An Apostolic Visitation

Well, I must admit that the timing made me laugh. Just yesterday I noted that I would be stepping away from social media for a time and then this afternoon’s announcement happened! Obviously these things are completely, totally and utterly unrelated, but the timing was amusing nonetheless. I’m still planning to take a break from social media, but wanted to react to this milestone announcement.

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There’s a lot to unpack here so I’ll use bullet points for brevity:

  • “Near future:” It will be interesting to see how quickly this visitation occurs. Region II bishops – the ordinaries of all the NYS dioceses – are due over in Rome in early November for their ad limina visits with Pope Francis. (The entire USCCB will meet as usual in mid-November. It remains to be seen what they’ll do about the bishops missing from Baltimore due to their being in Rome.)
  • “Fact-finding mission:” This sounds great! But from whom will the facts be found? THAT is my primary question. If the facts are going to be sought from Malone, Grosz, Karalus, LiPuma, Halter and the like, it will be a mission impossible.
  • “Reports specifically to the Congregation for Bishops:” Okay… so we’ve got a bishop investigating a bishop and reporting to a congregation for bishops. Got it. This can’t go wrong.
  • “To evaluate situations in dioceses:” There are situations and then there are SITUATIONS. There is a SITUATION in the Diocese of Buffalo – all caps, full stop. The language of this message makes the matter sound much more minor than it is.

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  • “DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn has been assigned to… conduct this fact-finding mission:” This is the ecclesial equivalent of having an employee investigate their colleague. DiMarzio and Malone are equals. They are in the same province and are very familiar with each other. They’ve been at World Youth Day together, they’ve attended the same NYS Bishops’ Retreats in Florida, and they see each other at several meetings a year – the NYS Board of Bishops meetings and the NYS Province meetings at the USCCB gatherings. They’ve been on countless conference calls with Cardinal Dolan over the years. There is a natural concern here as to how objectively DiMarzio can investigate a fellow bishop of his own province. I mean no disrespect to Bishop DiMarzio here. I am simply asking a genuine and crucial question: how effectively and objectively can a bishop investigate his brother bishop especially if they are from the same province? When Bishop Holly’s Diocese of Memphis was under an apostolic investigation, they sent a bishop from Atlanta and another from St. Paul-Minneapolis as the “apostolic visitors.” This is a crucial difference. It’s hard enough for a bishop to investigate a fellow bishop! If they are colleagues from the same province, the objectivity concern increases significantly.
    • Let’s not forget what Father Ryszard told us last month… how several NYS bishops were saying to Bishop Malone that “if you go, we will be next.” The sentiment was: Don’t resign, Richard, or it’ll be a domino effect and we don’t want the laity to have power over us like that. I don’t know if Bishop DiMarzio was one of the bishops who shared those sentiments, but it does raise a serious concern. The bishops of NYS have stuck together through lobbying against the CVA and starting IRCP’s in their dioceses… why wouldn’t two NYS bishops stick together through an apostolic visitation as well?
  • “This visitation is a non-judicial and non-administrative process.” I suppose that first adjective means that DiMarzio will not be making any judgments – just collecting information and passing it on. But I don’t know how the process could be non-administrative. “Administrative” is defined as “relating to the running of a business, organization, etc.” The diocese is an organization AND a business and this will be a process focused on the diocese. I don’t think that adjective is accurate.
  • “It is not subject to the recent instruction… Vos Estis, Lux Mundi.” WHY NOT??!!! Vos Estis outlined new norms against those who have abused or have covered up abuse. It offered some hope that bishops would be held accountable for their actions (or inactions, which was often the case with Malone). I simply don’t understand why Vos Estis hasn’t been invoked in our diocese. The fact that it has NOT been invoked after all these months strongly suggests that Rome and DC don’t have grave concerns about Bishop Malone’s leadership (or lack thereof) and his handling of the abuse scandal in our diocese. But I certainly have those grave concerns… and I know so very many people share them.
  • “The results will be submitted to the Holy See.” The “results” of a “non-judicial, non-administrative process?” Results would suggest some sort of judgment, assessment or administration.

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It was good to read that Bishop DiMarzio is aware of what a difficult time we’re having here in Buffalo. I hope that he will have a chance to hear about the difficulties from a variety of people to get a fuller sense of it. As for his promise to maintain an open mind, I sincerely pray he can fulfill that vital promise.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note that sources have informed me that the Diocese of Brooklyn has many troubles of its own. One source with personal experience there noted that within the Diocese of Brooklyn, there are accused perpetrators still in ministry despite having CVA suits filed against them. This source noted that it’s only a matter of time before more comes out of Brooklyn. This is extremely distressing information, but it is important for us to be aware of it.

