BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo said in an audio recording that he feared having to resign over his handling of a sexual harassment accusation by a seminarian against a diocesan priest.
The recording, obtained by WKBW-TV, was made Aug. 2 by Malone’s priest secretary, Fr. Ryszard Biernat.
Biernat began a leave of absence from his position Aug. 14.
The television station in its report Sept. 3 did not say how it acquired the recording. It posted a transcript of the recording on its website.
Malone is heard saying that the situation he was facing was “a true crisis.”
“And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end of me as bishop. It could force me to resign if in fact they make a story,” the bishop said.
The beleaguered bishop has faced questions about how he has handled allegations of abuse against diocesan priests for more than a year. The most recent controversy arose over an allegation from former seminarian Matthew Bojanowski, who accused Fr. Jeffrey Nowak, a priest of the diocese, of sexual harassment.
Bojanowski said he first notified Malone in November 2018 of the allegation against Nowak. The diocese announced in an Aug. 28 statement that Nowak had been placed on administrative leave.
The bishop is heard in the recording expressing concern to Biernat that the incident involving Nowak could “open a huge can of worms” if it were reported in the media.
Malone has faced numerous questions for his handling of abuse allegations. Several seminarians and at least one diocesan priest called for his resignation following the leak of diocesan files by a diocesan secretary that allegedly show the bishop had kept priests accused of abuse in ministry.
“With all else that’s going on in the diocese and all the, all the attacks on my credibility … that I’ve known that something’s going on here that shouldn’t be and I let it go … I mean this is a disaster,” Malone said, according to the transcript of the recording.
After a meeting with two diocesan officials, the bishop expressed concern that they were distressed about the situation facing the diocese.
“You know, they really scared me,” Malone told Biernat. “They kept saying, ‘You know this could be the end, bishop. This could be the end.'”