Notes from Listening Session No. 7

Holy Trinity Church, Dunkirk
August 17, 2019

Summary: 90 total attendees

The session opened with an opening prayer by Bishop Richard J. Malone, a reading from the First Book of Kings, intercessions, and reading of a prayer written by priests of our diocese.

The facilitator, Stephanie Argentine, discussed the structure, ground rules and other details of how the session would be run with emphasis on speaking what is in your hearts and speaking kindly. She highlighted the goal of allowing as many people as possible to be given the chance to have their voice heard by the bishop in verbal or written form.

She said these sessions allow the bishop to listen to people from across the Diocese as they speak what is in their hearts, so the bishop can take it in before forming recommendations.

Attendees were asked to work in groups, by table, to discuss and summarize thoughts from the group. Each table would have a couple of minutes to share the group’s thoughts. Once each table shared their thoughts, the facilitator would continue to go around the room until out of speakers in the given timeframe.

Participants were encouraged to record initial thoughts on post it notes before starting discussion at their table. They were provided with table discussion starters and encouraged to use their own ideas if they wanted to.

All were asked to respect the safe space and not record or post to social media but were encouraged to speak to media once the session was over. The group was informed of the availability of media representatives from Spectrum, WGRZ and ABC national media presence in another area of the building.

Fourteen groups reported out. Everyone who expressed a desire to speak was afforded the opportunity. Ideas expressed have been captured below. They have been grouped by topic, in no particular order.

General Themes Expressed

Feelings of concern over the financial impact:

  • Concern over whether the Church will go bankrupt
  • At least one parish is going through a major project in the church and fear seeing a ‘for sale’ sign in front of the Church
  • Worried about the financial impact – what if the diocese declares bankruptcy? How safe are the Upon This Rock funds?
  • Will we be able to maintain our Catholic schools? Subsidies are critical and young families will be impacted?
  • Concern over where funds are going.
  • Many contributions to Upon This Rock have been withdrawn – hope to restore trust and resulting financial support.
  • Parishioners are voting with their wallets and their feet – many people are leaving.
  • Will filing bankruptcy save the diocese?

General Feelings

  • Resignation, and we just need to just get through this.
  • We need closer community for the Church – we should be more family-like.
  • Young people feel the Church is hypocritical and use it as an excuse not to be involved.
  • Concern over the lack of action around the Journey of Faith & Grace from 10-15 years ago and that we haven’t moved forward.
  • Confessing of sins to a sinner doesn’t sit well with some people.
  • Cleansing/purging of the Church is not just negative.
  • Lots of anger, but we all have faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Generally, feel the Church is moving in a positive direction.
  • Settlements cause additional doubt.
  • Listening session format is not as expected.
  • Faithful will remain regardless – please give us hope!
  • Emotions include concern, anger and fear over the division.
  • We need to support our parishes, especially those directly impacted by allegations.
  • Southern tier feels a lack of support.
  • Issues of trust and anger over how we ended up here – lot of hope we’re moving in the right direction.
  • An individual expressed concern their voice was not heard at a previous session.

Questions about Media/Public Relations

  • We are not the only organization or profession to go through this and our media relations should point this out in the press.
  • Lack clarity on who is the official spokesperson for the diocese.
  • There are thousands of good stories for every bad story – we want to hear more good vs all of the bad news in the media.
  • We shouldn’t be solely focused on the sex abuse scandal.
  • Disheartened in the journalism – how to restore faith in the media?

Mental health

  • Profession guidelines have changed over the years – 30 years ago offenders were sent away vs. other means of supporting them recommended today. We know there is no cure.
  • Mental health issues need to be addressed in seminary training.

Children’s needs

  • Children look to priests to teach and coach, how can they trust priests when the respect is lost?
  • No sexual predator should be in a position of trust.
  • Stories of innocent children’s lives impacted by people in position of power and trust is heart-breaking.

Loss of Trust and Concern for our Catholic religion & Church

  • We’re losing so many your people, and this only adds to the diminishing of our parishes as more young people are falling away.
  • What will happen to the Catholic Church without major changes?
  • Great deal of anger and betrayal people are having difficulty getting past – worry over future of our Church.
  • Have we lost faith in the response of the Catholic institution to issues like this?
  • This is a big awakening with all of the awareness. What’s ahead if this is not put to rest in a firm fashion?
  • Can we trust the Church to follow up?

