Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone resigns after a year of pressure

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On Wednesday, these Buffalo Catholics finally got their wish, when the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had accepted Malone’s resignation.

Malone followed with his own statement, attributing his early retirement to turmoil caused by the Catholic Church’s clergy sexual abuse crisis, and discord over his response to it.

The Buffalo Diocese “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,” he wrote in a letter released by the diocese.

“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,” he wrote.

All bishops are required to submit their resignation to the Pope when they turn 75. Malone is 73.

Since the church’s clergy sexual abuse crisis reignited in 2018, bishops across the country have come under greater scrutiny for the crimes and cover ups alleged to have occurred on their watch. Few faced louder and more persistent accusations than Malone, who had led the diocese of some 600,000 Catholics since 2012.

Both the FBI and New York’s Attorney General are investigating clergy abuse and cover ups in the Buffalo diocese, according to the Buffalo News. The newspaper has also reported that more than 220 lawsuits have been filed against the diocese alleging clergy abuse. Already, Buffalo has paid abuse survivors more than $175 million through a victim’s compensation fund.

In October, the Vatican announced its own investigation — called an Apostolic Visitation — into the Buffalo diocese. The results of that probe have not been made public. Malone was among a contingent of bishops from the United States who met with Pope Francis last month in Rome as part of regularly scheduled “ad limina” meetings.

As CNN and other news outlets have reported, Malone kept a secret binder full of the names of accused priests in a closet in his office. Many of those names were withheld when Malone issued a list of credibly accused priests, a whistleblower told CNN last year.

A spokeswoman told CNN the list Malone released included only priests accused of abusing minors, not those accused of misconduct with adults.

“My handling of recent claims from some of our parishioners concerning sexual misconduct with adults unquestionably has fallen short of the standard to which you hold us, and to which we hold ourselves,” Malone said last year.

Later, the diocese revised its list of credibly accused priests from 42 to 78.

Still, Malone adamantly resisted calls for his resignation, even when prominent local Catholics and some of his own priests called for his ouster, insisting that a “shepherd does not desert the flock.”

In his stead, Edward Scharfenberger, the bishop of Albany, will temporarily lead the Buffalo diocese, the Vatican announced.

Scharfenberger will tend to both dioceses simultaneously, the Albany diocese said.

CNN’s Rosa Flores and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

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