The national spotlight has once again focused on our beleaguered Buffalo diocese. This Nightline piece aired just after midnight today and contains Bishop Malone’s first national interview. I remember being shocked when I learned that Bishop Malone had agreed to do an interview with ABC’s David Wright since the Bishop has resolutely refused interview requests unless they’re of the softball (WBEN, WGRZ) or airball (hello Don Postles) variety.
For me, the most challenging part of the Bishop’s interview was when he’s shown a clip from my own interview with ABC’s David Wright. I drew a sharp breath when I realized that the Bishop was watching my response to a very difficult question.
During my interview last December, David asked me outright if Bishop Malone should go to jail. I was startled by that question as I had never considered it before. By that time, I had publicly called for the Bishop to resign, but I had never thought of jail time for him. It just wasn’t on my radar. Considering him unfit to lead our diocese, I wanted him to resign and figured he’d go back to the Cape – not to a cell.
That question from David is the first media question so far that I’ve hesitated before answering. I stumbled a bit as I tried to answer him. Then David followed up by asking me if I would testify against the Bishop. “Yes, I would” was my immediate answer. I remember wondering, If I testify against the Bishop, could that testimony lead to his being sentenced? I suppose that’s a distinct possibility.
We are in such uncharted waters and unfamiliar territory. The FBI and AG are actively investigating our diocese. What will these investigations yield? What will be the ramifications of their investigations? Could jail time for Bishop Malone be one of those repercussions? I don’t know.
But I do know one thing: if Bishop Malone does go to jail, he should not go alone.
First in the jail line should be the abusive priests, who for decades have resided in condos, cabins and cottages instead of cells. Many of them were serial abusers with literally dozens of victims. They absolutely must pay for their crimes – in this life or the next. Bishop Malone himself has stated that if it weren’t for the statute of limitations, many of our Buffalo priests would have gone to jail. For far too long, these abusive priests have avoided the consequences that any of us would have received if we had committed similar crimes.
I also believe that Bishop Malone’s complicit advisors – legal and diocesan – should keep him company in jail. They would have plenty of time to talk about “carefully crafted criteria” and other questionable decisions they made together.
The PA Grand Jury report makes it clear that Bishop Malone would not be the only bishop in jail. For example, Bishop Trautman of Erie, PA should definitely be there too. There are other NY bishops (for starters) who should join them in what they’d probably start calling the Bishop’s Wing of this hypothetical jail.
So when it comes to the possibility of jail, there would be a line. Bishop Malone would have to take a number because he wouldn’t be first in that long line.
It pains my heart to even be writing about such things. Dear God, how have we come to this?! Growing up a joyful Catholic, I could never have dreamed that one day I would be seriously reflecting on whether bishops should go to jail. It breaks my heart.
But you know what breaks my heart even more? The suffering and sorrow of the survivors. They are strong and resilient, but that doesn’t mean they are not still in pain or struggling to overcome their trauma. They deserve every bit of justice they can receive. If that justice eventually includes bishops in jail, I can only say sincerely that I would visit Bishop Malone in jail.
God is all just and ever merciful. We humans have always struggled to find a balance between the two. For now, all we can do is pray and work for human justice while trusting in Divine Mercy.
Jesus, I trust in you and I love you.
My thanks to ABC – particularly David Wright and Pete Madden – for their commitment to our story and their appreciation of Charlie Specht’s excellent work on our diocesan debacle.