Bishop Richard J. Malone mentioned in March that no Catholic Diocese of Buffalo properties would be off-limits from the possibility of being sold to help compensate childhood victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The sell-off started on Tuesday, with Malone’s sudden announcement that he will put on the market his own residence, a palatial mansion on one of Buffalo’s most exclusive streets that’s been home to Buffalo bishops since 1952.
Malone said the decision was made “in the face of this crisis of reaching out to victims and the need really to have strong resources” to compensate clergy abuse victims through a program he announced in March.
“We do have some good resources for that already, but we know we’ll need more so we decided to put the residence on the market,” he said.
The residence at 77 Oakland Place is assessed at $1.3 million with a full market value estimate of $1.91 million. The Tudor manor house, designed by architect E.B. Green, has nine bedrooms and six bathrooms in 11,050 square feet of space. It features four massive stone chimneys, a slate roof and a separate apartment above the five-car garage.
One real estate agent predicted the home would fetch over $2 million. “It’s going to be a huge number,” said Susan Lenahan of M.J. Peterson Corp.
Malone will move into a former convent at St. Stanislaus Parish on Buffalo’s East Side after the sale.
The diocese also plans to sell Sheehan Residence, a home for retired priests at 336 Linwood Ave., to raise money for a fund to pay medical benefits for retired priests. That property is assessed at $490,000, but is fully valued at $720,588.
And Malone acknowledged that the Catholic Center, the diocesan headquarters at 795 Main St., could be next, saying “we are open, at some point, to the sale” of the former Courier-Express office building at the corner of Main and Goodell streets.
“For two or three years we’ve been looking for a smaller space,” said Malone.
When the diocese purchased the building in the early 1980s, it had 220 employees working in the Catholic Center. Today, the number is around 140 people.
Some Catholics have urged bishops for years to sell the bishop’s mansion, saying it was too much of a luxury to maintain at a time when parishes, schools and some Catholic missions had been forced to close.
Diocesan officials in the past maintained that having the Oakland Place home saved the diocese the expense of renting hotel, restaurant or conference room space for many events and visits. The diocese bought the property 65 years ago for $50,000. At one time, it was the most valuable home in the entire city.
Malone lives in the house with his secretary, the Rev. Ryszard S. Biernat. Monsignor Paul A. Litwin, who was diocesan chancellor for several years, recently moved out after he was named as pastor of Christ the King parish in Snyder.
Malone said in a 2013 interview with The News that the residence “works for us, and really it’s cost-effective. If we didn’t have that, I’d have to live some other place. We’d have to buy some other place. It would have to be large enough, because I really do believe in the principle of bringing people into the bishop’s home. It’s why it’s a big deal when people have an audience with the pope inside the apostolic palace, not just out in the square.”
Sex abuse scandal explodes
A retired priest’s Feb. 28 admission that he had molested “probably dozens” of boys in the 1970s and 1980s reignited concerns that the abuse scandal in Western New York was more widespread than diocesan leaders had previously acknowledged. The Rev. Norbert F. Orsolits admitted the abuse to The News after Michael F. Whalen Jr., 52, of South Buffalo, accused the priest of molesting him on a ski trip in the early 1980s. Other men followed Whalen with similar allegations against Orsolits and other Buffalo priests.
Under intense pressure, Malone in March released the names of 42 diocesan priests credibly accused of sexual misconduct with minors, a list that included men who had been quietly removed from ministry years ago with no public explanation.
The Buffalo Diocese also joined several other dioceses across New York in offering a voluntary program to compensate sex abuse victims through a process in which two retired judges will review claims, independent of the diocese and determine settlement award amounts. Victims have until June 1 to file a claim.
At least 58 priests who worked in the Buffalo area have been publicly linked to sex allegations in recent decades, according to a list compiled by The Buffalo News.
Priest pushed for sale of mansion
The Rev. Roy Herberger was particularly pleased by the news that the bishop’s mansion was being put up for sale. The retired priest has been pressuring diocesan leaders to sell the mansion for over 30 years, harping on the conflicting appearance of the bishop living in a grand mansion while religious leaders preach about sacrifice and helping the poor.
“It’s about time. I’m very happy that the bishop and the diocese has made the decision,” said Herberger, who recalls being in the mansion on one occasion.
“Unless the bishop and the diocese shows a sign that they’re ready to make a sacrifice, how can they ask others? It’s the symbolism of what it meant that we’re willing to do something ourselves to show people that we’ll take the first step and hopefully you’ll follow our example.”
Herberger said he first urged such a sale during a “big symposium” of regional bishops and priests held at the Adam’s Mark Hotel several decades ago, when leaders were calling for a new focus on the poor while sitting in “a beautiful hotel with fine china.” He’s repeated his message many times over the years, but was either dismissed or ignored.
“Unless we can be leaders and show people, what can we expect others to do?” he said. “At least something good is finally being done in that area.”
Other diocesan priests also supported the move to sell the building.
