CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) – UPDATE: Zilliox, who drafted a letter of no confidence asking Bishop Malone to resign, will no longer deliver the letter to the bishop Wednesday.
He tells News 4 he wants to give diocesan priests more time to consider whether they want to sign the letter.
It’s unclear exactly how much time Zilliox will give fellow clergy to make a decision.
So far, 13 priests, 13 deacons, and about 700 “of the faithful” have signed the letter, according to Zilliox.
ORIGINAL: The pastor of a Catholic parish in Clarence is spear-heading a new effort to force Bishop Richard Malone to resign as the head of the Diocese of Buffalo.
Malone has resisted calls for his resignation over his handling of sexual abuse and harassment claims. Now, Rev. Bob Zilliox, pastor of St. Mary’s in the Clarence community of Swormville has drafted a “no confidence” letter for Malone. Zilliox plans to spend the next five days gathering as many signatures from priests and deacons in the diocese as he can. He intends to share it with Malone and the public on Wednesday.
“It’s time for my brothers in the clergy to step up,” Zilliox said, “to truly examine their conscious, make a decision, and make a choice that we can no longer allow this to continue.
“Malone doesn’t really care about the people of God. He cares about himself. He cares about his office.”
Zilliox first spoke about the issue last year, taking part in a 60 Minutes interview on the crisis.
“I gave (Malone) a year,” Zilliox said. “I gave him a year to show the Diocese of Buffalo and our local community that he was serious about restoring trust, reforming this, making a difference, and approach things in a whole new light. Obviously the events of the last few weeks and months indicate that’s not the case.”
Most recently, Malone has come under fire for his handling of a sexual harassment complaint by Matthew Bojanowski, a former Christ the King seminarian. Bojanowski accused Rev. Jeffrey Nowak, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians in Cheektowaga, of violating the seal of his confession as well.
The official complaint against Nowak was filed in January. However Nowak wasn’t put on administrative leave until August, only after he refused to undergo a behavioral assessment, diocesan officials said.
The Nowak issue was also the last straw for the Movement to Restore Trust, a group of lay Catholics created in 2018 as the crisis was unfolding. On Thursday, the group joined in the chorus calling for Malone to resign.
“It was with a fair degree of sadness and humility that we came to that decision,” said Maureen Hurley, a co-founding member of the group.
“(The clergy needs) to stand up and we need to be the voice of reason, the voice of the Good Shepherd, shepherding our people in helping the diocese heal by joining the Movement to Restore Trust and all the laity of the diocese to demand Bishop Malone resign immediately,” Zilliox said.
Until that happens, Zilliox said his parish will withhold collection money from the bishop and the diocese.
Zilliox is not the first priest to call for Malone’s resignation. In October 2018, Rev. Paul Seil, pastor of St. Bernadette Church in Orchard Park, said the bishop should step down.
As the sex abuse crisis unfolded in the Archdiocese of Boston in the early 2000s, a group of more than 50 priests signed a letter similar to the one Zilliox has now drafted. Cardinal Bernard Law later resigned as the head of the archdiocese.
On Friday, Malone appeared on WBEN-AM. He was asked about the potential for such a letter.
“I would pay very close attention to that,” Malone told WBEN’s Tom Bauerle. “I would consult with others about that, including some of the priests who theoretically sign the letter and other priests whom I know would never sign the letter because they express their support every single day to me.”
“I can no longer in my conscious allow this to continue and be part of a Presbyterate that is unwilling to step up,” Zilliox added. “So depending on what my brothers do, I may have a decision to make.”