The Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo resigned Wednesday amid numerous sexual abuse lawsuits permitted under a New York law suspending the statute of limitations for civil complaints relating to abuse, according to The New York Times.
“I have concluded, after much prayer and discernment, that the people of Buffalo will be better served by a new bishop who perhaps is better able to bring about the reconciliation, healing and renewal that is so needed,” Bishop Richard J. Malone said in a statement.
It was unclear whether Malone was forced to resign by the Vatican. He said he was stepping down “freely and voluntarily” after learning of the findings of a Vatican investigation into his diocese.
Malone’s removal had broad support among the city’s Catholics, with a September poll by the Buffalo News finding 86 percent of Buffalo Catholics thought he should step down.
“For better or worse, he had become the lightning rod for all that was wrong, and we really weren’t going to make any progress toward healing and reconciliation as long as he remained,” Canisius College president John J. Hurley, who was also a member of a lay group calling for Malone’s ouster, told the Times.
“People are hopeful that we are turning the page and looking forward to a new day,” he added.
Malone “had effectively become a national, even international, face of this round of the abuse scandals: a symbol of bishops who ‘still don’t get it,’” blogger and church analyst Rocco Palmo told the Times.
Even after Malone’s resignation, the diocese still faces more than 200 lawsuits under the Child Victims Act, in addition to ongoing investigations of its handling of abusive priests by the New York attorney general’s office and the FBI, according to the Times. Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger will serve as the diocese’s interim administrator.