimes and protecting the abusers. It is painful to see our Church in a new, harsh light and to view her not with blind faith but in another way. It is necessary to face this reality, but it is extremely painful.


nashville postulants

January 6th, 2010. 

Nine years ago today, I came home to Buffalo after spending six months with the Nashville Dominicans at their Motherhouse in Tennessee. My postulant class of 23 – pictured above on a rosary walk – was the largest group of sisters-in-training in the United States at the time. My time at the Motherhouse was filled with truth, goodness and beauty. It was a period of joy, challenge, self-knowledge and closer union with Christ. It was a great privilege to spend half a year with such spirited, faithful Sisters. I will always be grateful for my days at their lovely Motherhouse.


During my first several months there, my cell (monastic term for the living quarters of a religious) overlooked the Motherhouse cemetery, which is pictured above. Situated on a small hill, it was a particularly picturesque graveyard. I remember looking out at the cemetery every morning and thinking, “I wonder where I’ll end up out there!” I had every intention of living and dying as a teaching Dominican Sister.

It was very difficult to accept that God had another way for me. Entering the convent was an intense and challenging experience, but exiting it was even more difficult. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to discern another way to know, love and serve God. I thought my discernment days were over! It was hard to trust God that He would help me find another way.

January 6, 2019.

Once again, I find myself asking God what He wants of me and how He wants me to best know, love and serve Him. Several years ago, I thought that would be accomplished through serving my bishop and my diocese by working at the Chancery. Obviously the Lord had another way in mind. Now I am not sure of the way He intends for me. I find myself turning to this candid prayer by Thomas Merton:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.

If you are seeking another way of any kind, know that God is with you and will never abandon you. He was with the Wise Men. He will always remain with His beloved albeit beleaguered Church. He is with each of us through the vagaries of our individual journeys. Thank you, Lord, for being with us all the way.

Solidarity? With Whom?

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The January 2019 edition of the WNY Catholic, Buffalo’s diocesan newspaper, contained the above statement from the Presbyteral Council in place of Bishop Malone’s usual column. When I first read this statement on Thursday the third, I was very disappointed, dismayed and distressed. I had to let a few days pass before I could write respectfully and coherently on the subject. While still incredibly disheartened by this statement, I am now better able to respond to it.

Let me begin by allowing Canon 495 to define the Presbyteral Council in case that is an unfamiliar term: “a group of priests which, representing the presbyterium [priests of a diocese], is to be like a senate of the bishop and which assists the bishop in the governance of the diocese according to the norm of law to promote as much as possible the pastoral good of the portion of the people of God entrusted to him.” The Diocesan Directory provides further information about this group: “The Council of Priests is the chief consultative body to the bishop. Twenty-one members are elected, six are appointed by the bishop and four serve by reason of the office they hold. Three of the elected members represent rural areas and three represent religious congregations. The remaining fifteen represent seniority groups of the diocesan clergy.” The Chairman of the Council was Father Peter Karalus until he assumed the role of Moderator of the Curia/Vicar General in September 2018. Msgr. David LiPuma, who was Secretary to three bishops for over two decades before becoming Pastor of St. Peter’s in Lewiston, has taken over the role of Chairman.

Having maintained connections with some of the priests of our diocese, I was aware that the Presbyteral Council had been tasked with developing suggestions for how the diocese might begin to heal from the 2018 clerical sexual abuse scandal. Apparently they made their presentation to the Bishop at their December 11th meeting and the associated action steps are articulated in the statement they are now promulgating.


This statement was posted on the Diocese’s Facebook and Twitter accounts on Thursday, January 3rd, which is the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. That calendar occurrence made this statement’s most glaring omission even more chilling:

Jesus’ name is not mentioned even ONCE in this statement. 

Yes, they refer to “our gracious Lord” in the final sentence, but there is no mention of Him by name nor of reliance on Jesus, taking His example, turning to Jesus or invoking His Most Holy Name. Besides, they reference Him by stating that He “has begun this good work in us.” I would argue that it is not particularly good work they have begun.

A Year of Healing to begin this Lent: The clerical sexual abuse scandal erupted in our diocese on February 27, 2018. Lent 2019 begins on March 6th. That means it will be over a year later that our diocese will take any organized, concerted steps toward healing of any kind. However, the description of the Year of Healing is appallingly deficient. First off, it does not make any mention of survivors. In fact, survivors (referred to as “victims” in the statement) are mentioned only twice in the entire document! It is particularly outrageous that there was no mention of them made in reference to the Year of Healing. They are the people who most need and deserve healing! The people of our diocese also need and deserve healing since this scandal has bruised our souls and challenged our faith.