Changes to our Church

  • What specific changes need to happen? There are major issues and we need to establish priorities.
  • Does Canon Law still work, do the precepts apply in 2019?
  • Do vows of celibacy go against human nature? Celibacy should be looked at by the Church worldwide in general.
  • Consider allowing priests to marry.
  • Archaic structure of the Catholic Church and diocese is reflected in each parish – rules are archaic – problem keeping young adults active and concern over rate number of older adults joining the lawsuit going forward.
  • Our culture today makes it easy to replace Church with our focus on sports and other things. We should be focused on how to bring families back – parents need to bring their children to Church – strengthen the connection with families to make it a priority and at center of family life.
  • Doctrine is counter-cultural – how to bring your people back?
  • Poor catechesis is basis – doctrine vs culture – children can’t tell the difference.
  • Many people verbalize need for change that goes against Catholic doctrine (women to deaconate and priesthood)- reformation proposed – he will stay a traditional Catholic.

Diocesan Response to this issue

  • Punishment of offenders is not apparent – it should be.
  • When a priest has done wrong, any punishment is not apparent.
  • Offenders should go to jail.
  • We should make this more a a legal, and less diocesan, process.
  • Purging needs to be forced – hope – waiting for it and we don’t have it yet. the Church is responsible for seeking justice for all within the Church.
  • We should have a statistical analysis of the impact on the diocese.
  • Church needs to be loyal to the faith and we hope for honesty about the situation – we believe it will eventually be resolved.
  • Parishioners would appreciate a presentation of the facts.
  • Be truthful! Cover-up needs to stop. Help the youth as they’re the most affected.
  • How many real, proven cases are there?
  • Who are the guilty? Who are those not guilty?
  • Transparency is needed – put it out there so we can move forward.
  • No difference is felt with respect to transparency in the last year.

Priests and Seminary

  • Previously, the priesthood was a place for people to hide.
  • Separate theology from behavior.
  • It’s difficult to see good Shepard priests struggle – how is the diocese helping them and how can we help them?
  • Seminary should be screening for homosexuality
  • We need to support priests who are faithful – how do we support priests that have been cleared?
  • How does Bishop Malone know homosexual priests are not acting out? How can we stop sexual predators of any kind?
  • Have there been changes to the screening of seminarians (mental, homosexual, etc.) to prevent future occurrences?

Movement to Restore Trust (MRT) involvement

  • Appears MRT has two issues they are promoting:
    1. Permit females’ ordination as deacons and priests
    2. Eliminate papal appointment of bishops, giving authority to lay at a local level
  • MRT seems like a good idea
  • Lay stepping up to repair damage done – MRT good way to do that

General Opportunities

  • Prayer – encourage fasting, saying of the Rosary
  • Offer weeknight masses for those who work and get to daily Mass
  • What is the diocese doing to reach out to young families?
  • Moving beyond this issue – what about how to draw outer fringe in and get those who have left to come back?
  • Handling of fall-aways should be offered to parishes and smaller parishes work together
  • Confessing of sins and moving forward – a good confession can help people to move on
  • Smaller, holier Church – focus sacraments and need for prayer
  • How do parishioners help once a priest has been removed?
  • Parishes need to take to prayer – pray to Blessed Mary – Can’t stop prayer! All can be enjoined

Input regarding Bishop Malone

  • Be strong, lead the diocese
  • To restore trust, it needs to be from the bottom up vs PR
  • Bishop needs to accept responsibility and say we’ve screwed up, and state what we’re doing to move forward. He can’t push things off to committees
  • These meetings show recognition of the issue
  • Bishop walked into a cesspool – need swift and strong response
  • Thank you for holding this session

Bishop Malone’s Response

He thanked participants for coming to these sessions as a critical part of moving forward from the trauma to our whole Church that we are in together. He said he wants to stay on. He’s not a masochist, but with God’s help and determination, he feels responsibility to work with all to restore trust, reach out with compassion and understanding to move to renewal.

The Reformation led to counter reformation and God’s grace led a group of people to stand up, come together and do it right.  The MRT has been and is a movement of the Holy Spirit and is helping improve all the ways we handle things going forward in our response to victims. We’re changing the Church administration culture by involving more lay men and women going forward.

This is a global Church problem, and is a terrible, sinful deflection of all we are called to be.

