US Attorneys contacted the diocese of Buffalo, NY, in late May, to inform officials of their interest in documents related to abuse reports after 1990 and therefore susceptible of prosecution under federal criminal statutes. Terrence M. Connors, attorney for the Diocese of Buffalo, clarified the chronological point in remarks to reporters during a press conference at Infant of Prague parish, Cheektowaga, on Monday evening.
Charlie Specht, the chief investigative reporter for Buffalo’s ABC affiliate, WKBW, first reported the May date in mid-October, but this is the first time any agent or official of the Buffalo diocese has publicly confirmed the report.
The point of chronology is significant, since it means the news regarding federal criminal probes that has been coming in cascade since October is not, in fact, merely a response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. It gives the lie to narrative presumptions of reaction on the part of opportunistic prosecutors eager to strike while the iron is hot.
US attorneys wrote to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in early October to instruct the Conference to advise chanceries throughout the country to keep their files, and not to destroy them. Nevertheless, this reckoning is a long time coming.
We should have known it would come to this. The writing was on the wall in 2002, when the bishops gave themselves a pass. The vote to change the language of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People so it exempted bishops was a sign in flaming letters: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. If the judgment was meant for the bishops, the message was written for us, the laity, as well.
We did not see the words written. We did not want to. We wanted normal.
We wanted to go back to the good old days, the happy time, when ignorance was bliss and Father could be trusted and the Bishop was a smiling cipher who confirmed our children and otherwise did neither good nor harm in any way we could discern, or cared to. We wanted what we knew, which was little, and we wanted all of it.
What we have is Bishop Richard J. Malone, standing at a makeshift podium in a tricked-out parish gym and saying — with a straight face — “I don’t think I lack empathy [for victims of clerical sexual abuse],” and then, “I don’t avoid meeting victims at all. I want them to call — I don’t want to be ambushed, either by you people [i.e. journalists] or a victim.”
That was right before Bishop Malone called his auxiliary, Edward Grosz, to the podium to offer, “Perhaps the person [who claims never to have heard from the bishop or his office after complaining of abuse] didn’t go through the proper channels.” Bishop Grosz handles much of the paperwork and bureaucracy for his principal in abuse cases.
This is not normal. This is not even close to normal, though the silence of bishops in the face of manifest evil is commonplace these days. They will not denounce Malone — though they tried to scapegoat Uncle Ted McCarrick and they failed — nor will they defend him. As a body, the bishops too often behave as men devoid of sense, and destitute of shame.
Not a single one of Bishop Malone’s confreres has publicly corrected him, let alone called for his resignation. We continue to hear from some quarters the pious platitudes about the “good bishops” who love their people. If one of them were good, he would denounce his brethren for their cravenness. He would rend his vestments. He would don sackcloth and ashes and do penance. He would say what he knows, or reasonably suspects.
Who is that man?
The evidence suggests their mitred highnesses are all terrified: of losing their place? No. Of being found out? No, again. Nor is their fear for what may befall them, should they keep silence. It is for what might befall them, should they speak. They are afraid of being expelled from the club — or worse — having spoken, of becoming a pariah within it.
May we reasonably hope for any good from their Fall Meeting? Their silence bespeaks a general pusillanimity, unbecoming men ordained to be shepherds for God’s holy flock and high priests blameless in His sight, ministering to Him night and day. The worst are quite possibly criminal. To continue to place any sort of trust in this Quisling brotherhood is folly. It is maudlin. It is morally criminal.
Let one of them — one — stand up and say he shall no longer be a part of this fiasco. Let one of them own the crisis without stint, for all the brethren, come what may. Let one of them raise his voice and cry out, Ecce adsum!