In part one of their two-part expose, “Unmasking the Predatory Priest Cover-Up,” on the sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church, The Station of the Cross Catholic Radio Network released a detailed report on a major sex scandal in the New York diocese and called for Bishop Richard Joseph Malone of Buffalo to resign.
The report is full of letters from Bishop Malone, detailing the sexual exploits of one Fr. Smith, who was accused of grooming and touching minors and young people at an alarming rate. What’s especially shocking about these allegations is that they are not many decades old, but range from 2004 until as recently as 2017.
Commenting on a 7 Eyewitness News series on Bishop Richard Malone’s handling of two priests, Station of the Cross explained, “We believe the 7 Eyewitness News report to be credible based on the internal Diocesan documents included and published with the report.” The report added, “We have read the investigative report and internal Diocesan documents in detail and wish to provide an unbiased, dispassionate presentation of the facts for your edification and discernment.
In 2004, a seminarian accused Smith of sneaking into his room and touching his genitals. In 2011, an elementary and middle school principal, Kristine Hider, reported Smith for “grooming” behavior and stalking an 8th-grade boy. According to the 7 Eyewitness News investigative report, Bishop Kmiec, bishop of Buffalo at the time, suspended Smith from the parish and, documents show, officials told parishioners that Smith was taking a “medical leave.” He was sent for psychological care at a Philadelphia treatment center.
By 2012 he was back interacting with elementary students at the same school! The principal once again reported him to the bishop’s office. “Fr. Smith was on St. Mary’s property on two occasions on March 1, 2012,” she wrote. “It has been rumored that he is hearing confessions of another elementary school, saying mass and has contact with youth.” Kmiec went on to say, “Several other sites have reported him to be involved in their church life. This man is a predator and a groomer of young children. Something needs to be done. It is perceived that nothing is being done or has been done to stop this man from hurting anyone else.”
The very next month, when this report should have been fresh in the bishop’s office, a new bishop was installed, Richard Joseph Malone, who reinstated Smith to active ministry the very next November. Smith was assigned to a nursing home, but managed to go to a youth conference in 2013 where hundreds of teens were in attendance. Smith began hearing their confessions in a hotel room. Principal Hider was at the event and had to calm a student who came to her with strange tales of hearing Smith saying inappropriate things to her in the confessional. Hider wrote two more letters to the diocese expressing her incredulity that the bishop would knowingly allow a predator to be in a hotel with minors since her initial report was sent to the diocese in 2004. “If a teacher would have been grooming children and had inappropriate relations with a minor, they would have been fired and lost their license to teach,” she wrote, “yet a priest that has a history of inappropriate contact with the youth was among the youth ministering the sacrament of Reconciliation.”
The Station of the Cross reported that Bishop Malone wrote back to Hider, denying that Smith’s behavior was in violation of the Charter for Protecting Young People.
In 2013, Smith was further accused of inappropriately touching a 19-year-old and a priest in training at the nursing home where he worked. Bishop Malone received the complaint in a letter from the Brothers of Mercy of Montabaur nursing home asking him to remove Smith from their facility.
In 2015, after the multiple complaints of inappropriate behaviors around young people and minors, Bishop Malone gave Smith a letter of recommendation that read, “I am unaware of anything in his background which would render him unsuitable to work with minor children.”
Many have called for Bishop Malone to resign over the abdication of truth and responsibility, including the Catholic Radio Network, but the bishop is digging in, refusing to step down, angering lay Catholics everywhere. Pope Francis continues to do and say nothing, while the church burns with a shameful scandal.