By Emily Drooby
Pope Francis accepted the immediate resignation of Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, N.Y. on Wednesday morning.
In a letter to the faithful after the announcement of his resignation, Bishop Malone said: “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.”
The resignation comes just weeks after Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio concluded his Vatican appointed visitation to Buffalo to examine mounting allegations of clergy sex abuse and a possible cover-up.
However, in Bishop Malone’s letter he said the fact-finding mission had little to do with his decision to resign.
“Inevitably, some will surmise that my decision is the result of the recently-completed Apostolic Visitation, carried out by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio at the behest of the Holy See. 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,” wrote Bishop Malone.
Also, on Wednesday morning Bishop DiMarzio released a statement in part saying:
“This has been a difficult period in the life of the Church in Buffalo…As part of this Apostolic Visitation… we spoke with more than 80 people over a period of several weeks to gather information for this administrative review. It was conducted with urgency as the Holy See directed that this visitation be thorough with the foremost consideration being the good of the people of the Diocese of Buffalo.”
The Vatican also announced that Albany, N.Y. Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, has been named apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo until a permanent successor is named.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Bishop Scharfenberger said he has known he was being considered for the role since the beginning of November.
“I received a call from the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Pierre, that I was being considered as a possible appointee as apostolic administrator, and that he would take that to the Holy Father,” said Bishop Scharfenberger.
A native of Brooklyn who grew up in Queens, Bishop Scharfenberger was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn in the 1970s. The new apostolic administrator promised transparency and to do a lot of “listening and learning.”
People in Buffalo have called for this resignation ever since details emerged about a hidden list of accused priests, and secret phone recordings.
The crisis escalated when his executive assistant, Siobhan O’Connor, leaked hundreds of pages of diocesan records.
“I hope we are not going to have to do a lot more protesting. I mean we really don’t want to I know people seem to think we really enjoy this but we don’t,” explained O’Connor, speaking during a protest against Bishop Malone back in November.
Bishop Malone, who had led Buffalo since 2012, had resisted numerous calls from clergy, seminarians and lay leaders in the diocese to step down.
Bishop Scharfenberger said he hopes this marks a new beginning for the Diocese of Buffalo.