A couple of months ago, I returned to my Bratislava hotel room from one of the most spiritually uplifting days of my life. I started it by visiting a secret room where faithful Catholics risked imprisonment by the communists for producing samizdat prayer books and literature. I ended it in the apartment of a saintly bishop (now deceased) of the underground Catholic church, who suffered greatly for the faith under communist persecution. It reminded me of what Catholics, and all Christians, can be. I came back to the hotel room, checked the Internet, and found a story about filthy, sexually corrupt priests of the Buffalo (NY) seminary, who had been suspended by the dodgy local bishop, Richard Malone, after seminarians complained. I wrote about it here. Local TV reporter Charlie Specht has been dogging Bishop Malone for some time about the corruption in his diocese.
Today the news breaks that the Buffalo seminary’s Dean of Seminarians (a seminarian who is sort of like the captain of the men there) is leaving the program because he is disgusted with corruption in the seminary and in the diocese. Here is his resignation letter:
August 15, 2019
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Bishop Richard J. Malone, Th.D.
Catholic Center – Diocese of Buffalo
795 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
Dear Bishop Malone, Father Creagh, Clergy and Seminarians at Christ the King Seminary:
After much prayer, spiritual direction, and reflection, I am writing this letter to notify you of my immediate withdrawal from the Program of Priestly Formation of the Diocese of Buffalo.
Before coming to Christ the King Seminary, I served this diocese for 24 years as a consecrated religious Brother, caring for the poor, the sick and the dying, including many priests of this diocese, many with very troubled histories. I expected to continue my service to the diocese as a diocesan priest, but I cannot ignore the alarming and problematic governance of the Diocese of Buffalo and Christ the King Seminary. My parents instilled in me a basic sense of faith and morals. I have come to the realization that the values and morals of this seminary and diocese do not correspond to my own.
I realize that my departure may come as a surprise to some, but considering all that the seminarians have endured last semester, including the recent news of the past few weeks concerning a seminarian who was allegedly sexually pursued by his confessor, Father Jeffrey Nowak, I cannot, in conscience, pursue a priestly vocation within this diocese. The manner in which this case has been handled by the diocese, as well as the manner in which so many of the other clerical sexual abuse cases have been handled is disgusting and revolting. I am confident that you understand why I have come to this decision. How could I commit my life to representing a diocese that is suspected of being so corrupt that it is being investigated by the federal government under the R.I.C.O. Act?
To my fellow seminarians, you know that I have tried my best to change some things for the better during my short time at Christ the King. I have tried to improve the seminarian health insurance coverage and I have advocated for improvement in stipends so that seminarians can meet their personal monthly living expenses. As dean of seminarians, I tried to obtain some compassionate understanding from professors regarding the obligation of pre–theology students to submit final assignments for non–credit courses at the end of the extremely difficult and scandalous last semester. In addition, I have tried to improve a sense of pastoral understanding and compassion between professors and seminarian students, especially regarding the rigorous schedule and responsibilities that are placed upon seminarians.
I am sure you will hear stories about a final paper that I submitted for a non–credit pre–theology class. I would like to address this issue myself to prevent any misunderstandings. Before I wrote my paper, a seminarian asked that I proofread his paper. He used the Kindle version of the text and I decided to use the same version. The quotes my classmate used corresponded to the topic I wanted to write about so I used the same quotes, in the same order but used my own thoughts and words to explain the quotes. As you know, my parents have serious health issues and were hospitalized during the summer and all of us had a very chaotic year and semester, so much so that Father Andrew Lauricella, director of vocations and seminarians, informed Bishop Malone that he was concerned for our physical, emotional and spiritual health because of the hostile and chaotic environment of the seminary. I rushed to complete this paper and unfortunately, I forgot to put the opening summary in my own words. This was my fault, and I accept full responsibility for this error. I do not yet know what my penalty will or would have been.
Before I leave, I would ask each of you to have the courage to continue to advocate for holiness and positive change by demanding accountability from this seminary and diocese. Remember that YOU are the gift to the diocese during this chaotic time! Continue to call for respect for your basic human rights. Do not settle for less! YOU are the future of the Church and this diocese should be eager to invest in its future by treating each of you accordingly!
Seminarians know that Christ the King has a long history of forcing seminarians to repeat courses that a seminarian has already successfully passed for official credit. If you are ever in this situation, please be courageous and speak up. This is fraud and academic abuse. You have a fiduciary responsibility to inform your respective seminarian director and bishop so that your diocese is not paying for you to take a course that you have already successfully received credit for.
