The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and the Movement to Restore Trust have formed a Joint Implementation Team, facilitated by Leadership Roundtable, to address the clergy sex abuse scandal. Among the first orders of business was to agree to changes in how the diocese handles abuse cases.
Bishop Richard Malone said the team held its first meeting on April 11 and quickly reached agreement on the following initiatives:
- Malone will hold Diocesan-wide listening sessions. The first two dates and locations will be announced by the end of April and the first session could be held as early as May.
- New Initiatives to Handle Sex Abuse Cases:
- Malone will continue meeting with victims and also reserve regular hours on his schedule for individual meetings.
- The Diocese's approach to releasing the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse will be reviewed. The MRT has suggested a more detailed approach, based upon best practices from other U.S. dioceses.
- The Diocese's intake processes for sex abuse claims will be reviewed to insure victims are treated with dignity.
- Malone will establish a new process for allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct made against a bishop, modeled after other dioceses, whereby complaints would automatically be referred to the Metropolitan Archdiocesan Review Board. This new process would remain in place until the Vatican or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops develops a procedure applicable to all dioceses.
- Malone will appoint a lay chair to the Diocesan Finance Council and have laity (particularly women) comprise a majority of Council members. The expanded Council will be charged with reviewing and improving the current model of financial transparency for the Diocese, consistent with best practices.
- The Diocese will expand the use of its ethics hotline, beyond reports of financial fraud or irregularity, to include all reports of any ethical improprieties, sexual abuse or harassment or financial fraud.
"We are pleased with the progress made over the past month," said John Hurley, president of Canisius College and a MRT leader. "We fully recognize that these first steps are not complete solutions, but the process of restoring trust is underway."
After three months of work by approximately 150 Catholic lay volunteers, the MRT presented its recommendations to Malone in March and the bishop quickly agreed to "general support" for them and the formation of the Joint Implementation Team to continue work.
Leadership Roundtable was chosen as a facilitator, as the nonprofit organization of laity, religious and clergy have been working with dioceses across the country to promote best practices and accountability, including greater input from laity, in the spirit of Vatican II.
"The work of the JIT, bringing together representatives of the MRT and the Diocese of Buffalo, is an excellent example of the call for 'co-responsibility' in the church," Malone said. "I accept and embrace their efforts to assist victim-survivors and our Diocese to heal. This is the time to fully embrace healing and also the true vision Vatican II hoped for the Church."
Members of the JIT include MRT representatives Maureen Hurley, Dr. Nancy Nielsen and Paul Bauer. Diocesan representatives are Fr. Peter Karalus, Fr. David LiPuma, Sr. Regina Murphy and Dennis Mahaney. Under the team's charter, developed jointly by the Diocese and MRT, the team is reporting to the Bishop and Hurley.