BUFFALO, NY --- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo marked a desire to move forward Wednesday with the introduction of the Most Rev. Edward Scharfenberger, Bishop of Albany, as its apostolic administrator following the resignation of the Most Rev. Richard J. Malone as bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo earlier that morning.
"My family just got a whole lot bigger," Scharfenberger said during his opening remarks at a press conference at the Catholic Center. "And I realize this family has been suffering for a while."
In his first public appearance as the diocese's temporary leader, Scharfenberger made clear an appeal to clerical abuse victims, noting his hopes to meet with them in the coming days.
"I want everyone to know that they will be treated with respect," he said, addressing victims. "I will continue, as I already do in the Diocese of Albany, to encourage 'If you see something, say something.' Never be afraid to come forward. You will be treated with respect and with openness, candor and transparency."
Regarding the diocese as a whole, he noted: "What I see is a need for a tremendous amount of healing," he said. "We need good conversation, open conversation. We need to open doors up. We need to open hearts up."
Over the course of the media conference, he reiterated several times his desire to engage in "frank conversation" and explained his approach to restoring trust within the diocese.
"A lot of times people ask 'How are we going to restore the trust?' It is no question that trust has been broken or compromised," he said. "I have to be honest that I don't feel comfortable with that. It goes much deeper than physical acts. Trust is something so much more than that and ultimately it is a gift."
Scharfenberger also gave insight on the timeline of his assignment from the Holy See, confirming reports from both Christopher Lamb of The Tablet and Catholic reporter Rocco Palmo, that Malone's resignation did, in fact, take place during the New York State bishops "ad limina" visit three weeks ago.
"At some point prior to my leaving for the "ad limina," I received a call from the Apostolic Nuncio (Archbishop Christopher Pierre) that I was being considered as an appointee as an apostolic administrator," he said. "And, (Arcbishop Pierre) told me he would take that to the Holy Father. I was then told that Bishop Malone would be resigning and that an announcement would be made following the "ad limina" week."
He also explained that an announcement was originally planned for Monday, but, was rescheduled due to weather.
Over the course of the press conference, he maintained his independence from Malone.
"We have not had any extensive conversations," he said. "And, in a way I think that is better. I would rather approach the situation without any preloading. No word is the last word. Today is a new day. My job is not to meet with Bishop Malone. My job is to do my job now as (Buffalo's) spiritual leader."
Scharfenberger also noted that he, himself, has not seen the results of the apostolic visitation report by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and noted that the report is the property of the Vatican which is, in this case, a foreign entity. He has, however spoken with DiMarzio.
Scharfenberger further explained what that job will be during this period of "sede vacante," translated from Latin to mean "the seat being vacant."
"I am not the new bishop of the diocese, I will not be the new bishop of the diocese unless the Holy Father tells me something different," he said, noting that he intends to spend at least one full day a week in the diocese.
"Nothing changes essentially, but that does not mean I do not have the authority to make changes that absolutely must be made immediately," he added.
When asked about the status of auxiliary bishop, Edward Grosz, who, himself, has been implicated in the coverup of clerical abuse in the past, Scharfenberger explained that Grosz currently continues to serve in his role, but that he will evaluate the situation as it stands.
"The appointment of a new auxiliary bishop is not a priority," he said. "(Grosz) has told me that he is willing to continue to serve as long as he is able to serve."
He did explain that he could end up being involved in the search for the diocese's new bishop.
"Bishops of a region meet and periodically, every three years, submit names to the Holy See at the Holy See's request of potential bishop candidates," he said. "I will be one of the bishops involved in submitting names of potential successors to the episcopacy."
Most importantly, however, Scharfenberger expressed his desire for survivors to come forward.
"I will meet with any and all survivors," he said.
Scharfenberger further expressed an interest in dialogue with academic leaders from local Catholic colleges and universities. Two of those leaders --- St. Bonaventure University president Dennis R. DePerro and Canisius college president John Hurley --- had made their opinion that Malone should resign public in previous days.
"I absolutely look forward to conversation with the good folks in the academic community," he said. "I am Jesuit educated, myself, but I know of Canisius College and of St. Bonaventure and I look forward to having those discussions."
DePerro released a statement Wednesday morning to TAPinto Greater Olean, expressing his gratitude to Malone for stepping down.
"The Church clearly recognized the issue was becoming intolerable when it brought in Brooklyn Bishop (Nicholas) DiMarzio to investigate the crisis," he said in the statement, referring to the apostolic visitation by DiMarzio, who submitted his report to the Pople shortly before the "ad limina" visit.
DePerro continued, "They owed it to the victims who’ve had to relive their pain each time a new story broke about the depths of the mishandling of the crisis in the Diocese."
DiMarzio also released a statement following the news of Malone's resignation.
"As part of this Apostolic Visitation to the Buffalo Diocese, we spoke with more than 80 people over a period of several weeks to gather information for this administrative review," he said. "What I found are deeply devoted Catholics who love their Church. I pray this moment of suffering and pain will lead to a birth of new faith."
Echoing the charism of St. Francis of Assisi, DePerro concluded his statement imploring the Western New York Catholic community to work together in the days ahead.
"In the midst of church scandals more than 800 years ago, Saint Francis heard the command of Jesus: “Go repair my house, which, as you can see, is falling completely into ruin,'" he said. "The time has come to rebuild our house again, together."
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