New York News

Confirmed: Embattled Buffalo Bishop in Rome Next Week for Ad Limina Visit

Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., speaks during a news conference Nov. 16 during the 2015 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (Photo: Catholic News Service)

By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent

NEW YORK – Buffalo’s embattled bishop, Richard Malone, will be in Rome next week as part of the New York region’s scheduled meetings with Vatican officials.

Kathy Spangler, a spokesperson for the diocese, confirmed on Wednesday that Malone will be in attendance.

The meetings, known as the ad limina visits, are part of the regularly scheduled meetings between bishops and officials from the Roman Curia which normally occur every five years, however the last time the U.S. bishops traveled to Rome for their ad limina was eight years ago in 2011 and 2012.

Among the regularly scheduled meetings is a session with the pope, which will bring together face to face, Francis – who has pledged an “all-out battle” on sex abuse – and Malone, the most senior U.S. bishop currently being investigated for his handling of abuse cases.

Apart from the regularly scheduled meetings with curial officials which take place collectively in a group format, it remains unknown as to whether Malone will have any individual meetings to discuss his own case at the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees abuse related investigations.

In October, the Vatican tapped Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio to lead an apostolic visitation into Malone and the troubled diocese he leads.

Over the course of the month, DiMarzio interviewed some 80 individuals affiliated with the diocese and visited Buffalo on three occasions. He is now completing a report, which will be sent to the Holy See for a review and final determination of facts.

For over a year, numerous clergy and lay Catholics in Buffalo have called for Malone’s resignation, which he has repeatedly resisted, and a September poll by the Buffalo News claimed that 86 percent of the residents wanted him to leave. According to a report from WKBW, 180 clergy and religious leaders in the diocese have been accused of sexual misconduct.

DiMarzio’s investigation was not subject to the new Vatican norms for bishop accountability, Vos estis lux mundi, but was broader in scope, according to the original announcement from the papal embassy to the United States.

In October, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, told The Tablet, the newspaper for the diocese of Brooklyn, that the pope authorized a full investigation “to go to the roots of the problem.”

“It is not a judgment, it is an investigation,” Archbishop Pierre said. “It is a service that the Holy Father has asked [DiMarzio] to do, to examine what is really going on,” he said at the time.

The investigation into Malone comes at a time when the U.S. bishops are beginning to implement new measures for bishop accountability with the first Vos Estis investigation now taking place into Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis is conducting the investigation, which he was authorized to do by the Vatican after allegations surfaced that Hoeppner interfered with investigations into clerical sexual misconduct.

Over the next four months, 15 regional groups of U.S. bishops will make their way to Rome for their Vatican meetings, which began this week bishops from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.

The New York delegation’s meetings next will occur at the same as the rest of the U.S. bishops will be meeting in Baltimore for their annual general assembly where, among other agenda items, the hierarchy will continue to try and turn a page on it handling of the clergy abuse scandals.