Buffalo bishop resigns under fire for handling of misconduct

Frank Franklin II | AP

Frank Franklin II | AP

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, who has been at the centre of a sex abuse crisis in his diocese, the Vatican said on Wednesday. The newspaper has also reported that more than 220 lawsuits have been filed against the diocese alleging clergy abuse.

Much has been accomplished in addressing the abuse crisis by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since passage of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" in 2002, but "injury caused by past abuse continues to bring enormous suffering around the world and here in our diocese", Bishop Malone said.

Malone, 73, who has been under pressure to resign for years, stepped down two years before bishops' normal retirement date.

Malone later showed his support for the same priest when he endorsed him for a position as a cruise ship chaplain after the priest was accused of making unwelcome advances toward young men.

"We extend a promise of prayer for Bishop Richard Malone, as he moves into the retirement phase of his Episcopal ministry, and for the faithful of Buffalo".

It is facing more than 200 lawsuits and an FBI investigation.

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"This has been a hard period in the life of the Church in Buffalo", he said in a statement. He is accused as well of leaving out dozens of names from a public list of priests with credible sexual abuse allegations against them.

Four sources confirmed to Palmo that Malone would step down Wednesday and be replaced in the interim by Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany.

A long line of priests and bishops have been toppled by the Roman Catholic Church's abuse crisis, which exploded onto the global stage in 2002 when the Boston Globe newspaper revealed priests had sexually abused children for decades and church leaders had covered it up.

Malone has admitted to making mistakes in cases involving adult victims, but he had firmly refused to resign and insisted he wanted to remain on the job to see the diocese through a process of "renewal".

And in September, a group of lay Catholics that had been working with Malone to restore trust in the church instead joined in calls for his resignation. Meanwhile, news outlets obtained a letter from the bishop's priest-secretary to Bojanowski that suggested the two had a romantic relationship. "I ask for your prayers as we begin this journey together, and I look forward to getting to know the people of this great diocese".

Scharfenberger will continue to lead and serve the Diocese of Albany simultaneously.

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Malone's resignation is the latest fallout in a global clergy sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church for more than a decade.

The Vatican hasn't released the results of the inquiry into Buffalo that was conducted by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.

"While I was made aware of the general conclusions of the report, which were a factor in my discernment, my decision to retire early was made freely and voluntarily", he wrote. It has not been made public.

Among those who have called for Malone's resignation is the former dean of seminarians at the diocese's Christ the King Seminary.

A seminarian, Matthew Bojanowski, also publicly accused Malone of failing to take action against a parish priest.

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