Not surprisingly, Bishop Malone had a statement all ready to go in response to the Nuncio’s message:

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Well, that’s two more things DiMarzio and Malone have in common – they both have spokeswomen and none of them will be making any further comments on this matter. Must be nice to be the head of an organization, institution or business where you can just say “no comment” as much and as often as you’d like!

As for Bishop Malone welcoming this visitation, that’s a cause for concern in and of itself. Of course, he could just be putting on a brave face, but that’s not a visage he pulls from his countenance closet very often. More likely, Bishop Malone doesn’t feel he has anything to worry about because his buddy Nicholas is going to come by for a visit and all will be well because… #bishops.

So what do I think about this Apostolic Visitation?

I’m torn between natural optimism and learned cynicism.

It’s about time SOMETHING was done. I was beginning to wonder if Rome and DC had turned our diocese to the “DNR” setting. A “Communique Regarding the Diocese of Buffalo” from the Nuncio’s office is, if nothing else, a significant milestone along the path of this marathon.

But the newly cynical side of me struggles to see how a bishop investigating a bishop for a congregation of bishops will result in any concrete change or actual accountability. I worry that this is meant to placate us: “We took care of everything – aren’t you pleased? You got an apostolic visitation! What more could you ask for?”

In many respects, we will have to wait and see. How will DiMarzio go about finding facts? With whom will he consult and inquire? As two of Bishop Malone’s closest assistants, I hope that Father Ryszard and I will be meeting Bishop DiMarzio sometime soon. I would love to give him a binder full of facts! How long will DiMarzio spend here? How open will his mind be? What information will ultimately end up with the Holy See? AND WHAT WILL BE DONE ABOUT IT?!

Yet I take it a sign of hope that the Noah’s Ark dove figures so prominently in Bishop DiMarzio’s coat of arms. That dove and its olive branch are such an ancient, enduring symbol of hope. We must have hope. His motto is also a beautiful one: “Behold Your Mother.” A timely reminder that Our Lady, whose rosary we celebrate this month, is always with us in this vale of tears. I’m off to say my rosary… I will be praying for our diocese – and Bishop DiMarzio – with all my heart and soul.

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The Case of the Missing Calendar

The October edition of the Western New York Catholic was published online yesterday and can be viewed via this link. The first thing I looked for was Bishop Malone’s calendar of meetings and public events, which is a standard feature of our diocesan newspaper. I scrolled directly to the first few pages, which are always devoted to the “Ministry of the Bishop” and contain the Bishop’s calendar and photos of his ministry around the diocese. But this month? The calendar and photos are not to be found.

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Now I can’t say that I was totally shocked by the absence of the calendar. There are two primary reasons why I believe it was eliminated this month: 1) a desire to prevent public protests, which require advance notice of where the Bishop will be and when; 2) the fact that his calendar may be in a substantial amount of flux these days.

For example, last night was the St. Therese feast day Mass at the Carmelite Monastery. It is a longstanding tradition for the bishop of the diocese to celebrate that Mass. But Bishop Malone wasn’t there last night. Either he decided not to attend or he was asked not to be there. This is just the latest in a growing list of events the Bishop has not attended for scandal-related reason.

October means the autumn Confirmation season begins in earnest. Although the fall Confirmation schedule is never as full as its spring counterpart, it still includes many stops on the “chrism trail,” as Bishop Malone used to refer to it. Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard from quite a few parents who do not want Bishop Malone to confirm their confirmand(s). And they’re not happy with the idea that Bishop Grosz or Father Peter Karalus (the other designated diocesan confirmer) would be the replacement for Bishop Malone. I don’t know how this is playing out at parishes where Bishop Malone intended to confirm, but I’m sure there have been discussions about it. Perhaps the Bishop’s Confirmation schedule was still in flux when the October issue went to print. (We always had to have the Bishop’s calendar and column ready about 1 week before the paper was printed.)

The greater surprise for me in this month’s edition was the shocking absence of Bishop Malone’s face and name amidst its pages. This is the first time I know of when Bishop Malone does not appear in any photo in the publication. I remember how Msgr. Litwin used to go through the paper every month and count how many times Bishop Malone’s image appeared within its pages. Sometimes he would have us guess how many times – the average was usually around 5. Many times, the Bishop figured prominently on the cover itself! By contrast, this month’s issue contains 0 photos of him and only 7 mentions of his name – most in standard usage (his appointment of priests, for example). By contrast, the Bishop’s name appeared 28 times in the August edition of the paper with two photos of him on his “picture page.”

