Tag: Bishop Michael Fisher

Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher

Buffalo Bishop Lists Some Bad Jesuits But Ignores Others

A few weeks ago, on this blog, we were highly critical of the Diocese of Buffalo Catholic officials and how they’re handling abuse cases.

So let’s be charitable now and start on a high note: To its credit, unlike some other dioceses, the Buffalo Catholic diocese includes religious order offenders on its ‘credibly accused’ list.
https://buffalodiocese.org/abuse-response/

(Some church ‘accused’ lists include only diocesan clerics.)

https://buffalodiocese.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Diocesan_Substantiate_11-5-19.pdf

This is important for many reasons, one of which is simple: many times, religious order priests, brothers, monks and seminarians have even greater access to kids than diocesan clerics, because they often work in schools or a vulnerable population.

For example, Buffalo church officials include the following Jesuit clerics on their ‘credibly accused’ list, all of whom worked at Canisius High School, college or both:

Fr. Peter Conroy

Fr. Raymond Fullam

Fr. Vincent Mooney

Fr. James Gould (who also worked at St. Ann’s parish in Buffalo)

Fr. Cornelius Carr (who also worked at St. Michael’s parish in Buffalo).

Sadly, however, that’s where the good news about the Buffalo diocese ends.

While Bishop Michael Fisher includes SOME predatory Jesuits on his list, he ignores others, even thought they too have been found to be ‘credibly accused’ by their own Jesuit supervisors.

Here are a few of them (who also were at Canisius high school or college):

Fr. Thomas F. Denny, who worked in Brooklyn, Staten Island and New York City, largely in schools (Fordham Prep in the Bronx, McQuaid Jesuit in Rochester and St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City). Twice, he spent time overseas (Nigeria and Puerto Rico).

https://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2021/01_02/2021_01_18_Erica_Ram_University_Murray-Weigel.htm

https://www.bishop-accountability.org/order_lists/Jesuits_Northeast/2019_01_15_Jesuits_Northeast_Credible_Allegations.pdf#page=4

Fr. John L. Farrand, who admitted molesting while in the Buffalo diocese to his church supervisors. He worked in at least three other New York locations (Rochester, Brooklyn and New York City) and overseas twice (France and Puerto Rico).

https://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2020/07_08/2020_07_21_Orr_LawsuitsClaim.htm

https://www.bishop-accountability.org/order_lists/Jesuits_Northeast/2019_01_15_Jesuits_Northeast_Credible_Allegations.pdf#page=6

Fr. William J. Scanlon, who was at the college between 1976 and 1980 and reportedly admitted the abuse to church officials.

Fr. Scanlon also worked in Rochester, New York City, Jersey City, the Bronx and in Nigeria. He was also on the Fordham University campus.

https://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2021/01_02/2021_01_18_Erica_Ram_University_Murray-Weigel.htm

https://www.bishop-accountability.org/order_lists/Jesuits_Northeast/2019_01_15_Jesuits_Northeast_Credible_Allegations.pdf#page=13

As you may have noticed, the latter two clerics, Fr. Farrand and Fr. Scanlon, reportedly ADMITTED abusing. And Fr. Farrand’s abuse happened IN THE BUFFALO DIOCESE.

So how on earth do Buffalo church officials explain keeping these men off of their ‘credibly accused’ list?

And speaking of credibly accused religious order abusers, several of them who worked in Buffalo are now elsewhere. They include Thomas Marshall, James Burson, Michael Kolodziej, Linus Kopczewski, Rene Maynard, Bernard Splawski and James Smyka, all of whom are all reportedly “living outside Buffalo Diocese.”

https://buffalodiocese.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Order-Priests.pdf

But that should be little consolation or reassurance to Buffalo area Catholics or citizens. Moving child molesters somewhere else doesn’t ‘cure’ them.

Buffalo Catholic officials would have to admit that, knowingly or unknowingly, they or their predecessors have in disputably let dangerous and potentially dangerous clerics be around and sometimes hurt innocent Buffalo area kids.

So given that fact, shouldn’t these same Buffalo Catholic officials NOW desperately want to ‘make up for’ their wrongdoing or mistakes? Shouldn’t they be anxious to prevent future harm to kids by stopping those very same dangerous or potentially dangerous priests from being around and hurting innocent kids in Massachusetts or Ohio or Texas?

Or if Buffalo church staffers can’t prevent these quiet transfers, shouldn’t they want to at least shout from the rooftops “Hey, these child molesters were here in our diocese and now they’re in your diocese. Be careful!”

But that’s not happening. Buffalo Bishop Michael Fischer won’t even use his own website to tell the public where Fr. Marshall, Fr. Burson, Fr. Maynard and the others are now living or were living when they were shipped out of Buffalo.

And how about two other ‘credibly accused’ clerics on the Buffalo diocesan list: Fr. Theodore Podson, who is reportedly “living in the Philippines,” or Fr. Benedict Barszcz, who has reportedly “returned to Poland.”

