Bishop restates he's staying, while critic says MRT call to resign is "major move"

Sep 6, 2019

Bishop Richard Malone again stated Friday afternoon he intends to remain as the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, one day after the Catholic lay persons group Movement to Restore Trust announced it had called for his resignation. An advocate for childhood sex abuse victims, whose client broke open what would become a major scandal in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, was back in his frequent spot Friday suggesting the MRT's stance may be a "tipping point."

The Movement to Restore Trust (MRT) released a statement Thursday afternoon, revealing it had asked Bishop Malone to leave.

Robert Hoatson of Road to Recovery stands along Main Street in Buffalo Friday morning, across from the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo's headquarters. Hoatson renewed his frequent calls for Bishop Richard Malone's resignation while stating that a similar call to the bishop by the Movement to Restore Trust is "a major move."
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

"It is a major move," Hoatson said. "The fact that his own kind of kitchen cabinet of support, a kitchen cabinet of reforms, has turned on him and said you must leave, this could be the tipping point."

Neither Bishop Malone nor any diocesan officials responded to the MRT's statement Thursday. In a message emailed to WBFO and other media outlets that evening, it was explained "due to his full schedule today, which included Mass and a gathering with members of the Bishop’s Council of the Laity, we are unable to issue a statement this evening, but will soon."

Bishop Malone appeared Friday afternoon on WBEN Radio in Amherst and, after explaining he would not attend a Catholic Charities event later in the evening to prevent any distractions by protests, restated his position that he has no plan to step down.

"I intend to continue with the ministry to which the Church has called me, for as long as I can do it," Bishop Malone said. "I really want to be able to be part, with the lay folk and my priests and deacons, of leading us out of this terrible storm that has had such profound and painful impact on so many victims for decades. We're at the peak of that now, and I want to be part of leading us forward."

Bishop Malone admitted his disappointment and sadness when informed by members of the MRT's organizing committee Thursday of their opinion he should resign. He told WBEN Radio that had there been an opportunity to sit and meet with committee members, there might be a different outcome.  

He also expressed his disappointment and feeling of betrayal while discussing Father Ryszard Biernat, his former secretary who has since gone on leave. Father Biernat recently shared secretly recorded audio of meetings led by the bishop with WKBW-TV. The audio portrays Bishop Malone as expressing worry for a sexual misconduct claim against Father Jeffrey Nowak, who was recently placed on leave from his role leading Our Lady Help of Christians parish in Cheektowaga.

Nowak was previously accused of sexual harassment by now former seminarian Matthew Bojanowski. It is alleged Bojanowski and Biernat enjoyed a close friendship and, as part of the investigation, Nowalk faced scrutiny and accusations of acquiring - and then lying about possessing - a private letter exchanged between Biernat and Bojanowski.

According to WKBW, Malone can be heard in the audio expressing concern that the latest controversy could cost him his position.

"I found it very, very disappointing, dismaying and hurtful, because I thought I had a very good, trusting relationship with Father Ryszard," the bishop told WBEN. "We lived in the same residence for six years. We had many meals. This is besides our work together with the office, driving hundreds of miles around the diocese, visiting parishes for confirmations and all these things."

As for the investigation into accusations against Father Nowak, Bishop Malone stated that time was needed to conduct the probe correctly.

"Matthew (Bojanowski) accused Father Jeff of breaking the seal of confession. That's an inviolable thing in Catholic life," Bishop Malone said. "Priests, over the centuries, have gone to their death willingly rather than violate the seal. But you have to be able to show evidence - you can't just make the allegation that the seal has been broken without providing some evidence of it."

Father Biernat, meanwhile, explained in an interview with the Buffalo News that he decided to secretly record meetings because he felt upset over how the case involving Father Nowak was being handled. Biernat also spoke, in an interview with WKBW-TV, of how he was sexually abused by Father Art Smith while assigned as a young priest to St. Thomas Aquinas Church in South Buffalo. Biernat, in that same television interview, accuses Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz of blaming him for not locking a door and then warning that continued discussion of the alleged assault would cost him his priesthood.

Earlier in the day, Hoatson suggested Bishop Malone's leadership behavior was what is known as clericalism.

"Institutional blackmail is an integral part of this thing we call clericalism," Hoatson said. "That's why the laity have to continue to call for Bishop Malone's resignation or firing."

Hoatson first appeared in Buffalo in February 2018 with Michael Whalen, who in a call to state legislators to pass the Child Victims Act told his tale of being abused during his youth by Father Norbert Orsolits. Orsolits later admitted to Buffalo news media that he had molested numerous boys.

"Think of it, ladies and gentlemen. Michael Whalen, a layman, and Father Norbert Orsolits, a retired priest, were two people who told the truth. A serial pedophile priest told the truth and began unraveling the administration of a man who claims as his motto, 'live the truth in love,'" Hoatson said Friday. "In 2000, when Richard Malone was named an Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, he took the motto 'live the truth in love.' But it was after Michael Whalen and a retired priest told the truth about sexual abuse, Bishop Malone then began his campaign to cover up, to lie, to obfuscate and to attack various and sundry people."