Our Lord hears us. He doesn’t want to abandon us and wants us to move forward. The good thing is it comes out to move us to purification and healing.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II issued a decree requiring substantiated allegations of abuse to minors be immediately sent to the Vatican for adjudication and dismissal from clerical state (what the media refers to as defrocking). This never happened here in the Buffalo diocese. There have been 7 to 9 cases that have since been sent on to Rome. The issue is it takes too darn long for the Vatican to address because there have been so many.  The bishop can remove a priest from ministry only, as he did in Maine.

Bishop Malone said he has learned from this session. He also asked to focus on Lord Jesus to get through it together.

These seven Listening Sessions are not a ‘one and done’. He is taking the material, praying, studying and consulting to take the path forward, out of crucifixion to resurrection. He knows where he failed and he wants to do the right thing going forward, after 50 years of bad things going on.

He noted there are homosexual people in every profession. This is not an evil thing, although to act out inappropriately is wrong. Studies, including one by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, show no intrinsic connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. Data show most pedophiles are married men. While one priest abuser is too many, there percentage of abusers is a small percentage among the 2,500 that have served this diocese in the last 50 years.

There is no particular test to absolutely identify a potential predator in screening. We have a very thorough screening process in the seminary including a full battery of psychological tests and interviews. There are four dimensions of priestly formation: Intellectual, spiritual, pastoral and human. The first major consideration is the human, and if they are healthy as a human and the second key is the spiritual.

Specific to financial issues, everyone is concerned. There will be no money taken from Upon This Rock or Catholic Charities. These have been set up, using a firewall of protection, to provide to the work of the Church. Bankruptcy is a possibility, although no decision has been made. Diocese across New York State are all in the same boat.

Two things are priorities:

  • Respond to this terrible moment in which we find ourselves by reaching out to victims and healing
  • Life of the Church – crisis of young people and their connection to our secular culture and fundamental vision of the Church

We’re at crossroads, preparing ourselves … re-organizing in bankruptcy to continue our mission versus settle cases as response. Insurance archeology is a process that investigates old insurance policies, when they were held and what was covered during the period years. We’re working to dig out old insurance policies. Some parishes have coverage. We need to dig into our archives and see what’s covered.

We want to move on to true renewal and purification.

Next steps:

  • Diocese and MRT are gathering notes and comments from these sessions for the bishop to study and reject upon
  • Joint team of diocesan and MRT formed

One group asked what they can do

  • Join the MRT
  • Start something in your own parish

Bishop Malone closed the session with everyone singing Our Father and requesting everyone pray for him.

——-

Upcoming Parish Listening Sessions:

  • 8th session aimed at college students; details TBD

Notes from Listening Session No. 7

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Notes from Listening Session No. 6

Nativity of Our Lord Church, Orchard Park
August 10, 2019

Stephanie Argentine kicked off the session at 9:30 a.m.  Bishop Malone started with a healing prayer.  Approx. 80 people in attendance.

Among Clergy in Attendance:
Father James Ciupek
Father Rob Wozniak
Father Peter Karalus
Father Peter Bassey

Themes from the Session:

Trust

  • Lack of trust in the church leadership globally and at diocesan level
  • Concerned with lack of trust in the system – everyone has questions
  • Tell the truth – can the diocese be more truthful instead of not glossing over things
  • This is about trust – there are still things that are not being shared. The truth hurts sometimes, the bishop is like a politician. We are supposed to be here for Jesus, and we cannot agree (just as our government). What is moving forward – stop hiding stuff – get it out in the open! Renew the face of the earth. Someone needs to step up and call it like it is!

Credibility/Accountability

  • How does the Bishop regain credibility?
  • Lack of action from Bishop Malone – no comments means what?
  • Lack of judgement in choosing certain people for positions
  • How is the Bishop accountable to the diocese – information hidden for years
  • Need for apologies to people impacted
  • Bishop to speak to all parishes (not just listening sessions)
  • Should priests who are accountable provide an apology?

