Group urges bishop to adopt re­forms

Says sur­vivors should be given more sup­port

The Buffalo News - - GUSTOSUNDAY - By Jay Tokasz

The Buf­falo Dio­cese must do more to as­sist clergy sex abuse sur­vivors and to dis­close the depth and scale of abuses per­pe­trated on chil­dren and vul­ner­a­ble adults, ac­cord­ing to an or­ga­nized group of Catholic wor­ship­pers.

Those are among nine key rec­om­men­da­tions from the group, which has been meet­ing since De­cem­ber to find ways of re­build­ing trust in the dio­cese in the wake of a clergy sex abuse scan­dal that has rat­tled the faith­ful.

The group call­ing it­self the Move­ment to Re­store Trust urged Bishop Richard J. Malone to of­fer one-onone and group lis­ten­ing ses­sions with sex abuse vic­tims, as well as a full spec­trum of “in­de­pen­dent, trauma-in­formed coun­sel­ing ser­vices, treat­ments and ther­a­pies” and a more sen­si­tive and re­spon­sive in­take pro­gram.

The rec­om­men­da­tions were re­leased Saturday morn­ing in a fivepage ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary dis­trib­uted at a sym­po­sium in Cani­sius Col­lege’s Mon­tante Cen­ter.

The re­port said a lack of con­fi­dence in the in­sti­tu­tional Catholic Church and its lead­ers has re­sulted in lay peo­ple “feel­ing disil­lu­sioned, frus­trated and alien­ated.” It also called for trans­form­ing church cul­ture from one that as­signs greater au­thor­ity to or­dained clergy to one where clergy and bish­ops work in part­ner­ship with lay peo­ple.

“The em­brace and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rec­om­men­da­tions in our re­port will be an im­por­tant step in break­ing old habits driven by cler­i­cal­ism,” the re­port said.

The group called upon Malone to com­mit to a new type of part­ner­ship with lay Catholics so that they

are not just rep­re­sented, but are also con­sulted, heard and en­gaged.

The group noted that a lack of trans­parency in ad­dress­ing sex abuse has sig­nif­i­cantly eroded trust in the dio­cese, which needs to re­veal the full depth and scale of the abuse in a man­ner sim­i­lar to what the Arch­dio­cese of Bos­ton has done on its web­site.

Since 2011, the Bos­ton Arch­dio­cese has kept a list of ac­cused clergy in five cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing those found guilty of sex­u­ally abus­ing a child in church (canon) law, crim­i­nal law or both; those who were lai­cized af­ter hav­ing been ac­cused of sex­ual abuse of a mi­nor; those who have been pub­licly ac­cused of abuse where canon­i­cal pro­ceed­ings re­main to be com­pleted; and those who are de­ceased and were pub­licly ac­cused of abuse but where crim­i­nal or canon­i­cal pro­ceed­ings were not com­pleted.

The list on the arch­dio­cese web­site in­cludes links to pri­ests’ as­sign­ment his­to­ries.

The Buf­falo Dio­cese over the past year has pub­licly ac­knowl­edged the names of 80 pri­ests who served in the dio­cese and were found to have had cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions of abuse against them. But the dio­cese has pro­vided no ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion be­yond the pri­ests’ names.

Malone re­sponded to the re­port in a let­ter this week to John J. Hur­ley, pres­i­dent of Cani­sius Col­lege and one of the orig­i­nal or­ga­niz­ers of the Move­ment to Re­store Trust.

Malone said he was “happy to of­fer gen­eral sup­port for the main prin­ci­ples and the nine foun­da­tional themes of the ini­tial re­port of the Move­ment to Re­store Trust.” He also pro­posed a “joint im­ple­men­ta­tion team” of lay peo­ple, pri­ests and per­haps dioce­san staff “that would work out par­tic­u­lars re­gard­ing fea­si­bil­ity, pri­or­i­ti­za­tion, se­quenc­ing and ac­tion steps for each rec­om­men­da­tion.”

The Move­ment to Re­store Trust was launched in Oc­to­ber by prom­i­nent lo­cal Catholics in response to a clergy sex­ual abuse cri­sis in the Buf­falo Dio­cese and the broader church in the U.S. The group’s work was not done in con­cert with the dio­cese, although Malone in­di­cated at the time the group formed that he sup­ported it.

Rev­e­la­tions of clergy sex abuse and cover-up have plagued the dio­cese since Fe­bru­ary 2018, when a re­tired priest, the Rev. Nor­bert Or­solits, ad­mit­ted to The Buf­falo News that he had mo­lested “prob­a­bly dozens” of boys decades ago.

The ad­mis­sion led to ac­cu­sa­tions of abuse against dozens more pri­ests, many of whom were still in ac­tive min­istry and are now sus­pended; mul­ti­ple calls for Malone to re­sign; a civil in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the state At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice; more than $8 mil­lion of­fered in com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments to vic­tims of abuse; and a fed­eral probe in­clud­ing a sub­poena of dio­cese records and FBI agents in­ter­view­ing vic­tims of abuse.

About 150 peo­ple met an av­er­age of five or six times from De­cem­ber to Fe­bru­ary in one of six work groups to re­search best prac­tices and de­velop the Move­ment to Re­store Trust rec­om­men­da­tions.

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