In a 2015 letter to Vatican officials, Malone cited Smith's grooming of a young boy, refusal to stay in a treatment center, allegations of inappropriate touching of at least four young men, and repeated boundary issues; in the same letter, Bishop Malone said that he had granted Fr. Smith "faculties to function as a priest" in the diocese due to his "cooperation in regard to regular counseling."
The priest was eventually suspended in 2018 after the diocese said it had received a "substantiated" allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, made against Fr. Smith.
In September, local news station WKBW released audio of conversations between Bishop Malone and his then-priest secretary Fr. Rishard Biernat, and others in the diocese, that were taped by Fr. Biernat. The recordings showed Bishop Malone in March of 2019 apparently believing accusations of sexual harassment and abuse of the seal of the confessional made against diocesan priest Fr. Jeffrey Nowak by then-seminarian Matthew Bojanowski.
Months after those conversations, however, Fr. Nowak still had not been removed from ministry and another conversation recorded on August 2 showed Malone saying that the situation of Fr. Nowak, if made public, could "be the end for me as bishop."
"We are in a true crisis situation. True crisis. And everyone in the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop," Malone said in an August 2 conversation as he expressed his fear that the accusations against Fr. Nowak would be made public. Malone also suspected that Fr. Nowak was jealous that Bojanowski had supposedly developed a new relationship with Fr. Biernat, that could be construed to be a "love triangle," and that Fr. Nowak could go public with it. Biernat has said his relationship with Bojanowski is platonic.
On Monday, it was reported that the local Erie County district attorney had begun a criminal investigation into Bojanowski's allegations of grooming and sexual harassment made against Fr. Nowak, who is currently on administrative leave.
Malone announced on Tuesday a new code of conduct for clergy, and a new process for handling claims of sexual abuse allegedly committed by clergy and staff against adults.
The bishop has said repeatedly that he will not resign. In a Sept. 4 press conference, he said that "I fully understand the rage and the dismay and perhaps the incredulity, a lack of trust, that so many people in the community, not only Catholics, feel."
"And I may be a part of that, because I'm the bishop currently," he said, "but a lot of it is the weight of decades of bad, bad things that some priests did. And so I accept that. And I think if I can accept that and try to move on and try to work with the folks who are so committed to restoring trust and all of that, that we can turn this around."
Malone's metropolitan archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, was reportedly "consulting extensively" with individuals on the ground in the diocese over whether or not to investigate Malone, according to a Sept. 10 CNA interview with an archdiocesan spokesman.
Pope Francis' new norms-Vos estis lux mundi-for investigating bishops accused of sexual abuse, coercion, or of interfering in an investigation of such misconduct-gives metropolitan archbishops charge of investigating bishops, with the prior approval of the Vatican.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.