Training and Required Resources

  • Training of priests – priests went to Seminary to become priests not to “run businesses”
  • A person that is an expert in canon law is needed

Consistency, Clarification and Action across the Diocese

  • Want the church to recognize there is a problem – not caught up in the middle ages
  • Want answers more quickly
  • Need for more precise procedures – shortening timeframe of process
  • If a priest is not able to continue on, what is the process?
  • Organization of the church is no longer suitable – just bishop and clergy; laity not being able to share and have some power
  • Needs to be better screening of priests
  • There are doubts as to whether the church will just do damage control of the situation and just get by or is ready to do anything constructive with right moral action. What Jesus Christ would have done? Address the wrongdoing. In cases where there was abuse involving an independent religious group, the local church has been not addressing issues
  • How does the bishop know if the priests are acting out homosexually?
  • Apology from former bishops for coverups is needed
  • Want a restoration of and return to the full and original teachings of the church
  • Rarely are the faithful taught about our Catholicism
  • Only 1 in 5 Catholics believe in the real presence of eucharist

Our Priests/The Seminary

  • Priests raising issues are subject to risk or actual blackmail by other priests
  • Culture of the seminary – did the Bishop know what was going on at the seminary?
  • Is the formation of the seminary inclusive of only priests? How are laity involved?
  • Issues in weaponizing psychological evaluations
  • Priests are humans – a lot of good priests have been accused and we don’t know the truth and as soon as their name is published, they are “guilty”
  • Training for priesthood needs to be more wholesome
  • Good priests are demoralized. Why hasn’t the bishop resigned yet?
  • Does a priest ever have a chance to relay his issue and sides of things to someone? The review board or others?
  • If I was accused, I want to protect my name.
  • How the church handled these issues has been a disgrace
  • We should hear what happens to the priest once accused
  • What about their souls … do we just dump them?
  • Are the seminaries too liberal?
  • Priests were God chosen people (as we were taught) – they are all fallible and they are human just as we all are

Required Laity

  • More involvement in laity

Finances

  • Bankruptcy – what would happen to our donations in the event of bankruptcy
  • Stop worrying about the wealth of the church

How are the Parishioners Feeling?

  • Feel embarrassed, angry, disappointed. The issues are indefensible.
  • We are concerned about the hurt to victims as well as clergy who are embarrassed to go out
  • Disappointed our kids are walking away from church and do not want to be affiliated
  • Disillusionment, embarrassment, frustration
  • Overwhelming public opinion and concern, embarrassment was suggested. We are not equipped to publicly defend the situation at hand and there is no excuse to covering up abuse.
  • Parishioners upset that we are selling churches, that there was not parish involvement, but we were just told
  • Church is in crisis – the bad should not happen again
  • Express extreme disappointment and how things have been handled
  • After 73 years, I am not happy to be a Catholic
  • Priests should be able to address their accusers
  • The culture doesn’t support religion and religious beliefs – being in the Catholic Church with all of these issues, makes it even more difficult
  • We feel the Catholic Church will prevail – St. Francis – rebuild my church!
  • We have hope for the future, and we feel that the best course to take is to focus on better catechesis for our kids, so they don’t leave the church
  • Expressions of heartbreak, discouragement but some expression of hope
  • Angry and disillusioned but hopeful
  • Protecting “criminals” is out of control – zero tolerance
  • You can’t cure sexual predation
  • Stop trying to bow down to offending church issues

Media/Communication

  • Part played by media in sensationalizing issues
  • Treatment of issues and reaction of media reports
  • Any updates on two federal probes of the dioceses – ages, genders
  • The WNY Catholic should publish more relevant features regarding this matter
  • The church needs to not provide window dressing, and provide support to these issues and not turn it into damage control
  • A factual representation of how the abuse came about – Church control, church silence – who is to speak the truth (the laity!). Need a balanced approach to the problem.
  • Want more aspects to be public – still very much in the dark about the investigation process.
  • Doubt of the group of the investigation

Moving Forward

  • Restoration of the Faith
  • Concerned for time frame of action
  • Weaknesses in catechesis and lack of family prayer
  • Parishes reluctant in talking about issues
  • Signs of hope
  • Charismatic young priests
  • Can’t fix what you don’t know
  • Concerned of future of church – continue to “recycle” priests who have performed criminal acts with people (within other parishes) – not remedied – need to hold priests to a higher standard
  • The presence of the Bishop is a start
  • Need for frequent parish sessions to get more involved and children back to church
  • In God we Trust!
  • The mission of the church is to follow Jesus Christ in the Church
  • Happy about the Movement to Restore Trust
  • Thanks to the Bishop for holding listening session
  • Believe Bishop is doing the best he can, and he is a positive force to us, and the media has turned things around. Let’s be supportive of our bishop and let him lead the way.
  • In an organization – a structure allows things to happen (because of absolute power); The church survives because of the laity
  • We have a duty and responsibility as parishioners to help support the change in the structure. If we don’t, our kids won’t be supporting the church
  • The administration of the church has the laity support; allow the priests to support the faith of the church
  • Sunlight is the best disinfectant

** We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind!  (quote from Nancy Nielsen) **

In the last part of the session, Bishop Malone talked about some factual matters on the sexual abuse crisis.  See comments below.