Both of these are heavily Catholic nations in which clergy sex crimes and cover ups have only begun to surface in recent years and in which, we submit, parents are even more trusting of priests and thus youngsters are even more vulnerable to the predatory ones.

What are Buffalo’s bishop and his staff doing to alert parishioners, police, prosecutors and the public in those countries to the presence of these predators?

Finally, according to BishopAccountability.org, the Buffalo diocese’s 2018 ‘credibly accused’ list “provided no information, besides (the accused) names and death years. Assignment histories were not included; nor were the number or nature of allegations detailed. . .”

There’s just one word for this vagueness: self-serving. This lack of detail helps no one but complicit church officials.

New Buffalo Bishop Needs Pressure, Not Praise

A new bishop has been named for the troubled Buffalo Catholic diocese. And a local Catholic group responded to his appointment with comments that made us at Horowitz law cringe, because we’ve seen this pattern time and time again.

On the day of Bishop Michael Fisher’s promotion, the lay organization, called The Movement to Restore Trust, congratulated Fisher, pledged to work with him and said it’s greatly encouraged that he “considers himself first and foremost a pastor.”

https://www.wxxinews.org/post/vatican-appoints-new-bishop-buffalo-catholic-diocese

Our take: What matters is not what an official SAYS that he is. What matters is what he SHOWS that he is.

Before any person or group immediately pledges to cooperate with Fisher – or gets their hopes up – consider these facts:

—Fisher’s been a priest for 30 years. That alone – three decades in a rigid, all-male, hierarchical and largely secretive structure – suggests he’s not going to rock the boat or bring the significant reforms Buffalo kids need and Buffalo Catholics deserve.

–Fisher was made vicar general, a high-ranking post, by the now-defrocked and disgraced Cardinal Ted McCarrick, who both committed and concealed abuse against both innocent kids and vulnerable adults.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_William_Fisher

–Fisher was made an auxiliary bishop by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, an even more powerful post. Wuerl resigned as head of the large and prestigious D.C. Archdiocese after a Pennsylvania grand jury report sparked outcry over his handling of abusive priests in the early 1990s.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/wuerl-resigns-ending-influential-tenure-wake-abuse-report

–Fisher originally comes out of the Baltimore Archdiocese, which attracted national attention just a few years ago when the award-winning series “The Keepers” premiered on Netflix. It described a long-time serial Maryland predator priest who may have murdered a nun who had been told of his crimes and may have been on the cusp of exposing them.

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/jul/15/keepers-church-response-netflix-baltimore-abuse

–Fisher claims he has no opinion on whether a church probe of now-retired Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone should be made public, even though it was launched over a year ago and has garnered considerable publicity.

https://www.wkbw.com/news/i-team/vatican-authorizes-investigation-of-diocese-of-buffalo

–Fisher seems to be stressing that he’ll ‘restore trust.’ In our view, that should be at least third on his priority list. First should be the safety of kids and second should be the healing of victims. When that happens, trust will begin to be restored.

https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2020/12/newly-appointed-bishop-pledges-to-establish-trust-in-diocese-of-buffalo/

Finally, five years before Fisher was ordained, Fr. Gilbert Gauthe of Louisiana became infamous as the first and most notorious proven serial predator priests, garnering headlines from coast to coast.

That same year, 1985, every Catholic bishop in America got a searing and prescient 250 page report on pedophile priests from a trio of highly respected experts – a civil attorney, a canon lawyer and a priest. It recommended drastic changes in how these cases were handled. And it was tragically ignored.

Two and a half years ago, Fisher became an auxiliary bishop in Baltimore.

As best we can tell, in his long clerical career and his various positions – especially since his most recent elevation, neither the archdiocese he leads, nor Fisher himself, has taken a single noteworthy step toward better safeguarding kids, helping victims or exposing cover ups, beyond the absolute bare minimum.

Here’s the depressing pattern we mentioned:

Scandal engulfs a diocese. The bishop dies or retires or, in painfully few cases, resigns. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

Later, a new bishop is named. And everyone assumes he’ll do better.

Then, years later, they’re shocked and disappointed that little if anything has changed.

Consider a sports analogy. Many teams underperform. Then, in the off season, they make a change – a managerial shift, a big trade or whatever. Their loyal fans, desperate to see a failing franchise become a winner, naively and immediately get excited and hope for (and sometimes bet on) a sudden, dramatic turnaround for their beloved team.

The Catholic hierarchy, however, rarely makes a real change. It’s a hidebound institution. Its changes are usually largely cosmetic. Its leaders are remarkably similar men with remarkably similar backgrounds and attitudes and aspirations. It breeds and rewards and promotes ‘company men,’ who toe the official line and rarely show dynamic leadership.

So it’s somewhat irresponsible for any of us to prematurely relax and assume progress until progress is actually shown.

And it’s silly to expect any one man can radically reform an ancient structure single-handedly, especially if he immediately gets praise instead of pressure when he’s appointed.

On one hand, it’s hard to argue against being charitable. And it may seem cruel to squelch desperately needed hope.

But it’s right to do so, when the facts dictate otherwise.