You know what would go a long way toward healing for survivors and diocesan members alike? ACCOUNTABILITY. SORROW. TRANSPARENCY. Bishop Malone, Bishop Grosz and various other Chancery staff (past and present) need to be held accountable in a definitive, public manner. Penance should be imposed on all those who were complicit in the cover-up. As I’ve been saying since October, Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz should resign as a public act of accountability and penance. At the very least, someone like Bishop Grosz should not be on the Board of Trustees for the Seminary. Msgr. LiPuma should not be on the Presbyteral Council and certainly not its Chairman! All clergy who have participated in the cover-up should be banned from leadership and advancement in our diocese and the Church. Instead of being banned from leadership, Msgr. LiPuma is the first author of this statement. He is in charge of the group that has been tasked with bringing “healing” to our diocese. This is simply not acceptable.

Furthermore, the Diocese should be reaching out to survivors in genuine, apologetic and personal ways. Such outreach is unlikely under our present leadership, which has had ample opportunity to begin such overtures. Our diocese and the survivors deserve and need a wholesale change in diocesan leadership beginning with both bishops. Otherwise we are faced with business as usual under the guise of “healing initiatives” and “special projects” and a lot of other euphemistic vacuity. New prayers for the Universal Prayer at Mass? Color me underwhelmed.

A Study Day for Priests: The fact that they included this description amazes me. How utterly obtuse! If the priests need to gather to discuss their canonical and civil rights and be assured of support and accompaniment if they’re under investigation, we don’t want to know about it. I want to hear about support and accompaniment for survivors, which this statement simply does not address! There are good priests in our diocese and they should know their canonical and civil rights. But this should not be the second priority of a diocesan plan for healing. Besides, the priests have had several meetings that should have accomplished what this Study Day entails. They met in May 2018 to hear several talks by Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, who is an expert on priestly spirituality and wellness issues particularly concerning clerical sexual abuse. I would assume priestly canonical rights were discussed during this gathering. The priests also had their special meeting with Bishop Malone on November 5th where both diocesan lawyers were present to answer any questions about their civil rights.

I’ve heard from several priests who were in attendance at the 11/5 meeting that the primary focus for the majority of priests was on their own protection and their reputations. They were asking about their canonical and civil rights during the Q&A session that closed the meeting. Thus this “study day” would certainly not be the first opportunity for priests of our diocese to raise their concerns and receive answers to their questions. One priest shared with me that he was very discouraged by the attitudes and priorities of his brother priests that were on display at the 11/5 meeting. As he put it, “Their only concern was themselves and their reputations. But we don’t obtain a good reputation simply by virtue of being priests. We obtain and retain our good reputations by being good and holy men of God.” Amen to that, Father!

Please note that I am not implying that our priests should not be well-informed or receive support, but this cannot be the #2 priority right now.

A Diocesan Synod:

First, the definition of a diocesan synod according to Canon 460 and 461: “A diocesan synod is a group of selected priests and other members of the Christian faithful of a particular church who offer assistance to the diocesan bishop for the good of the whole diocesan community. A diocesan synod is to be celebrated in individual particular churches when circumstances suggest it in the judgment of the diocesan bishop after he has heard the presbyteral council.”

Okay, but what does a synod actually accomplish?

The Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples provides this additional information on diocesan synods:

“The purpose of the diocesan Synod is to assist the Bishop in the exercise of the office proper to him, namely, that of governing the Christian community. In the process of the Synod, the Bishop exercises the office of governing the Church entrusted to his care. He determines its convocation, proposes the questions to be discussed in the Synod and presides at the synodal sessions.

Moreover, it is the Bishop who, as sole legislator, signs the synodal declarations and decrees and orders their publication. Those who participate in the Synod assist the diocesan Bishop by formulating their opinion with regard to the questions which have been proposed by him… the Bishop remains free to accept or not the recommendations made to him by the members of the Synod.

The circumstances which would suggest the convocation of a Synod are various in nature: lack of an overall diocesan pastoral plan; the need to apply at local level norms and other directives; acute pastoral problems requiring pastoral solutions; a need to further a more intense ecclesial communion, etc.”