All of the seminarians either witnessed or at least heard of the following examples of unacceptable treatment that seminarians have dealt with at Christ the King. I will not name those who committed these offensive behaviors but these examples are certainly not considered Christian or professional behavior, especially in our current Church environment. Demand that formation directors and professors:
STOP with insensitive and sarcastic remarks against a seminarian who had the courage to share his ongoing abuse story with you. A good Father and Formation Director should be sympathetic and should do anything to help and defend someone under his care who has been abused by the Church.
STOP allowing priests to use information obtained in the confessional to blackmail seminarians or anyone else, for that matter.
STOP the power struggles that seminarians see existing between staff members, formation and students.
STOP discouraging seminarians from asking probing questions because they are afraid of being branded as a heretic in their annual review. If a seminarian does not fully understand a concept, how can he grow in his understanding of the faith and adequately answer questions as a priest?
STOP encouraging seminarians to drink fine Scotch so that their minds can loosen up enough to better comprehend philosophy. We know from last semester’s accident that at least one seminarian struggled with alcohol. He was provided with alcohol by the seminary and tragically crashed through a neighbor’s house, causing extensive damage to their house, attracting media attention, incurring a D.W.I., and totaling a seminary car.
STOP breaking federal and state liquor laws by selling alcohol without a license in the seminarian soda bar.
STOP making vulgar remarks to a class about what it sounded like for a female country music star to urinate while in police custody.
STOP encouraging seminarians to shoot or break the kneecaps of protestors and/or the press. This will only cast an even more negative image of the church and diocese which many believe to be suffering the effects of incompetent leadership.
STOP asking for honest reflection papers and then disagree in anger over a seminarian’s honest opinion of the reading. Not only did one professor take personal offense to a student’s reflection, he threatened public humiliation and retaliated by giving an unfair grade for an oral exam.
STOP assigning pointless and tedious papers that do not help students comprehend class material and then not return work with valuable feedback.
STOP harassing seminarians who try to perform their chores responsibly while only receiving a very small stipend which does not nearly cover weekly and monthly expenses.
STOP sending seminarians on seminary appeals without providing gas cards and mileage reimbursement.
STOP sending seminarians on summer assignments when they do not even make minimum wage and still cannot afford basic weekly and monthly living expenses. How can leaders of our Church preach that it is a basic human right for people to make a livable wage, yet fail to provide their own seminarians with enough money to meet monthly expenses?
STOP sending seminarians on summer assignments only to perform menial tasks instead of learning pastoral skills.
STOP neglecting to provide essential spiritual formation such as classes in personal prayer and
the Liturgy of the Hours which is so vital to the life of the clergy.
STOP neglecting to provide classes in basic manners, etiquette, and community living skills.
STOP assigning endless papers, so much so that spiritual and human needs are neglected.
STOP disrespecting essential time needed time for rest, prayer, discernment and reflection.
STOP using the seminary as a dumping ground for (some) priests who have problems with their personalities and pastoral skills. Seminarians who are natives of the Buffalo diocese often know the troubled personal history of some individual priests placed on the formation team.
I do not know if the seminary or diocese will ever change for the better. Perhaps it will with your holiness and commitment. But I urge you to remember that if inhumane, harassing or illegal
behavior continues, you can file Title IX complaints directly with the State without going through the seminary. Considering how the “leak” interrogations were handled after last semester’s pizza party event, please continue to record any and all conversations and meetings with seminary staff and formation directors. NY State law only requires one party to consent to
being recorded and you do not need to disclose that you are recording them. And if all else fails, you can contact Charlie Specht from WKBW Channel 7 at this web address https://
www.wkbw.com/about–us/contact–us or by calling [phone number] or by calling Charlie’s personal cell number [phone number]. Charlie is very sympathetic to what seminarians are going through, especially as his own brother is a Franciscan seminarian. He will keep your name and information in strictest confidence.
Father Andrew Lauricella encouraged many seminarians to reach out to Charlie Specht in the past, and I would encourage you to do this also. Father Andrew also strongly encouraged us to contact law enforcement if we should be subject to or witness clerical abuse while on summer or pastoral assignments. I know of at least one other seminarian who has personally reached out to the F.B.I. after last semester’s scandals.
I close by thanking Bishop Malone and the formation team for my time at Christ the King. The most valuable lessons I have learned at the seminary have not included how to properly write a paper, or even how to nurture a personal prayer life. By observing the behavior of most (not all) priests on the formation staff, I have learned how not to treat people.
