Pope Francis accepts resignation of Buffalo’s Bishop Edward Grosz

CNA US bishops Region II on their  ad limina  at Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls Daniel Ibanez 6 U.S. bishops from New York during their ad limina visit to Rome in Nov. 2019. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Pope Francis Monday accepted the resignation of Bishop Edward Grosz, the auxiliary bishop of Buffalo, who has been accused of mishandling a sex abuse allegation.

Grosz, who turned 75 on February 16, offered his resignation at the age required by canon law. The Vatican's March 2 announcement accepting Grosz's resignation did not indicate whether it will conduct any investigation into the allegation against the bishop.

His retirement comes following a year of allegations of a cover-up of clergy sex abuse made against the leadership of the Diocese of Buffalo, including an allegation of negligence on the part of Grosz himself.

In September, a priest who was sexually abused as a seminarian alleged that Grosz responded to his 2003 report of the abuse by threatening his vocation. Fr. Ryszard Biernat, who was abused as a seminarian in Buffalo by a priest who was later removed from ministry for other credible accusations of abuse, told Buffalo-area news station WKBW of the auxiliary bishop's response:

"He said [it] was my fault because I [didn't] lock the door," Biernat quoted Bishop Grosz, as report in ed by WKBW. "And then he said, 'and Ryszard, if you don't stop talking about this, you will not become a priest. You understand me? You understand me?'" Biernat said.

Bishop Richard Malone, who led the diocese from 2012 until last year, resigned in December, following a Vatican-ordered investigation of the diocese.

That investigation was conducted in October by Brooklyn's Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. The details of DiMarzio's apostolic visitation have not been released, but, according to statements by the apostolic nuncio, the visitation was not conducted under Vos estis lux mindi, Pope Francis' recently promulgated norms for treating accusations of  of negligence in sexual abuse cases by bishops. Although Malone's resignation was accepted, the Vatican has not suggested that Malone was found guilty of any particular canonical crime.

Following Malone's resignation, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany was appointed by Pope Francis to oversee the diocese until a replacement was named.

Grosz told local media in December that his role under Scharfenberger's administration of the diocese would be "primarily sacramental and in assistance to priests," and said that he planned to submit his resignation in February after his 75th birthday.

As auxiliary bishop, Grosz and Malone met with Pope Francis on November 15 during the ad limina visit of bishops from New York.

Grosz had been an auxiliary bishop of Buffalo since 1989. A native of Buffalo, he studied at St. John Vianney Seminary in New York, and was ordained a priest in 1971.

The Diocese of Buffalo announced on Feb. 28 that it is declaring bankruptcy as hundreds of abuse lawsuits have been filed against it in the last several months. Following the opening of a window in the state statute of limitation last summer, hundreds of abuse lawsuits filed against the diocese in New York courts.

Earlier in February, Scharfenberger announced the decision to close Buffalo's Christ the King Seminary. The seminary was reportedly facing an annual $500,000 average deficit over a period of a decade.

The diocese said it was formally filing for Chapter 11 reorganization under the U.S. bankruptcy code to provide the most compensation for victims of clergy sex abuse while continuing the day-to-day work of its Catholic mission.

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