What you need to know

  • On July 24, 2019, The Movement to Restore Trust (MRT), a group of independent, committed Catholics formed last year to address the Diocese of Buffalo’s handling of clergy sex abuse cases, released The Initial Report of the Movement to Restore Trust.
  • This 68-page document seeks “increased support and compassion as well as justice for survivors of sexual abuse and recommends the implementation of meaningful reforms, with a goal of restoring the faithful’s trust and confidence in the Church and its leadership.”
  • MRT’s goal is to be a conduit for the voice of the laity to lead the Church in Buffalo to a new place, a state of trust that has been restored and is marked by:
    • A commitment to justice for the victims of sex abuse;
    • A commitment to Co-Responsibility: the creation of a Church in which lay Catholics work hand in hand with ordained Catholics, in an equal partnership;
    • Complete transparency about past and current instances of sex abuse and a process for dealing with those cases that will inspire trust and confidence;
    • New transparent structures for bishop accountability;
    • Openness and transparency; a way of addressing leadership failure and replacing outdated and secretive management practices based on a respect for the competency of the laity.
  • MRT is independent of the Diocese of Buffalo, but since the release of the Executive Summary (the first report in this document) in March, the MRT has been working with Bishop Malone and the diocesan senior staff, including
    Msgr. LiPuma from the Presbyteral Council on the implementation of recommendations.
  • An Outline of The Initial MRT Report
    • The Executive Summary (pages 3-7) provide a good overview of the MRT, the process by which this report was developed and the nine foundational themes that cut across the work of all six MRT workgroups.
    • The summary of recommendations (pages 8-13) summarizes the recommendations of the six working groups.
    • There follows six work group reports with more detailed analysis and recommendations in the following areas:
      • Transparency around the nature and scale of the abuse in the diocese and financial and spiritual reparations for victims/survivors
      • Transparency about all diocesan operations
      • Accountability for bishops
      • Selecting and monitoring bishops
      • Greater involvement by women and laity in the Church
      • Improvements in the formation of priests & priestly life
  • Upon receipt of the Executive Summary and the summary of recommendations in March, Bishop Malone suggested the creation of a Joint Implementation Team (JIT) comprised of MRT representatives and diocesan representatives and reporting to both Bishop Malone and the MRT. 
  • The JIT has held a series of meetings, with the MRT represented by Maureen Hurley, Paul Bauer and Nancy Nielsen, and the diocese represented by Father Peter Karalus (vicar general), Sister Regina Murphy, SSMN (chancellor), Dennis Mahaney (director, Parish Life) and Msgr. David LiPuma (pastor, Our Lady of Victory Parish/president of Our Lady of Victory Institutions, Lackawanna).
  • To date, the MRT has celebrated a number of successes:
  • At the recommendation of MRT, Bishop Malone agreed to a series of Listening Sessions across the diocese (four have already been held; three more are scheduled through August).
  • James J. Beardi, retired M & T Bank Executive Vice President, has been named by the bishop as chair of the Diocesan Finance Council, and three members of the laity were appointed to the council, which now has a majority of lay members.  Beardi, the first lay person to chair the council, was the leader of Work Group 2, which called for some significant changes to the policies on diocesan finances.    
  • The diocese hired Leadership Roundtable, a renowned consulting firm working with over 70 dioceses across the country.  Domenic Perri of Leadership Roundtable Is working with the Bishop and the JIT to introduce best practices and promote the process of reform.  In a recent WBFO interview, Leadership Roundtable noted the unique and groundbreaking process that the MRT has forged in Buffalo.  
  • MRT played an active role in diocesan Priest Convocation in early June and summarized the work of the MRT and the important role that the priests and parishioners of the diocese will play in the process of reform going forward. 
  • The Diocesan Review Board was renamed Independent Review Board (IRB) and the MRT is working with the chair of IRB to implement ongoing improvements to the process of investigating and evaluating claims.  
  • Members of the MRT are working with diocesan leaders to recommend improvements to the victim listening sessions held by the bishop. 
  • Members of the MRT are working with diocesan leaders to recommend how victim meetings with the bishop could be made more frequent and improved.

John Hurley, member of the MRT Organizing Committee, said:

“Throughout our meetings, we heard again and again about the need for the bishop to be committed to rebuilding trust.  People believe that trust can only exist where there is honesty, openness, transparency and a commitment to authentic listening.

“This report sets a framework for discussion with the diocese on necessary reforms.  We fully understand that some of the recommendations may already be in process, some may be impossible under current Canon law, and some may not be acceptable for other reasons.  We are committed to an open dialogue with the diocese about all of these recommendations.”

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