In 2001 John Paul issued a decree – for any matter associated with abuse, the Pope would be a part of the dismissal of a priest.  You would hear in the media that a priest would be dismissed or be a part of a life of prayer and not practicing as a priest anymore.

The Bishop acknowledged that they are hiring a new canon law attorney in the Buffalo Dioceses.  The Bishop was appreciative of the people both within and not part of the Movement to Restore Trust.

The Bishop apologizes for the terrible actions of brother priests of 50-60 years.  No priest has been accused of a minor that has been ordained in the past 30 years.  He acknowledged that we have a long way to go and is happy that the Dallas Charter has been implemented and believe it has helped.  Believe this is a new era and we have had a delay in the Dioceses of Buffalo with these issues. 

Office of Professional Responsibility – Steven Halter (in attendance) and heads up this in the diocese and he comes with law enforcement experience.  Also hiring two more investigators.

Jackie Joy is the first person that anyone calling about abuse speaks to.  She advises them to call law enforcement.  If it is not false or frivolous, a deeper investigation takes place.  All investigations done by laity/former law enforcement.  The diocesan review board receives investigative report and debates and discusses thoroughly prior to making a decision.  All lay people are involved, except Monsignor Jerry Sullivan, who is required by canon law to participate at the matters involve clergy.  Review board will debate and make a recommendation and vote in front of Bishop.  And then when substantiated, it is communicated to Vatican, analyzed and a decision made.  Then communicated to media.  Takes a long time to be adjudicated!  Priest is a part of the interviewing process and heavily involved and advised to retain both civil and canon lawyers.

The Bishop has the authority to move a priest from ministry, but he cannot remove him as a priest permanently (only the Pope). 

The Bishop ended the session with the Our Father Prayer.

Ended:  11:30 a.m.

(Notes:  A. M. Klosko)

Notes from Listening Session No. 7

Holy Trinity Church, Dunkirk August 17, 2019 Summary: 90 total attendees The session opened with an opening prayer by Bishop Richard J. Malone, a reading from the First Book of Kings, intercessions, and reading of a prayer written by priests of our diocese. The...

Notes from Listening Session No. 6

Nativity of Our Lord Church, Orchard Park. August 10, 2019. Stephanie Argentine kicked off the session at 9:30 a.m. Bishop Malone started with a healing prayer. Approx. 80 people in attendance.

Sex abuse victims deserve support in their quest for justice

August 14 marks another milestone in the effort to bring compassion, healing and justice to victims of sexual abuse in New York State.  One year ago, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury released the results of its investigation into how sex abuse claims were handled in six...

Men’s Breakfast featuring MRT as Guest Speakers

Join the discussion about the Movement to Restore Trust on September 7, 2019 in the Chapel at Blessed Sacrament RC Church, 263 Claremont Ave, Tonawanda, NY. Mass, breakfast Bible study and speakers.

Notes from Listening Session No. 5

Listening session No. 5 – held at Sacred Heart Parish Social Center, Batavia, NY on August 3, 2019. About 75 people attended, including seven priests and Bishop Richard J. Malone, Movement to Restore Trust (MRT) Organizing Committee member John Hurley and Dennis Mahaney.

Sex abuse victims deserve support in their quest for justice

Sex abuse victims deserve support in their quest for justice

August 14 marks another milestone in the effort to bring compassion, healing and justice to victims of sexual abuse in New York State.  One year ago, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury released the results of its investigation into how sex abuse claims were handled in six dioceses within the Commonwealth.  The massive report painted a horrifying picture of a Catholic Church more concerned with its reputational risk than the devastating harm to young people.

