The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is taking a new approach to handling alleged sex abuse cases.
The diocese now is working with the Movement to Restore Trust, an independent group of Catholics.
The group first met with officials from the diocese last Thursday. They discussed new ways to improve the church’s response to accusations of abuse made against members of the clergy.
One idea would be for Bishop Richard Malone to reserve time in his schedule regularly for one-on-one meetings with victims.
Additionally, there would be diocese-wide listening sessions over the next few months to hear directly from Catholics about the scandal and other matters of importance to churchgoers. The first two dates and locations would be announced by the end of the month, with the first session taking place as soon as May.
The diocese and the Movement to Restore Trust would also review the church’s approach to how and when it releases the names of clergy members who are credibly accused of abuse or sexual misconduct.
Bishop Malone also would work to devise a new process for allegations of abuse made against a diocesan bishop, modeled after approaches taken by other diocese in which any claims would be sent to the regional archdiocesan review board until the Vatican or the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops creates a system for all diocese.
Some victim advocates said this new approach is too little too late, but Bishop Malone said he’s open to establishing a new process.
“I want to be part of this reform and renewal so that when I finish my term here, whenever that may be, we are in a better place, more transparent with any gaps in our system having been corrected,” he said.
“These are things that we shouldn’t have to remind the Catholic Church, a religious organization, and I don’t believe that there is anything that’s going to come of it,” said James Faluszczak, a victim advocate. “The bishop, in real time, is failing to apologize to victims for covering up and for hiding priests within the present moment.”
Other steps include improving financial transparency and expanding the use of an ethics reporting service beyond financial fraud to include ethical improprieties, sexual abuse or harassment.