BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – For a second straight day Tuesday, a Diocese of Buffalo spokesperson had no comment on reports Bishop Richard Malone would soon be leaving his post.
Sources tell News 4 Malone, 73, will take an early retirement as he continues to face intense criticism over his handling of the clergy sex abuse crisis. Bishops in the Roman Catholic Church typically retire at age 75. News that Malone would resign this week was first reported Monday by Catholic blogger Rocco Palmo, who said the announcement would likely be made Wednesday.
When the Vatican press office released its daily bulletin Tuesday at noon local time, it made no mention of Malone under the “resignations and assignments” section.
Palmo’s report indicated that Most Rev. Edward Scharfenberger, who serves as bishop in the Diocese of Albany, will temporarily take over operational control of the Diocese of Buffalo as apostolic administrator once Malone leaves.
“There has been no announcement from the Holy See regarding the Diocese of Buffalo,” a Diocese of Albany spokesperson told News 4’s sister station, WTEN on Monday. “Unless and until the Holy See makes an announcement, we cannot offer any comment.”
Scharfenberger has been the bishop of Albany since 2014. The Brooklyn native served as a priest in his home diocese prior to that. While he was in Brooklyn, Scharfenberger was a member of the Diocesan Review Board for Sexual Abuse of Minors.
In September, he issued an open letter on the clergy sex abuse crisis to Catholics in Albany.
“Do not rush to judge those who bring accusations forward,” Scharfenberger wrote, “or those who are accused.”
After reports of the sex abuse scandal were first uncovered, many clergy members within the Buffalo Diocese have called on Bishop Malone to resign.
This includes Father Paul Seil of Saint Bernadette’s in Orchard Park, who said several parishioners have personally told him they were losing faith in the church after this “cover-up.”
“I’m definitely hopeful that this will be a turning point,” he told News 4 Tuesday. “And I’m very hopeful we won’t be living in an atmosphere in which this is normal – cover-up, tension, vindictiveness, deceit – those will not be the norm anymore.”
Father Seil also noted that this situation is unprecedented in the Diocese of Buffalo, but under Pope Francis’ leadership, many priests have been asked to resign or submit their early retirement.
He said while there will still be many unanswered questions, he believes Bishop Malone’s early retirement will lead to a “new day” for the Diocese.
“What I would like to see is for us to take a breath, have a moment of peace entering into this advent and the Christmas season, and start rebuilding in a very careful and measured way so we don’t mess this up,” Father Seil said. “Now we’re going to mess it up because we’re human, but on the other hand, because we’re going to have a new start, that’s the best thing that could possibly happen to us.”