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I have myriad memories of working on the Bishop’s public and private calendars with Fr. Ryszard and Bishop Malone. When I first started at the Chancery, I realized that calendar-related questions and decisions would be a major part of my job. There were so many calendar requests and clarifications to discuss that I asked Bishop Malone if we could meet regularly to go over the calendar. When the Bishop acquiesced, I began referring to “Calendar Club Meetings” on his daily agenda and the name stuck. I even started using this Calendar Club logo on our meeting agendas! We would joke around that it was a very exclusive Club with membership limited to the three of us. Our Chancery colleagues would laugh and say they weren’t jealous – who would want to handle all the details of the Bishop’s calendar?

But you know who loved calendar work? Bishop Malone! Whenever I’d mention that I had a calendar question for him, his eyes would light up and he’d eagerly pull his “black book” (his trusty Day-Timer) out of his jacket pocket. He genuinely enjoyed the puzzle work of the calendar and never tired of taking questions about it. On the rare occasions when he left his black book at home, he would quip that he felt “incomplete” without it. And even when our Club agendas were 4 or 5 pages long, the Bishop was not distressed. He would tell other staff about those long agendas and seemed proud that we had so much calendar work to accomplish.

We sure have come a long way since those rosy Calendar Club days. Now the Bishop’s public calendar is not available to the public… at least for this month. This calendar concealment will curtail our peaceful protesting for a few weeks, but it won’t cease our efforts to call for Bishop Malone to resign.

Bishop Malone has disappeared from the Western New York Catholic.

Now he needs to disappear from Western New York.

Bankruptcy in Buffalo?

Is the Diocese of Buffalo (DOB) going to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy? That’s a question on many minds here in Western New York.

Last Wednesday, DOB credit card holders received a memo informing them that the diocese’s current (HSBC) credit card account is being closed. It also informed them that they would be updated soon regarding the replacement card program. A WGRZ reporter immediately took this as a sign of an impending bankruptcy announcement as this story makes clear.

As for me, I don’t believe the credit card situation is as pertinent as is being suggested. For one thing, I know that the diocese has had issues with their HSBC credit cards for at least a few years now. Well do I recall the time that Father Ryszard’s card got hacked and someone ordered hundreds of dollars worth of food via UberEats somewhere in California. I remember that it was a hassle for Father (and the Accounts Payable staff member) to work it out with HSBC. We did have a good laugh over it though… especially because of the time difference, which suggested that someone was ordering large amounts of food well into the night!

So I’m aware that the diocese has been planning a credit card switch for a while now. I’ve confirmed with an inside source that over a month ago, DOB officials were making arrangements to switch from HSBC to another bank for their credit cards. In other words, this credit card switch is most likely an independent occurrence that is being given greater importance than it merits due to the timing of the announcement. It seems to me that it was an unrelated situation that became significant to those looking for clues as to impending bankruptcy.

The Diocese of Rochester surprised everyone when they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on September 12th. No one saw that coming especially since Rochester has far fewer CVA claims than Buffalo does. Yet the Rochester diocese decided to pursue Chapter 11 in order to protect itself against the financial fallout of those legal claims.

When Bishop Malone’s interview with WGRZ was released on September 18th, it was no surprise that he was asked about bankruptcy. The interviewer noted that the Diocese of Rochester had become the 20th US diocese to file for bankruptcy and asked whether the DOB was heading in the same direction. To this, Bishop Malone answered: “To be honest with you, we’re trying to figure that out now and that’s the honest to God truth.” When asked about the time frame for such a decision, Bishop Malone said: “There’s a debate going on among the experts [we’re conferring with] as to whether we should litigate – or try to litigate – or file chapter 11. That is an ongoing debate.” I’ve been curious on that point… just who is debating whom? We’ll return to this question in a paragraph or two.

Since that interview with WGRZ, the Bishop has met with two important groups – the College of Consultors and the Presbyteral Council. Both meetings occurred on the same day – Tuesday, September 24th. The College of Consultors is the most important of the “canonically-defined diocesan consultative bodies,” as the USCCB refers to them. The College of Consultors “assists the diocesan bishop in the governance of the diocese in accord with the provisions of Church law. For particular exercises of ecclesiastical governance, canon law requires that the diocesan bishop consult the college, and even obtain its consent. The college is comprised of no less than six priests, and no more than twelve, who are members of the presbyteral council.”

To my knowledge, the last time the College of Consultors was convened was in the spring of 2018 when Bishop Malone was deciding to sell the residence on Oakland Place. He called a meeting of the College to obtain their acceptance of his decision to put the residence on the market. I believe they had to sign their names to their acceptance of the decision to sell. I definitely remember that it was a big deal that the College was convened as it happened so infrequently.

As for the Presbyteral Council meeting on the 24th, I’ve learned that it was a “highly controlled” meeting, as usual, and focused largely on the bankruptcy question. The priests were told that the DOB is still weighing its options on the matter and Bishop Malone did not give any hint as to which way they were leaning. He had to leave the meeting early to catch a flight to NYC for the NYS Board of Bishops meeting on the 25th.

