By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
NEW YORK — New audio recording reveals embattled Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York seeking to contain yet another public relations crisis in his diocese, saying he feared it could force his resignation.
The audio files, released on Wednesday by WKBW, were recorded on August 2 by Bishop Malone’s priest secretary, Father Ryszard Biernat, who took a leave of absence from his post, beginning August 14.
“With all the else that’s going on in the diocese and all the, all the attacks on my credibility … that I’ve known that something’s going on here that shouldn’t be and I let it go … I mean this is a disaster,” Bishop Malone said.
Malone is referring to accusations from former seminarian Matthew Bojanowski, who has accused a priest of the diocese, Father Jeffrey Nowak, of sexual harassment.
“You know, they really scared me,” Bishop Malone says to Fr. Biernat in the conversation, recounting a recent meeting with diocesan officials. “They kept saying, ‘You know this could be the end, bishop. This could be the end.’”
Bojanowski resigned from the diocesan seminary last month after accusing Malone of failing to take action against Fr. Nowak.
On Tuesday, the diocese said in a press release that Nowak had been suspended from ministry after twice refusing to undergo a “behavioral assessment that Bishop Malone had directed him to pursue.”
“Are you okay with though with, we’re trying to stay away from the Jeff thing with the media?” Bishop Malone asks his secretary in the recorded conversation.
“Really cause believe me, it’s gonna open up a huge can of worms,” he continued. “We’ll deal with that in other ways.”
For over a year Bishop Malone has been engulfed in crises, leading multiple seminarians and at least one diocesan priest to call for his resignation after a former secretary leaked diocesan files showing Bishop Malone had kept priests accused of abuse in ministry.
To date, no known Vatican investigation into Malone has commenced, although the diocese has said the Congregation for Bishops has requested information into one particular case within the diocese.
“We are in a true crisis situation,” Malone states in the audio. “True crisis. And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop. It could force me to resign if in fact they make a story.”