Here are my primary issues with a Synod:

1. It would be solely led and governed by Bishop Malone, who has already demonstrated that he does not have the judgement, courage or skills necessary to lead and govern our diocese.

2. While our diocese certainly does have “acute pastoral problems,” a Synod is a time-consuming and unnecessarily complex way to address these crucial issues. Take a look at this Vatican webpage to learn more about what goes into establishing a Synod let alone carrying one out. A Synod would essentially be an unwieldy task force under the sole jurisdiction of Bishop Malone.

3. In July 2017, the Buffalo Diocese participated in The Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America — a 4-day event that was held in Orlando, Florida. This USCCB-convened gathering was hailed as “an unprecedented gathering of key leaders from dioceses and Catholic organizations from across the country to assess the challenges and opportunities of our time, particularly in the context of the Church in the United States. An initiative of the Bishops’ Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person, this historic gathering assembled Catholic leaders for a strategic conversation, under the leadership of the bishops, on forming missionary disciples to animate the Church and engage the culture.” 

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As you can guess, addressing clerical sexual abuse and reaching out to survivors was not one of the “challenges and opportunities of our time.” You can check out the Convocation guidebook here to learn more about what they discussed. That whole event is very sad to consider in light of what has happened in our local, national and international Church since the summer of 2017. Talk about misguided priorities.

The Diocese of Buffalo sponsored roughly 20 people to participate in this event along with Bishop Malone. It was a very costly trip. I clearly remember the often-heated discussions about the fiscal component of this venture. Because of the high price point, it was emphasized to Bishop Malone and all DOB attendees that they would need to demonstrate the effectiveness of their participation in this Florida vacation… I mean convocation. One of the stated goals of the Convocation was for it to be “a deep reflection and creative movement that helps dioceses, parishes, organizations, apostolates, and associations across the United States celebrate, implement, and live out the key principles of Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation).” 

Thus the DOB Convocation cohort met monthly (under the leadership of Dennis Mahaney, Director for Evangelization and Catechesis) during the 2017-2018 year to discuss how their participation in this event could bear fruit in our Diocese. Guess what they came up with?

A Diocesan Synod. 

You can’t make this stuff up.

Bishop Malone was quite enthused about the idea of a Synod especially since there hasn’t been one in Buffalo since the 1950’s. I remember him obtaining the synodal documents from that last Synod and eagerly showing them to me in the spring of 2018. Yes, as the clerical sexual abuse scandal was rapidly unfolding, Bishop Malone devoted brain power (from his self-described weary brain) to discussing and pre-planning a diocesan Synod. Of course, it shouldn’t surprise us that he would want to convene a diocesan Synod:

  1. He would be the only one in charge of it, but everyone else would do the work.
  2. He would get to take on a teaching role, which he loves. “For his part, the Bishop directs discussions during the synodal sessions and, as a true teacher of the Church, he will instruct and correct when such is deemed necessary,” as the Congregation for Bishops puts it. Take it from me, Bishop Malone loves to instruct and correct whenever he gets the opportunity.
  3. His word would literally be law on all things Synod.
  4. He could use it to form his legacy. I can see the WNY Catholic cover now: “Bishop Malone is first Bishop of Buffalo in over 50 years to convene and preside over a Diocesan Synod.”
  5. He could answer any critics of the Florida Convocation by saying that it yielded this Diocesan Synod.

We do not need a diocesan Synod. It will be a whole lot of smoke and mirrors masquerading as a solution. It will cost time, money and energy that should be devoted to more effective solutions.

Also, the Synod paragraph in the statement concerns me because it references the Canisius Symposium and how it is “currently independent of the Diocese.” Does that imply that its independence is only temporary? We were told at the start that the Symposium and its resulting work enjoyed the blessing of Bishop Malone. I would hate to see him co-opt that lay-led movement for his own purposes.

