Recordings suggest Diocese of Buffalo had concerns about priest in March

Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Secret recordings of Bishop Richard Malone meeting with his inner circle show he had concerns regarding a Cheektowaga pastor dating as far back as March. However, he didn’t put the Rev. Jeffrey Nowak on administrative leave until August.

The Diocese of Buffalo is currently investigating a complaint filed by Matthew Bojanowski, a former Christ the King seminarian, that Nowak sexually harassed him and violated the seal of his confession. That complaint was officially filed with the diocese in January.

But in recordings of a March 13th meeting with his inner circle, Malone said this about the complaint: “(It) details, and I think gives evidence that does back up the concerns that Matthew has, a very significant piece of which among many significant pieces is the claim that the seal of confession has been violated by Jeff.”

The recordings were independently obtained by News 4 on Thursday.

By August, diocesan officials seemed to have changed their mind about the complaint. In a statement released on August 7th, they said, “Mr. Bojanowski has not provided any specific evidence to support his claim that the seal of the confessional has been broken.”

At a press conference Wednesday, Bishop Malone reiterated the complaint is still under investigation.

In another recording from March 19th, Malone discussed his desire to send Nowak for a behavioral assessment.

“And he’s going to go right out of his mind,” Malone said to Steven Halter, the diocese’s Director of Professional Responsibility.

“Can you force that, bishop?” Halter asked.

“Well I can push it hard,” Malone responded.

“He’s going to go,” Malone said seconds later. “I’ll find a way to get him there. There’s no question about that.”

But to date, Nowak has not undergone that behavioral assessment, diocesan officials say. That’s why he was eventually placed on administrative leave in late August.

When Bojanowski filed his complaint in January, he gave the diocese years of correspondence between he and Nowak. The documents included a 2014 exchange between the two in which Nowak said, “I’m sure when you become a priest, you will be what we call clerical eye candy.”

Bojanowski responded, “Yeah I’ll be on the priest calendar that they sell in Rome.”

Those documents indicate that by Fall 2016, Bojanowski and Nowak had some sort of falling out.

At their March 13th meeting, diocesan officials discussed that comment.

“For Jeff to say something to a seminarian, ‘Oh you’re going to be clerical eye candy,’ or whatever that word was, I read that and almost threw up on my couch,” said Rev. Peter Karalus, who serves as the diocese’s vicar general.

“Me too. Me too,” Malone agreed.

The tapes were recorded by the Rev. Ryszard Biernat, who is currently on leave from his role as the bishop’s secretary. Documents obtained by News 4 indicated Biernat and Bojokowski have a closer personal relationship. Their attorney, Barry Covert, calls the relationship platonic.

Also included in Bojokowski’s complaint: an accusation that Nowak stole a letter sent to him from Biernat.

“As acknowledged by Bishop Malone in March of this year, he used that letter to try and retaliate as a form of blackmail against Matthew,” Covert said.

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