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)

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