Malone met with the diocesan Council of Priests Tuesday prior to the announcement and the consultative group of clergy reached “full consensus that this was the right step to take,” said the Rev. Peter J. Karalus, chairman of the Council.
“The topic of selling the bishop’s residence has surfaced on and off for decades,” said Karalus. “I don’t think anyone was surprised by it because it’s been an issue.”
Reaction from real estate agents
The bishop’s Oakland Place mansion was built in 1900, but has been in the hands of the diocese since December 1952, according to county records. The stone house occupies one acre, and has two-and-a-half floors.
The Sheehan Residence for retired priests is a three-story brick building at Linwood and West Utica Street that originally was built in 1928 as the rectory for what was then St. Joseph Cathedral on Delaware Avenue. The “New Cathedral” as it was known was demolished in the 1970s and the former rectory has been used ever since as a residence for retired priests. It is a 17,376-square-foot building with 10-foot ceilings, a full basement and a detached garage. The building features 12 suite-style units.
Three other diocesan residences for retired priests will be used to accommodate the men now living at Sheehan Residence.
News of the two properties being put on the market was met with excitement by real estate brokers, whose cellphones were lighting up with calls and texts from clients almost immediately.
“It’s an amazing piece of property, with a very, very large backyard,” said Lenahan, of M.J. Peterson Corp., who had received two phone calls and a text by midafternoon. “The first floor is lovely. The public rooms on the first floor are gorgeous. The inside rooms are as nice as the exterior.”
Kristan Andersen, a vice president and broker at Gurney Becker & Bourne, agreed. “It’s a great opportunity for somebody in the city of Buffalo, and I can definitely see it being purchased as a single-family home,” said Andersen, who had texts from two clients.
“It’s really a special residence, in one of the best streets in Buffalo,” she added. “It’s a beautiful spot, and an exciting opportunity for the right buyer. I think there will be significant interest and for this type of property that has not been available in countless years.”
Malone said he did not know if the sale of the mansion will be enough to pay all claims. “We know, or at least we hope we can achieve significant resources from that that will help the reconciliation program bring some healing to victims,” he said.
Malone has said in the past that the diocese also will rely on insurance and investment reserves to pay for claims, while trying to assure parishioners that gifts to Catholic Charities and the Upon This Rock capital campaign will not be used for the reconciliation program.
The two properties are just part of a much larger real estate portfolio that the Catholic Diocese owns in Western New York, including individual churches, schools, cemeteries, offices, other religious facilities, parking lots and even vacant land. Many of those are owned directly by separate parishes, even though they are ultimately controlled by diocesan officials.
The Catholic Diocese directly owns at least 46 properties with at least 90 acres of land in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Genesee and Allegany counties, according to county records.
Sixteen of them are in Buffalo, but the list also includes facilities in Amherst, Lancaster, Lackawanna, Grand Island, Hamburg, North Collins, Lockport, Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, Harmony, Kiantone, Dayton, Batavia, Hume, Alfred, Friendship, Scio, Andover and Bolivar.
While the church-owned land is not taxed, the properties are assessed at $30.81 million.
Diocese of Buffalo to sell bishop’s residence to raise funds for sex abuse victim program
By Michael Mroziak • Apr 17, 2018
The E.B. Green-designed mansion where Bishop Richard Malone and five other Roman Catholic bishops have resided will be put up for sale this summer. Bishop Malone announced the decision to sell the Bishop’s Residence on Oakland Place to raise funds for a program set up to assist victims of alleged past sexual abuse by clergy.
The Bishop’s Residence was built in 1928 for the Forman family but sold to the Diocese of Buffalo in 1952. Malone is the sixth bishop to reside at the address. Priests serving on the bishop’s staff have also resided on the property.
Proceeds from the sale of the Bishop’s Residence will go toward the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which was announced earlier this year to aid victims who have previously come forward with accusations of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of clergy. In recent weeks, several victims have emerged to publicly accuse their alleged abusers. Forty two priests who served from 1950 to the early 2000s have now been identified as being accused.
“In the face of this crisis, in reaching out to victims and the need, really, to have strong resources for the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program that we announced a while ago – and we do have some good resources already but we know we’ll need more – we decided to put the residence on the market.”
Malone did not express a desired asking price, noting that the house has yet to be appraised and the decision to sell was made “in just the past couple of days.”
That decision, according to Malone, came following consultation with the Diocesan Finance Council, College of Consultors and the Presbyteral Council.
The bishop will soon move into the former convent house of the St. Stanislaus Parish on Townsend Street in Buffalo’s Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.
The trustees of the parish voted on that unanimously on Sunday and they’re very happy,” Malone said. “The Diocese will be leasing the building, which will of course provide some monthly income for the parish The Diocese will also pick up the maintenance and utilities and all that, so it’s really a win-win. It’s a good thing for me to be over there.”
St. Stanislaus is embraced by Buffalo’s Polish-American community as its mother church of Polonia. Malone said at the same time, the neighborhood is changing, with encouraging signs of future redevelopment at the nearby Central Terminal and new populations, including immigrants, settling in.