The Pennsylvania Report, coupled with the ongoing revelations of sexual abuse in our Diocese of Buffalo, led to the formation of the Movement to Restore Trust (MRT).  MRT is an independent, self-funded organization of concerned, committed Catholics in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo formed to assert the laity’s rightful role in the Church and to help lead a movement to restore trust and confidence in the Church in the wake of public disclosures about the diocese’s handling of clergy sex abuse cases.

The driving force for our formation was our horror over the suffering of victims of sex abuse and the callous treatment of them.  We wanted to be a catalyst for constructive change within our diocese and the Church at large.  It was and remains our hope that our actions might help heal the wounds suffered by our brothers and sisters, and reform the Church in such a way that this evil could never happen again.

With the reopening of the statute of limitations for sex abuse claims in New York, victims of sex abuse at the hands of clergy and Church personnel are provided with a new opportunity to pursue claims in a court of law.  We support them in their quest for justice and we remain in solidarity with all victims of sex abuse.

While claims are being resolved in the courts or through other avenues, the Movement to Restore Trust will continue to work on bringing about organizational and cultural change within the Diocese of Buffalo that will result in a greater role for the laity in the Church, increased accountability for bishops, and more transparency.  Our work has begun, but much remains to be done.  

The Organizing Committee of the Movement to Restore Trust

Paul D. Bauer
Thomas R. Beecher, Jr.
Robert M. Greene
John J. Hurley
Maureen O. Hurley
Carl J. Montante
Mary T. Murphy
Nancy H. Nielsen
Nancy W. Ware

August 13, 2019

Contact:
Kevin Keenan
Keenan Communications Group
kevin@keenancommunicationsgroup.com

Notes from Listening Session No. 7

Holy Trinity Church, Dunkirk August 17, 2019 Summary: 90 total attendees The session opened with an opening prayer by Bishop Richard J. Malone, a reading from the First Book of Kings, intercessions, and reading of a prayer written by priests of our diocese. The...

Notes from Listening Session No. 6

Nativity of Our Lord Church, Orchard Park. August 10, 2019. Stephanie Argentine kicked off the session at 9:30 a.m. Bishop Malone started with a healing prayer. Approx. 80 people in attendance.

Sex abuse victims deserve support in their quest for justice

August 14 marks another milestone in the effort to bring compassion, healing and justice to victims of sexual abuse in New York State.  One year ago, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury released the results of its investigation into how sex abuse claims were handled in six...

Men’s Breakfast featuring MRT as Guest Speakers

Join the discussion about the Movement to Restore Trust on September 7, 2019 in the Chapel at Blessed Sacrament RC Church, 263 Claremont Ave, Tonawanda, NY. Mass, breakfast Bible study and speakers.

Notes from Listening Session No. 5

Listening session No. 5 – held at Sacred Heart Parish Social Center, Batavia, NY on August 3, 2019. About 75 people attended, including seven priests and Bishop Richard J. Malone, Movement to Restore Trust (MRT) Organizing Committee member John Hurley and Dennis Mahaney.

Men’s Breakfast featuring MRT as Guest Speakers

Join the discussion about the Movement to Restore Trust on September 7, 2019 in the Chapel at Blessed Sacrament RC Church, 263 Claremont Ave, Tonawanda, NY where MRT founders Paul Bauer, Thomas Beecher, Jr. and Nancy Nielsen will speak about the Movement to Restore Trust and how YOU can help the movement.

8 am Mass

8:40 am Breakfast

9:10 am Guest Speakers

10:15 am Bible Study

RSVP to attend one or all the sessions to WNYMensMinistry@yahoo.com.  Open to men from all denominations.  See the flyer below for more information.

Notes from Listening Session No. 5

Sacred Heart Parish Social Center, Batavia
August 3, 2019

Attendees & Process

About 75 people attended, including seven priests and Bishop Richard J. Malone, Movement to Restore Trust (MRT) Organizing Committee member John Hurley and Dennis Mahaney, director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the diocese, manned the front table, while MRT Organizing Committee member Maureen Hurley and Father Thomas Slon, SJ, rector of the Canisius Jesuit Community, manned the MRT table.  As in other Listening Sessions, the audience was respectful and made up mostly of people over the age of 60.

