• Sara Larson

My Take on the Breaking News from Buffalo

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

The day has finally come. The day that many of us have been waiting for, hoping for, praying for...

Richard Malone has resigned from his position as Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, New York.

Praise God.

Here’s the short, official announcement from the Holy See Press Office: “The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Buffalo, United States of America, presented by Bishop Richard J. Malone, and has appointed Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany as apostolic administrator of the same diocese.” (Slightly more detail can be found in the Communique from the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C.)

If you haven’t been following the news from the Diocese of Buffalo, suffice it to say that it’s been a mess that only seemed to get worse and worse over the past year. I’ve thought many times about writing a post about the situation, but honestly, it was so ugly and frustrating that I didn’t know where to begin. If you need to catch up a little bit, this article from the New York Times offers a brief, fair summary of the story up to today.

I have been watching Buffalo closely since October 2018, when I saw a compelling interview on 60 Minutes with Malone’s former secretary-turned whistleblower Siobhan O’Connor. In the months since, I’ve been following theBuffalo news outlets and watching from afar as more and more disturbing revelations emerged. I’ve been cheering on the efforts of a small group of protesters who kept showing up to greet their bishop with signs saying “Malone Must Go!” I’ve been holding my breath, hoping and praying that, at least in this most egregious of situations, the Vatican would step in and do something.

The Apostolic Visitation authorized by the Vatican and conducted by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn back in October was a hopeful sign, but there were no immediate results when that investigation wrapped up. There were rumors that Malone had submitted his resignation to Pope Francis during the bishops' ad limina visit to Rome in November, but nothing materialized in the days following his return.

Then on Monday, veteran reporter Rocco Palmo announced on his blog that Malone would resign Wednesday. Palmo is a reliable source who often has the inside scoop on what’s happening behind the scenes in the Catholic Church, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, just in case.

So, when my alarm went off this morning, the first thing I did was pick up my phone to see if the reports had been accurate. I confess, I might have cried a little when I saw the news.

Bishop Scharfenberger, the new Apostolic Administrator, gave a press conference this morning on behalf of the Diocese of Buffalo. I plan to write more about that later, but I will say that, from what I saw, I do feel somewhat hopeful about his leadership. Perhaps there are better days ahead for this suffering diocese.

Bishop Malone released his own statement today as well. Behind the veil of pleasantries, it’s really an astonishingly arrogant and self-congratulatory statement from a man who is essentially resigning in disgrace. More on that later as well.

For now, I’ll just say this:

There is so much more to be done in the Diocese of Buffalo. The consequences for Malone should not end with his resignation. Those who enabled his destructive leadership should not be let off the hook. The search for truth and transparency should not end here.

All of that is true, but so is this - Today is a good day. This is an important step in the right direction.

It’s been more than a year since I first saw that video of Siobhan O’Connor sharing the truth with deep faith and quiet strength. Now, I am honored to call Siobhan a friend.

When I texted her this morning to celebrate the news and offer my gratitude for her courage and persistence, she said this in reply: “It is a bittersweet but good day. We can start a new chapter now. God help us to make it a good one!”

Amen to that.

Please Lord, help us all make the next chapter a good one.

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