Several big names in the Buffalo business community are coming together in hopes of reforming the Buffalo Catholic Diocese.
Thursday the group, comprised of nine Catholic lay people, had its first public meeting at Canisius College.
The group includes:
- Paul Bauer: Co-founder of the BISON Scholarship Fund
- Thomas Beecher, Jr.: Attorney, of counsel at Phillips Lytle LLP, co-founder of the BISON Scholarship Fund, co-chair of diocesan endowment campaign “Upon His Rock”
- Robert Green: Retired attorney with Phillips Lytle LLP, chair of the Catholic Health System Board
- John Hurley: President of Canisius College, former co-chair of the Bishop’s Council of the Laity
- Maureen Hurley: Former co-chair of the Bishop’s Council of the Laity, member of the Catholic Health System Board
- Carl Montante: President and managing director of Uniland Development Company
- Mary Travers Murphy: Executive director of the Family Justice Center of WNY
- Dr. Nancy Nielsen: Senior associate dean at UB’s Jacob School of Medicine, former president of the American Medical Association
- Nancy Ware: Founder and president of Edukids, member of the Canisius College Board of Trustees
The formation of the committee, aimed at rebuilding the trust in the Buffalo Diocese, comes after months of clergy sex abuse allegations and cover-up claims within Buffalo’s Catholic Church.
“We were assured that the problem was in other dioceses. That it wasn’t in Buffalo,” John Hurley said.
The president of Canisius College said he feels betrayed by the Diocese.
In a statement, the group members write:
“We are a group of concerned, committed Catholics who are brokenhearted, disillusioned and, yes, angry about the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the United Stated, and particularly in our Diocese.”
The group did not take a stance on whether or not Bishop Richard Malone should step down. He’s been called to by several elected officials and members of the clergy.
“When the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report came out I actually threw up. It was that bad. So once we have things like that happening we have to craft a solution. Walking away doesn’t craft a solution,” said Dr. Nancy Nielsen.
The physician also revealed why she feels “a oneness” with survivors of clergy sex abuse.
“When I was a teenager I was abused by someone in the clergy. It was not a priest. And it affected me to the point that I could not even speak about it for 50 years,” she said.
“The group seeks to create a new culture of leadership and management that is transparent, accountable, competent, and grounded in justice in order to restore trust and safeguard the essential mission of the Catholic Church,” the group wrote in a statement.
Dr. Nielsen said having a competent investigation process is paramount to fixing the problems in the Church.
“When there is an accusation about sexual misconduct, you need a trained investigator, you really do. You don’t need a friend, a brother, a colleague,” Dr. Nielsen said.
The Buffalo Diocese announced in September the hiring of a former FBI agent to head up it’s new Office of Professional Responsibility, the goal of which is to improve its investigation of abuse complaints.
“I was a member of the Bishop’s Council on the Laity for more than 25 years. And on that council we were supposed to have learned what was a really going on in the Diocese. And there was never once a hint of any problem,” Carl Montante said.
The group’s first official symposium, “Rebuilding Trust: A Path Forward for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo” will take place Wednesday November 28 at 7 o’clock at the Montante Cultural Center on Canisius College’s Campus.