This was a regular meeting of the bishops of New York State – not one called for an urgent or unusual purpose. Were the bishops talking about bankruptcy at their meeting? I can only imagine that they were. Buffalo can’t be the only diocese that is contemplating or at least considering that legal move. The Diocese of Brooklyn, for instance, has many more lawsuits against it than Rochester does. As the chart below makes indicates, no diocese has had more lawsuits filed against it than Buffalo. This is due to the tragic number of perpetrators and thus victims in our area, but also because of the restrictive nature of the DOB’s IRCP program. More applicants were ineligible than were accepted, as this article makes clear. Because the DOB’s IRCP program rejected so many applicants, many more survivors ended up filing lawsuits under the CVA.

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So we know the DOB is considering filing for bankruptcy. Bishop Malone has confirmed it while also referencing a “debate” among the “experts” he is consulting on the matter.

According to inside sources, this debate seems to be primarily between two entities:

Bishop Malone’s General Counsel and his Defense Attorney. 

As his website proudly proclaims, Joe Stoeckl has served as General Counsel for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and its related and affiliated entities for 40 years. He and his colleagues are in favor of a bankruptcy filing.  (I should note that I greatly enjoyed working with Joe and always felt he was a genuinely good man. If he turns out to be corrupt, I’ll pierce my ears.)

Terry Connors has been defending the DOB for nearly as long as I’ve been alive. He does not want the DOB to file for bankruptcy. Why?

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BILLABLE HOURS.

Yes, you read that right. If the DOB files for bankruptcy, it would eliminate many, many billable hours for Terry and his firm. The CVA lawsuits would involve all sorts of legal counsel and legal work. Terry’s firm would charge “an arm and a leg” (source quote) for their work on each of the CVA cases. Terry Connors and his firm would lose millions of dollars if the DOB goes for bankruptcy. Please note that Terry and his firm have already received many, many millions of dollars from the DOB over the decades. Bishop Malone was asked about this very point during his recent WGRZ interview:

Question: “Why can’t parishioners know what’s being spent on legal advice – it’s the money they give to you… shouldn’t they know how much is spent on lawyers?”

Bishop Malone’s response: “We have had a longstanding policy that prevents us from giving that kind of information out about our vendors. It’s up to those vendors if they wish to give that information out. It’s a worthwhile question to be pursued, but the point at which the response finds itself right now is we don’t feel that’s an appropriate way to go.”

Of course they don’t feel it’s an appropriate way to go! The people of the Diocese of Buffalo and the WNY community in general would be shocked at the amount of money given to Terry Connors and his crew each year. And as if Terry would ever “wish to give that information out.” Yeah right.

Any discussion of bankruptcy must necessarily include the question of insurance. At the Bishop’s final listening session on August 17th, he shared the following information regarding the insurance element of the bankruptcy question:

“I’ll just tell you this – a new term I’ve learned in this whole process by working with an expert attorney from New York who is doing what’s called ‘insurance archaeology.’ It means digging deep into the dioceses and parishes to find every single insurance policy that has ever existed to see what’s covered for these kind of cases and what isn’t. Sometimes parishes in the past had their own insurance policy and so the archaeology term is appropriate because sometimes they have to go down into old files and boxes in the basement of the rectory and they’ll say ‘Aha! Here’s the policy that covers the 1980’s.’ We have periods of time when many of these abuse cases happened when we had insurance for these kinds of offenses. They’ll be some gaps though. So that’s all going on right now. So there’s a lot of work behind the scenes and there’s no decision at this point about which way we’re going to go with that.”

It appears that the insurance archaeologists have done their work for I have learned from a trusted source that “except for two years, the Diocese is covered by insurance for all settlements and litigation.” According to this insider source, bankruptcy should not be necessary for the Diocese of Buffalo. Terry Connors must have been thrilled to receive the insurance information.

Will the DOB file for bankruptcy? It shouldn’t need to.

A bankruptcy filing would mean that survivors go from being claimants in front of a jury to creditors in front of a bankruptcy court. The vital discovery process – a primary goal for survivors – would be eliminated by bankruptcy.

In my opinion, it will all come down to the money. Will Terry Connors get his way… and his millions?

It’s deeply saddening to realize that Bishop Malone is more likely to consider what’s best for Terry than what’s best for survivors.

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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.

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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.

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As this diocesan protocol indicates, Auxiliary Bishop Grosz was given the responsibility of “undertaking the preliminary inquiry regarding the allegation,” contacting all victims who reached out to the Diocese (through the IRCP or otherwise), and “offering an apology.” 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.

~~~~~~~~

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. 

corrupt

*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!