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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
*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