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Buffalo Bishop Resigns over Mishandling of Abuse Allegations

Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, New York (Gregory A. Shemitz/Reuters)

The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Buffalo, N.Y. Bishop Richard Malone amid criticism over the bishop’s handling of accusations of sexual abuse by priests.

Malone has come under fire for the better part of two years for allegedly covering up credible allegations against priests in the diocese and neglecting to relieve those priests of their duties.

The Buffalo diocese is the subject of hundreds of lawsuits from people claiming they were sexually abused by priests in the area, some as long as decades ago.

Malone returned a priest to ministry who had been suspended by one of his predecessors for allegedly sending a message reading “love you” to an eighth grade boy. The same priest was later accused of making advances towards young men, but that did not stop Malone from endorsing him as a cruise ship chaplain.

Malone was also audio recorded calling an active priest “a sick puppy” before doing nothing to address the concerns. He is accused as well of leaving out dozens of names from a public list of priests with credible sexual abuse allegations against them.

Both his executive assistant and secretary have expressed serious concerns about Malone’s handling of the clergy abuse crisis.

“Despite the measurable progress we have achieved together, I have concluded after much prayer and discernment that the spiritual welfare of the people of the Diocese of Buffalo will be better served by a new bishop who perhaps is better able to bring about the reconciliation, healing and renewal that is so needed,” Malone said in a statement. “It is my honest assessment that I have accomplished as much as I am able to, and that there remain divisions and wounds that I am unable to bind and heal.”

Malone’s resignation from the post he has held since 2012 comes two years before the canon law retirement age of 75. The Vatican announcement did not state why his resignation came early. The bishop had previously admitted to making missteps in some adult abuse cases but insisted repeatedly that he intended to continue running the diocese until the typical retirement age.

The bishop of Albany, Edward Scharfenberger, will run the Buffalo diocese temporarily.

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 eight New York Catholic dioceses have seen more than 500 lawsuits levied against them under new state law allowing a one year window for victims to sue over abuse that occurred past the statute of limitations.

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