Legal Battles in Buffalo — By: Church Militant

BUFFALO, N.Y. ( – Amid the fallout from clergy sex abuse cases, the diocese of Buffalo is embroiled in separate legal battles, apparently taking steps to safeguard its own interests.

The diocese of Buffalo recently filed a lawsuit against the New York state attorney general’s office. This legal move is an attempt to prevent the 7 News I-Team and The Buffalo News from accessing clergy sex abuse records.

Legal Battle Over Records Release

Reporters from both media outlets submitted Freedom of Information Law requests. They sought documents that the attorney general’s office obtained through a 2018 civil subpoena. The diocese argues that releasing these records, which encompass 25,000 pages of what it deems “sensitive commercial documents,” would harm the diocese.

Richard Suchan

Richard Suchan, chief operating officer of the Buffalo diocese, released a statement on Saturday morning, saying, “To be clear, we have not opposed access to documents for those who are entitled to have them.”

He continued:

All documents at issue have been already provided to the Chapter 11 Creditors’ Committee representing victim-survivors, but were produced in a form and pursuant to agreed-upon protocols that would not only protect the names of the individuals reporting abuse but also any contextual information that could be used to identify them. 

“The Diocese adamantly rejects any suggestion that, through this action to protect victim-survivors, it is attempting to shield those alleged to have committed abuse or is in any way preventing victim-survivors from having access to information they require in their efforts to seek justice,” Suchan concluded.

Injunction in Bankruptcy Court

In a separate legal action, the diocese of Buffalo filed a preliminary injunction in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York. This move is aimed at preventing victims of child sexual abuse from pursuing their cases against non-bankrupt entities.

Despite months of mediation between the diocese and the Unsecured Creditors Committee, composed of six sexual abuse victims, no resolution has been reached.

Steve Boyd & Stacey Benson

Attorney Steve Boyd, representing some of the survivors, criticized the diocese’s approach: “There’s no such thing as ‘sort of’ bankrupt. The Diocese wants its affiliated entities to have the protection of bankruptcy without the legal responsibilities of bankruptcy.”

Following its February 2020 filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the diocese has proposed releasing non-debtor entities, such as parishes, from financial and legal liability. This proposal is part of a potential resolution that involves contributing “up to $100 million to a settlement trust for survivors.”

Attorney Stacey Benson, also representing victims, commented on the diocese’s priorities: “The Diocese is more concerned about bottom lines and bank statements than they are about survivors. It’s never been more apparent that when push comes to shove, their true priorities are themselves.”

A court hearing concerning the preliminary injunction is scheduled for Nov. 28. These legal actions highlight the diocese of Buffalo’s efforts to navigate the complexities and consequences of clergy sex abuse cases.

Controversial Leadership & Resignation

As the diocese of Buffalo navigates these legal battles, its leadership has been under scrutiny for some time. In December 2019, the Vatican announced the resignation of Bp. Richard Malone from the diocese. This decision came in the wake of Malone’s controversial handling of clergy sex abuse cases.

For over a year, the Buffalo Catholic community had been vocal in its call for Malone’s resignation. They petitioned, protested and prayed. In 2018, Church Militant even confronted Malone directly at the airport.

Siobhan O’Connor, a former secretary to Malone who later became a whistleblower, expressed relief at Malone’s departure. However, she also voiced disappointment at the Vatican’s lack of transparency regarding the reasons for his removal.

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The Vortex: Bad Timing

In his statement, Malone attributed his early retirement to the turmoil caused by the Catholic Church’s clergy sexual abuse crisis and criticism over his response to it. Malone’s tenure was marked by heightened scrutiny, with both the FBI and the New York state attorney general’s office investigating clergy abuse and cover-ups in the Buffalo diocese.

Reports emerged that Malone kept a secret binder full of names of accused priests in his office. This action was part of the broader criticism Malone faced for his handling of the abuse cases.

Reports emerged that Malone kept a secret binder full of names of accused priests in his office.

Malone’s resignation in 2019 was not an isolated event. It underscored a longstanding pattern within the diocese of Buffalo, particularly around clergy sex abuse and cover-up. This persistent pattern seems to be further mirrored in the diocese’s current legal entanglements.

— Campaign 31538 —

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