If there is any doubt regarding the veracity of the examples cited above, documentation, witness testimony and other forms of evidence have been retained.
Bishop Malone, for the love of God and for the sake of the faithful of the Diocese of Buffalo, please step down!
Stephen F. Parisi
Dean of Seminarians
Seminarian of the Diocese of Buffalo
Reflect on the fact that the corruption is so deep, and so intractable in that diocese and seminary, that a top seminarian is encouraging the others to “record any and all conversations” with the staff there, and to report wrongdoing to law enforcement and/or the media. This is what it’s going to take to break the power of this mafia within the Church: men like Stephen Parisi refusing to suffer in silence.
Ex-seminarian Parisi claims that the Diocese of Buffalo is under a federal RICO investigation. I don’t know if that is strictly true. It is true that a federal grand jury is investigating the diocese, and that subpoenas have gone out, but to my knowledge, there’s no evidence that the feds are pursuing criminal charges under the RICO Act, an anti-racketeering law which was designed to take out the mafia. This week, 22 plaintiffs filed a civil RICO lawsuit against the Buffalo diocese.
Back in 2002, Michael S. Rose published a book, Goodbye, Good Men, detailing how honorable, faithful Catholic men were systematically driven out of seminaries for not being progressive. And still, 17 years after Boston, stories like this still come out. It’s incredible. Do men like Bishop Malone and his crew even fear God?
UPDATE: From a reader:
I’m a (Latin Mass) parishioner at Fr. Novak’s parish (Our Lady Help of Christians in Cheektowaga, a suburb of Buffalo). I was shocked at the allegations against Fr. Novak; he says a most reverent mass, and has always been kind and friendly in conversation. I suppose most sexual predators are wolves in sheep’s’ clothing. Should I be happy that he hasn’t been accused of molesting a minor? Never thought that I would type that last sentence.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so taken aback if Fr. Novak hadn’t presented himself as traditionally inclined in terms of mass and morality. I am a Millennial who was introduced to the Latin Mass a few years ago, and prefer to attend it if possible. It is rare to find a priest who is interested in saying the Latin Mass in the Buffalo area; the only other weekly Latin Mass option is downtown at St. Anthony’s, said by Fr. Justus, an African priest of incredible humbleness and holiness.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. My childhood pastor, Fr. Gatto, was another pastor well-liked by parishioners. Later promoted to rector of the diocesan seminary, he was forced to step down from that position (and sent to a treatment center) after numerous allegations of sexually harassing adult men.
The diocese is imploding. The scandals keep multiplying; the rot is so deep. Collections are down. The nominal Catholics have abandoned ship. Feelings against Malone are so deep in the City of Buffalo (and not just among Catholics) that the bishop actually pulled out of marching in the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, fearing heckling (or worse).
The involved rank and file (parishioners that help run the parishes, the members of various Catholic clubs and organizations, and so-called “devout Catholics”) are in complete denial of the gravity of the situation. How do I know? I socialize with these individuals, as I belong to multiple Catholic groups. Alas, the general consensus is that “pray, pay, and obey” is the best way out of this colossal mess. I have been told that Bishop Malone (whom I’ve met and spoken with multiple times, and is a personable prelate) is being “harassed,” that some of the accusers are “lying for money,” “the media hates the Catholic Church,” “they want the diocese to go bankrupt,” and other excuses and rationalizations that have little to no connection with reality, logical thinking, or even common sense.
The whole situation is beyond frustrating. I have friends who are telling me to leave for other faith traditions, some of which are under the broad “Catholic” umbrella. I’ve decided to fight. I am not a brave person by inclination or habit. Perhaps this is my last stand, or my line in the sand. I want the corrupt clergy (and their enablers) gone: the sexual harassers, thieves, child molesters, hypocrites, sexual predators, personality disordered, let them leave. They will not drive me out; they can go to their true master.
I will pray for their souls, but I believe that is has gotten to the point that Caesar must render earthly judgement. I don’t think that anything will truly change in the church, in Buffalo or elsewhere, until the hierarchy is held accountable for what they have turned a blind eye to, or in some cases actually enabled. How sad that it has come to this point, that we must look to the state to protect us from our shepherds!
Never, ever think that outward orthodoxy is a sign of virtue. The priest whose fraud was the last straw in my case presented himself as a faithful orthodox Catholic who had been persecuted by liberals in his other diocese. My wife and I believed him. He was a master manipulator, as it turned out, and as we would later discover, had been involved with this group of ultra-orthodox predators.