  • Media are too focused on the Catholic Church as a target, exploiting the Church’s failures and creating a credibility problem for the diocese. 
  • Other speakers noted that the media are not to blame, as we brought this on ourselves and need to accept that, cover up nothing, and answer for why abusive priests were treated differently, and were not punished but reassigned.
  • Discouragement and a sense of betrayal have led to decreased financial contributions and diminished volunteerism. 
  • Many questions were raised about where money for settlements came from, and whether Upon This Rock and Catholic Charities monies were used despite promises otherwise. 
  • Offers of money may draw claims, but there should be more focus on offers of counseling. There was a demand for financial transparency and accountability. People do not want money diverted from Catholic education to payouts to victims.
  • Support and sympathy for current active priests was expressed.  There is a shortage of priests, they are stretched too thin, were not trained to function in bureaucracy, and need help from the diocese and from strong, active parish councils and finance councils. 
  • A Batavia-area study from 13 years ago was referenced by several speakers (assume this was from the time of the Journey in Faith and Grace).  They felt their input was ignored, some schools closed, and another may become a regional school.
  • There was acknowledgment of decreasing resources currently and the need to combine assets to be more effective, but the feeling that the earlier study was not seriously considered was repeatedly mentioned. People want their voices to be heard and heeded. There was an appeal to revisit the 13-year old study and unite the energy of the people.
  • Many speakers referenced that young people are leaving the Church, youth are not involved in Catholic schools or in parishes.  Young families need to be supported and encouraged to come back to Church.  Young people should be on parish councils. 
  • Faith formation is important; strong catechesis programs need to incorporate new learning instruments that young people use. While the Church is aging, we need to meet young people where they are and acknowledge their needs.  The diocese needs more pastoral involvement to help this happen. 
  • A call for more spiritual development, more focus on Bible studies, prayer groups, continuation of faith groups, and re-education on the importance of the liturgy.  The abuse issue has distracted us from our path to heaven. 
  • “Turn the clock back” – priests should wear collars and be respected.  One speaker wondered why our clergy are silent on issues like abortion and same sex marriage, yet supportive of non-discrimination against refugees, African-Americans and LGBTQ individuals, seeming to focus on the Corporal Works of Mercy but not on the Spiritual Works of Mercy.  Educate people about sacred tradition and Church teaching.
  • Christ the King Seminary:  there needs to be better screening of applicants for ministry, help them with tougher classes on abuse issue but also about priest anxiety and fear of dealing with youth.
  • Don’t change the Lord’s Prayer as is being discussed in Europe!  Let priests marry.  
  • A number of speakers were hopeful: “Lots of people still have great faith and we are here!” 
  • Expressed thanks for the Movement to Restore Trust and a desire to be involved going forward.  The bishop was thanked for coming and was encouraged to continue to reach out beyond Buffalo.  The fact that he came and listened was very important.  However, one speaker said letters to the bishop reporting (non-sexual) misconduct by clergy went unanswered. 
  • “We can be a hopeful Church.”  How do we re-focus on the future? Concentrate on Catholic education, offer resources for families and training for youths; keep rural churches open. 
  • One person refused the microphone, said the two-minute time limit was ridiculous, and claimed he’d been recently “abused by a priest” non-sexually, when the priest threatened to call the police when the man tried to offer a Prayer of the Faithful.  He then yelled, “You disgust me! The Church disgusts me! The pope disgusts me!”

John Hurley briefly described the work of the MRT, listed the six working groups, and invited attendees to review MRT’s report on the website and sign up to be involved going forward as issues continue to be addressed with the diocese.

BISHOP MALONE’S RESPONSES AND COMMENTS

Bishop Malone summarized what he had heard as “beautiful, though tortured, passion for our Church, expressed with respect and candor”. 

He confirmed that no money from Upon This Rock or Catholic Charities has been or will be used for settlements and noted that already $18 million from reserves has gone to victims.  He mentioned “insurance archaeology,” researching past insurance policies held by parishes on their own, to see what might be recovered from them. 

He then offered this excerpt from that morning’s Divine Office, from a letter from St. Paul to St. Polycarp:

“Work together in harmony,
struggle together,
run together, 
suffer together, 
rest together, 
rise together, 
as stewards, advisors and servants of God.”

Upcoming Parish Listening Sessions:

  • Saturday, August 10, 9:30am – 11:30am – Nativity of Our Lord (Orchard Park)
  • Saturday, August 17, 9:30am – 11:30am – Holy Trinity Parish (Dunkirk)

 

Prepared by MRT Organizing Committee Member Nancy Nielsen.

