Buffalo Diocese whistleblower speaks nationally for first time

Oct 29, 2018

Despite repeated calls that he resign, Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone appears ready to ride out the building crisis regarding the sexual abuse of minors at the hands of clergy members. However, pressure will surely mount following Sunday night's explosive "60 Minutes" story, which heard from a key whistleblower who said the Diocese has been more focused on covering up the allegations than helping victims.

The Bishop's former executive secretary, Siobahn O'Connor, told "60 Minutes" - and then "CBS This Morning" on Monday - that she felt compelled to copy key documents related to the case, as at the end of her life, she will not answer to Malone. She will "answer to God."  

"I was seeing that there were cases I had grave concerns about, and even back in March, early on, I would express those concerns and he would just try to placate me in response," O'Connor said. "He would say that that's not your concern. He would say it's being handled. He would say don't worry about it. But  I couldn't help it because, to me, the heroes in this story are the survivors, and I spoke to someone about it and I said I wanted to help them."

Father Bob Zilliox, who left his position as counsel to Malone in May to concentrate on his parish, told "60 Minutes'" Bill Whitaker that he also received "lip service" from the  bishop.

"How many of those priests shold have been taken out of the priesthood?" Whitaker asked.

"I would argue at least eight of nine," said Zilliox.

"How many of those are still in the priesthood here in Buffalo?" Whitaker asked.

"All of them," Zilliox said. "All the guys that should have been removed from the priesthood are still priests. It's beyond troubling. That's not the church."

Malone released a statement declining  a request from "60 Minutes" for an interview. The statement also pointed how those interviewed for the "60 Minutes" story were not aware of efforts by the Diocese to help victims.  

Deacon Paul Snyder, the first to call for Malone's resignation, also appeared with O'Connor.

"We're living in a time in Buffalo where the types of activities that have taken place, we thought only occurred 70 years ago, 40 years ago. These abuses have happened now," Snyder said. "And for a person such as Siobahn to have the courage to come forward to help our church find peace, everybody should be supportive and anyone who doesn't, must not be seeking the truth."

The Diocese of Buffalo issued a statement Monday afternoon, saying the material reported in the 60 Minutes report was "incomplete, out of context and in some cases plainly inaccurate" and it will "provide information in the days ahead that will add perspective."

Two stories aired on Sunday, Oct. 28, regarding the Diocese.  Many have sought our comment about both.  Therefore, we issue this statement and will provide information in the days ahead that will add perspective to the stories.  For now, we simply observe that the material reported in the stories was incomplete, out of context and in some cases plainly inaccurate.

We know that some clergy and lay people have chosen to speak their minds and publicize confidential documents about the current crisis in our diocese  These individuals say that they acted according to their consciences.  We take them at their word, as we did before.  If they have any specific matters that they believe need to be addressed, we would appreciate that information.

Please find our statement to "60 Minutes," in which we explained the reasons why Bishop Malone declined their invitation for an interview.  We similarly had told WKBW that we had no comment on their story.

People will make up their own minds once they have heard our response to these stories.  For our part, at the Diocese of Buffalo, we intend to better utilize our platforms moving forward as a catalyst to share important information, especially about the abuse crisis.  Those platforms include: our website, social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and our monthly WNY Catholic newspaper.  Several very positive changes are in the works to more effectively, transparently and actively communicate with the public.