Zil­liox clar­i­fies ‘60 Min­utes’ cri­tique of Buf­falo Dio­cese

The Buffalo News - - WEATHER - By Harold Mc­Neil NEWS STAFF RE­PORTER

A canon lawyer with the Dio­cese of Buf­falo who said in a na­tion­ally tele­vised in­ter­view that Bishop Richard J. Mal­one ig­nored his rec­om­men­da­tions on sev­eral sex abuse al­le­ga­tion cases is­sued a state­ment Fri­day clar­i­fy­ing his cri­tique of the bishop’s han­dling of the mat­ter.

The Rev. Robert Zil­liox re­leased a three-page state­ment to me­dia out­lets that he said was in­tended to clar­ify state­ments he made in a “60 Min­utes” in­ter­view that have since been mis­un­der­stood or mis­char­ac­ter­ized by some who saw it.

In the “60 Min­utes” in­ter­view, which aired Oct. 28 on the CBS net­work, Zil­liox re­ferred to “at least eight or nine” priests who re­mained in the pri­est­hood who he said should have been re­moved.

Af­ter the TV seg­ment aired, Zil­liox said the dio­cese re­leased a state­ment that mis­char­ac­ter­ized his ref­er­ences to the priests as still be­ing in “ac­tive min­istry,” a term Zil­liox said he never used.

“I did not use that term,” said Zil­liox, in the state­ment he re­leased to news out­lets Fri­day.

“In fact, some or even all those priests may be on leave from ‘ac­tive min­istry,’ in­clud­ing sus­pen­sion, ad­min­is­tra­tive leave, med­i­cal leave or re­tire­ment,” he added.

Zil­liox said priests who are no longer in ac­tive min­istry be­cause they have ei­ther been sus­pended, are on ad­min­is­tra­tive or med­i­cal leave or re­tired, may con­tinue to say Mass and per­form sacra­ments. As a re­sult, church mem­bers and oth­ers are likely to be unaware of those priests’ sta­tus or the rea­sons for their sta­tus, he said.

“Un­der canon law, the Church has a process to for­mally re­move priests from the cler­i­cal state for mis­con­duct, in­clud­ing the sex­ual abuse of chil­dren as well as mis­con­duct in­volv­ing adults. When the re­sult of that process is re­moval, that de­ci­sion is pub­lic,” Zil­liox said.

Zil­liox said he bore no re­spon­si­bil­ity for re­mov­ing any priests from the pri­est­hood.

At a news con­fer­ence this week, Lawlor F. Quin­lan, a lawyer for the dio­cese, ad­dressed what he called a mis­per­cep­tion that was left by the air­ing of the “60 Min­utes” episode, that the dio­cese was keep­ing eight or nine priests in min­istry de­spite cred­i­ble claims of abuse.

Quin­lan said Zil­lox was “tech­ni­cally cor­rect” when he said the priests had not been re­moved from the pri­est­hood. “Tech­ni­cally, they haven’t been re­moved from the cler­i­cal state, but they have been re­moved from min­istry,” Quin­lan said. “They’re not in a school. They’re not in a church. If they go to the gro­cery store, they can’t wear the Ro­man col­lar.”

Ear­lier this week, Kathy Span­gler, a spokes­woman for the dio­cese, said the bishop did not know the iden­ti­ties of the eight or nine priests re­ferred to by Zil­liox. “The big­gest ques­tion we have is: Who are the eight or nine priests men­tioned in the ‘60 Min­utes’ story by Fa­ther Zil­liox?” said Span­gler. “We don’t know who they are and we want very much for him or any­one else to please tell us.”

Span­gler did not re­spond to a text mes­sage seek­ing com­ment from the dio­cese Fri­day.

In the state­ment he re­leased Fri­day, Zil­liox said he was aware of the in­ter­est in pub­licly iden­ti­fy­ing by name each of the priests.

“Un­der canon law, mat­ters be­ing sub­mit­ted to the (Con­gre­ga­tion for Doc­trine of Faith in Rome) are sub­ject to strict con­fi­den­tial­ity. Ac­cord­ingly, I am pre­vented from iden­ti­fy­ing those cases by name,” Zil­liox said.

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