Notes from Listening Session No. 7

Holy Trinity Church, Dunkirk August 17, 2019 Summary: 90 total attendees The session opened with an opening prayer by Bishop Richard J. Malone, a reading from the First Book of Kings, intercessions, and reading of a prayer written by priests of our diocese. The...

Notes from Listening Session No. 6

Nativity of Our Lord Church, Orchard Park. August 10, 2019. Stephanie Argentine kicked off the session at 9:30 a.m. Bishop Malone started with a healing prayer. Approx. 80 people in attendance.

Sex abuse victims deserve support in their quest for justice

August 14 marks another milestone in the effort to bring compassion, healing and justice to victims of sexual abuse in New York State.  One year ago, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury released the results of its investigation into how sex abuse claims were handled in six...

Men’s Breakfast featuring MRT as Guest Speakers

Join the discussion about the Movement to Restore Trust on September 7, 2019 in the Chapel at Blessed Sacrament RC Church, 263 Claremont Ave, Tonawanda, NY. Mass, breakfast Bible study and speakers.

Notes from Listening Session No. 5

Listening session No. 5 – held at Sacred Heart Parish Social Center, Batavia, NY on August 3, 2019. About 75 people attended, including seven priests and Bishop Richard J. Malone, Movement to Restore Trust (MRT) Organizing Committee member John Hurley and Dennis Mahaney.

Media coverage of the release of MRT Initial Report

The Initial Report of The Movement to Restore Trust was released July 25, 2019.  Below are links to media coverage of the Report:

Buffalo News: Editorial: Movement to Restore Trust delivers a worthy action plan for dioceses
https://buffalonews.com/2019/08/05/editorial-movement-to-restore-trust-delivers-a-worthy-action-plan/

WKBW, Ch. 7 News: Movement to Restore Trust issues suggested reforms for Diocese
https://www.wkbw.com/news/local-news/movement-to-restore-trust-issues-suggested-reforms-for-diocese

WIVB, Ch. 4 News: Movement to Restore Trust releases new report on handling of clergy sex abuse cases
https://www.wivb.com/news/local-news/movement-to-restore-trust-releases-new-report-on-handling-of-clergy-sex-abuse-cases/

WBFO: Movement to Restore Trust releases its complete slate of recommendations
https://news.wbfo.org/post/movement-restore-trust-releases-its-complete-slate-recommendations

Olean Times Herald: Movement to Restore Trust suggests reforms for Buffalo Diocese in wake of sex abuse crisis
http://www.oleantimesherald.com/olean/movement-to-restore-trust-suggests-reforms-for-buffalo-diocese-in/article_ecaf4d65-57eb-5a48-822c-09da695a440b.html

WBEN Radio: Movement to Restore Trust outlines Diocese reforms
https://wben.radio.com/articles/movement-restore-trust-outlines-diocese-reforms

Buffalo News: Group presses for more Buffalo Diocese reforms in abuse cases
https://buffalonews.com/2019/07/25/catholic-group-presses-for-more-diocese-reforms-in-sex-abuse-cases/

Notes from Listening Session No. 7

Holy Trinity Church, Dunkirk August 17, 2019 Summary: 90 total attendees The session opened with an opening prayer by Bishop Richard J. Malone, a reading from the First Book of Kings, intercessions, and reading of a prayer written by priests of our diocese. The...

Notes from Listening Session No. 6

Nativity of Our Lord Church, Orchard Park. August 10, 2019. Stephanie Argentine kicked off the session at 9:30 a.m. Bishop Malone started with a healing prayer. Approx. 80 people in attendance.

Sex abuse victims deserve support in their quest for justice

August 14 marks another milestone in the effort to bring compassion, healing and justice to victims of sexual abuse in New York State.  One year ago, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury released the results of its investigation into how sex abuse claims were handled in six...

Men’s Breakfast featuring MRT as Guest Speakers

Join the discussion about the Movement to Restore Trust on September 7, 2019 in the Chapel at Blessed Sacrament RC Church, 263 Claremont Ave, Tonawanda, NY. Mass, breakfast Bible study and speakers.

Notes from Listening Session No. 5

Listening session No. 5 – held at Sacred Heart Parish Social Center, Batavia, NY on August 3, 2019. About 75 people attended, including seven priests and Bishop Richard J. Malone, Movement to Restore Trust (MRT) Organizing Committee member John Hurley and Dennis Mahaney.