BOSTON, Mass., Oct. 27, 2022―Voice of the Faithful, which has worked for 20 years to reform Catholic Church governance that causes and abets clergy sexual abuse of minors, commends New York Attorney General Letitia James for forcing government oversight of areas of the Buffalo Diocese’s operations dealing with clergy abuse allegations.
On Oct. 25, the Diocese of Buffalo agreed to such oversight under a deal with the State of New York that mandates reforms that include restrictions on accused priests monitored by Kathleen McChesney. McChesney is a former head of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Office of Child and Youth Protection and was a high-ranking FBI official. The New York attorney general had sued the diocese for violating the state’s laws governing religious charities by failing to follow Church rules regarding abuse allegations.
Mary Pat Fox, VOTF president, said she is angry and heartbroken that the government has had to do what the Church has failed to do. “That certain bishops were allowed to thwart the Church’s own laws and do so for such an extended period of time is unconscionable,” she said. “Thank God someone has found a way to check such aberrant behavior that put our children at risk.”
As The New York Times reported, two former Buffalo bishops, Richard Malone and Edward Grosz, shielded more than two dozen priests from Vatican investigation, allowing them to retire or go on medical leave with full salaries and benefits. The agreement with the state banned both bishops for life from any charitable fiduciary roles under the agreement with the state.
VOTF did some of its earliest work in child protection when it started in 2002 in Boston, where Malone was an auxiliary bishop. VOTF, for example, helped parishes follow guidelines set up by the U.S. Catholic bishops in the so-called 2002 Dallas Charter for the protection of children and has continued its advocacy for the past two decades. In 2022, VOTF completed its first report “Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices.” The study included all U.S. dioceses, and the Diocese of Buffalo received a score of 72 out of 100.
This may indicate that present Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher’s statement in response to the oversight deal may be true, at least in part. He said, “The settlement that the diocese and the New York attorney general have agreed to confirms that the rigorous policies and protocols the diocese has put in place over the past several years are the right ones …”
While rigorous child protection policies and protocols are essential, unless diocese follow them, they will do no good. If the Church continues to shield abusing priests in secrecy and deception, the effectiveness of child protection polices will not be known until years in the future when today’s victims are finally able to come to terms with their abuse and report it, and such policies do not address past offenses.
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful’s® mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. VOTF’s goals are to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity, and to shape structural change within the Catholic Church. More information is at www.votf.org.
Voice of the Faithful Statement, Oct. 27, 2022, contact Nick Ingala, firstname.lastname@example.org, (781) 559-3360