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.
- March 13: Kim Petrella – Accounts Payable – RESIGNED
- March: Employee whose position was eliminated due to lay-offs related to financial concerns stemming from the IRCP/”declining parish income”
- April 4: Msgr. Paul Litwin*, Chancellor, begins his appointment as Pastor of Christ the King Parish, Snyder
- 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
- June 1: Msgr. David Slubecky, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, begins his scheduled retirement
- End of June: Sr. Carol Cimino – Superintendent of Catholic Schools – Scheduled retirement
- 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)
- July: Daybreak 2 – Paula DeAngelis Stein
- July: Daybreak 3 – Ann Przybylski
- July: Daybreak 4 – Ashley Czarnota
- July: Daybreak 5- John Epolito
- July: Daybreak 6 – Andy Gołębiowski
- July: Daybreak 7 – Bob Karaszewski
- July: Daybreak 8 – Pete Herrmann
- August 10: Siobhan O’Connor – Executive Assistant to the Bishop – RESIGNED
- August 16: Fr. Mark Noonan – Vicar General & Moderator of the Curia – RESIGNED
- September 7: George Richert – Director of Communications – RESIGNED
- September: Employee name removed at their request
- October 12: Employee name removed at their request
- December 28: Scheduled retirement
- December 31: Scheduled retirement
- January 4: Dir. of Parish Financial Services & Sr. Operations Accountant – RESIGNED
- January 11: Colleen O’Connell Jancevski – Director of Human Resources and In-House Legal Counsel – RESIGNED
- 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.
* 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.
“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 admirably 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. Also, I looked up their former title on LinkedIn and believed it to be accurate. 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.]
“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.