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In closing, we need a diocesan plan that includes: 

  1. JESUS. He is our Redeemer, Brother, and Lord. We need to turn to Him as our model. What would Jesus do in a situation like this? He would be honest, humble and heroic. He would flip the tables of those who dared to turn His Church into a corporation and a badly run one at that. He would already have reached out to survivors because He always sought out those who were suffering, hurt or lost. How can we possibly move forward as a diocese without turning to the One who founded our Church in the first place?! We need an abundance of Masses, Holy Hours, Eucharistic Adoration, etc. We need leaders who at least try to act as Jesus would act and invoke His holy name at every opportunity!
  2. Ongoing support and outreach to survivors that is tangible, transparent, genuine and effective. This is nonnegotiable and needs to begin yesterday.
  3. The resignation of Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz. I will not stop saying this just because it is unlikely to happen due to episcopal hubris.
  4. The imposition of penance on those who participated in the cover-up and a permanent ban on advancement/leadership for any such persons. They should be leading lives of prayer and penance rather than retaining leadership positions or aspiring to hierarchical heights.
  5. The assurance that our diocese and its leaders are not being misled by Terrence M. Connors and company, the legal team that has received literally MILLIONS OF DOLLARS from the Diocese of Buffalo in exchange for legal counsel that has perpetuated the cover-up of clerical sexual abuse. I believe that Terry Connors, Lawlor Quinlan and Randy White are complicit in this cover-up (along with any lawyers of theirs who worked with the Diocese in the past). They must be held accountable and should no longer represent the Diocese of Buffalo unless they can verify that they have changed course from the legal practices that they have had in place within the Diocese for over three decades.
  6. Immediate, verifiable action regarding those priests who should have been laicized decades ago. So many of these confirmed abusers have simply never felt the repercussions of their diabolical actions. Despite committing and often confessing to heinous crimes, they never set foot inside a jail cell. Instead, they’re relaxing in cabins in the Southern Tier, living the high life in Sin City, or lounging by pools in Florida. They are still receiving regular financial assistance from the Diocese of Buffalo! This is beyond outrageous. I have seen firsthand how Bishop Malone dragged his feet regarding this vital issue. Perhaps instead of worrying about USCCB Convocations and Committee meetings, Diocesan Synod pipe dreams and the diocesan flags for his new residence, Bishop Malone should have been focused on proper action regarding these abusers who should no longer hold the title of priest in any capacity.


The Presbyteral Council’s statement was titled “A Statement of Solidarity.” I must respectfully ask – with whom or what are they in solidarity?


The survivors?

The people of the diocese?




I would argue that they are simply in solidarity with Bishop Malone and themselves. They are orchestrating this “healing and strengthening of the Diocese of Buffalo” to avoid or mitigate any of the difficult realities they face. Those complicit in the cover-up are essentially absolved and of course Bishop Malone will be heralded as the one to lead us to healing through a Synod.

Solidarity is a very important concept to me. My undergraduate thesis was on Pope John Paul II as the “Solidarity Pope” and posited that his 1979 visit to Poland planted the seeds of the Solidarity Movement in his homeland. I have always been inspired by the quote from JPII that is featured at the start of this post. The Diocese of Buffalo, her people and her survivors are yearning for peace. In order to achieve that peace, we are in desperate need of fairness, truth, justice and solidarity.

I stand in solidarity with survivors.

I stand in solidarity with the people of our diocese.

I stand in solidarity with our good and holy priests.

I stand in solidarity with my Savior, Jesus Christ.

May His Holy Name be ever praised, reverenced and invoked.


US Bishops Begin New Year with Retreat

Pope Francis has called for the bishops of the United States to gather for a 7-day retreat at the start of the new year. This period of prayer and reflection will commence on January 2nd and conclude on the 8th. Father Raniero Cantalamessa, a Capuchin Friar and the Preacher to the Papal Household, will direct their retreat. Its theme is taken from Mark 3:14 – “He appointed twelve to be with Him and to be sent out to preach.”

This is a very unique episcopal gathering because it will be solely devoted to prayerful reflection. No business of any kind will be conducted during this retreat! Instead of business discussions, break-out sessions or workshops, the bishops’ schedule will consist entirely of daily Mass and Vespers, silent meal times, communal and personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and ample time for reflection and Reconciliation.

Cardinal DiNardo, President of the USCCB, had this to say about the retreat:

“I am grateful to the Holy Father for calling the bishops and me to step back and enter into this focused time of listening to God as we respond to the intense matters before us in the weeks and months ahead. I also humbly ask the laity, our priests and religious for your prayers for my brother bishops and me as we join in solidarity to seek wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Pray also for the survivors of sexual abuse that their suffering may serve to strengthen us all for the hard task of rooting out a terrible evil from our Church and our society so that such suffering is never multiplied.”

It is encouraging to hear Cardinal DiNardo seeking prayers not only for himself and his brother bishops, but also for the survivors of clerical sexual abuse. None of the Church’s efforts to address this crisis will be fruitful if they are not imbued with deep respect and true compassion for survivors along with an uncompromising commitment to truth and justice on their behalf.

Please join me in fasting and praying for our bishops as they gather for this most unique and very important retreat. Scripture tells us that some demons can only be conquered through prayer and fasting. Surely the demons of clerical sexual abuse are some of the worst imaginable and thus much prayer and fasting is in order. After the feasting of the recent holidays, many of us may be naturally thinking of cutting back as we begin the new year. Let us bring those efforts into the spiritual realm by offering our fasting to God along with our earnest prayers for our bishops.

EAS and JN

During the course of this bishops’ retreat, we will celebrate the feast days of two saints with special ties to the United States: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in New York City in 1774 and went on to live a life of heroic virtue as a wife, mother, widow, and founder of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. She and her Sisters laid the foundation of Catholic Education within the United States. Mother Seton was the first United States citizen to be canonized and her feast day is January 4th.

St. John Neumann was born in what is now known as the Czech Republic. At age 25, he came to New York and joined the Redemptorist Order several years later. He was an indefatigable missionary throughout New York, Ohio, Maryland and Virginia. St. John Neumann has special significance for our Buffalo Diocese as he founded and pastored several parishes within our region. Upon becoming bishop of Philadelphia, St. John Neumann established the first diocesan school system in the United States. He was the first male saint of the United States and is the only US bishop to be canonized. His feast day is January 5th.

Let us particularly pray to these two wonderful saints that they might intercede on behalf of our United States bishops during their retreat!


Another important saint’s feast day will be celebrated during this retreat: St. Raymond of Penafort. St. Raymond is the patron saint of canon lawyers and thus another significant intercessor at this time. In 1230, Pope Gregory IX called St. Raymond, a Dominican priest and contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas, to the Eternal City and gave him a mammoth task. He was to assemble and organize all the laws and rules of the Church into one systematic collection! (I like to think that the expression on his face in this painting is very similar to the expression with which he received the Pope’s request: “You cannot be serious, Your Holiness.”) St. Raymond produced a 5-book collection that was the basis of the Church’s legal system for many centuries. His feast day is January 7th.

As you’ve likely realized over the past few months, canon law will play a significant role in the Church’s response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis. At the press conference at the start of the USCCB Assembly last November, Cardinal DiNardo noted that there were “some points in one or two of the documents where the canon law needed further precision.” The documents he was referring to pertained to the Code of Conduct for Bishops and the lay-led commission that the US Bishops planned to discuss and vote on during their assembly. Canon law is the ecclesiastical law that governs the Catholic Church and thus is an unavoidable element in the Church’s response to this crisis. We would do well to pray to St. Raymond since he is essentially the Father of Canon Law though not known as such formally.

There aren’t many prayers written specifically for bishops or at least not many that I am aware of or could locate. Here is one that I composed to be prayed just for our bishops during their retreat:

Good and gracious God, we seek your blessing upon our bishops as they gather for prayer and reflection during this time of crisis within the Church. Grant that they may be strengthened and healed by the power of the Eucharist they will celebrate and receive. May they likewise be strengthened by the time they will spend before the Blessed Sacrament. May the Gospel and Scriptures they meditate on give them courage and wisdom. Please send your Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide them during this time of retreat. Help them to be shepherds filled with conviction, courage and compassion. Mary, Mother of the Church, and Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for these shepherds of our Church within the United States. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann, great saints of our nation, intercede for our bishops at this critical time. May their time of retreat bear much fruit for them individually and collectively for the renewal of our Church, the healing of survivors, the salvation of souls and the glory of God. Amen. 

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Bishop Malone (and Bishop Grosz) will be attending this retreat. Some people have asked me if it is difficult for me to pray for Bishop Malone. It is much easier to pray for him than it is to think of him or to recall difficult interactions or distressing memories. He may no longer be my boss, but he is still my bishop and thus I must pray for him. I particularly like this prayer of his patron, Saint Richard of Chichester:

Thanks be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits you have given me,
for all the pains and insults you have borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly, day by day.

I offer this prayer for Bishop Malone, for myself and for all of you that each day of 2019 might bring us closer to Jesus.