“For all those reasons, believe it or not I am looking forward to this change,” he said.
Malone also announced that another diocesan property is being put on the market, the Sheehan Residence for retired priests on at Linwood Avenue and Utica Street in Buffalo. Built in 1928, it was originally the rectory for what was then St. Joseph’s Cathedral on Delaware Avenue. When the cathedral was torn down in 1970, the three-story rectory was converted into a home for retired priests, featuring 12 suite-style units.
Those currently living in the Sheehan Residence will be relocated to other diocesan homes for retired priests. Proceeds from that sale will fund the Retired Diocesan Priests’ Medical Benefits Fund.
BUFFALO — On the day a law firm held a second press conference calling on the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo to release a full accounting of credible sexual abuse allegations, Bishop Richard J. Malone announced he would sell the longtime home of the diocese’s leadership.
During a press conference in the lobby of the Catholic Center on Main Street, Malone said proceeds from the sale will be added to the diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) for victims of sex abuse by members of the clergy. The property has yet to be appraised, he said.
“It’s an important thing that there be an element of sacrifice in this,” Malone said.
The diocese is also in the process of selling its Sheehan Residence on Linwood Avenue, a former home for retired priests. Funds from that sale will be devoted to the Retired Diocesan Priests’ Medical Benefits Fund, the diocese said in a statement.
Malone will relocate to a former convent at St. Stanislaus Parish on Townsend Street.
The bishop was questioned on claims from an earlier press conference in which an attorney, Mike Reck of Jeff Anderson and Associates, P.A., criticized the diocese for its response to confirmed cases of abuse. Reck called on diocese leaders to release more information about priests — both living and dead — who have been the subject of such accusations, including the parishes in which they served.
Malone said he did not anticipate further disclosures from the diocese, particularly regarding the parish assignments of clerics who had been identified as child abusers.
“We feel we’ve taken significant steps already in releasing the names after all these many years,” he said. “I’ve said before that I will not release personnel files, those are confidential in any organization.”
“I’m pleased with the steps we’ve taken already, as you know it’s only a minority of dioceses in the country that have even done that,” he added later.
Malone had no update as to the number of claims the IRCP has received since it was announced in March.
“We are still now in the intake aspect of this program,” he said, noting the June 1 deadline for claims.
Malone said he “just learned” on Monday of abuse survivors who had contacted the program and waited weeks for a response. He indicated that he would “look into that and see what is the reason for that pace.”
If a survivor is successful in lodging a complaint with the compensation program — which some survivor advocates say is too narrow in scope — Malone said he or she will be required to sign a “release” pledging “they won’t come back at us again.” It is not a non-disclosure agreement, he said.
“We do not and will not ever ask confidentiality,” the bishop added.
Reck said those seeking recourse through the program should be “very aware” that survivors will give up “future rights” should the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse be changed by the state Legislature.
“In current New York law, the statute of limitations is one of the most draconian and one of the strictest rules anywhere in the country,” he said. “But should that change in the future, participation in the program is a bit of a trade-off.”
As to whether previous church leaders were aware of the sexual abuse, and an analysis of what they did or did not do in response to it, Malone said he felt “confident that bishops who served this diocese before me did the best they could do with the information they had” under the procedures that were then in place.
“I do know, I can say this with complete certainty, that for many years now we have been going about this whole thing — when an allegation comes in — in an entirely different way than was done in decades past,” he said.
Under the current protocol, when an accusation is leveled, Malone said the district attorney is immediately notified, the individual is offered counseling assistance, and there is outreach from the victims’ assistance coordinator and Malone’s auxiliary bishop.
“I can’t answer for the way things were done and not done many years ago, but we’re trying to do it right,” he said.
If you know of instances of clergy sexual abuse or have been a victim of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy, you can contact reporters Rick Pfeiffer and Philip Gambini at 282-2311, ext. 2251.
Pope apologizes for abuse at native schools
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Wednesday, April 29, 2009 1:26PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 10:47PM EDT
Pope Benedict has said he is sorry for the physical and sexual abuse and “deplorable” conduct at Catholic church-run Canadian residential schools.
The Vatican says the pontiff expressed his sorrow and emphasized that “acts of abuse cannot be tolerated” at a meeting Wednesday with representatives of native Canadians.
“Given the sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian residential school system, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity,” a statement from the Vatican said.
Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, says it was an important moment.
Until today, the Church as a whole had never apologized for the abuse that aboriginal students suffered at the hands of Catholic missionary congregations.
“What we’ve been trying to do is to bring about healing and reconciliation between the Church, the government of Canada and our First Nations people,” he told Canada AM shortly after the meeting.
“There was a feeling that despite the apologies that were offered by the oblates and some bishops, that the Catholic Church as a whole has not recognized the part that we played.
“As a gesture of reconciliation… it was important to hear from the one person who does speak for the Catholic Church around the world, to hear him say ‘I am sorry. I feel for what you people have suffered. We hope that we can turn the page and move toward a better future together.'”
Chief Edward John of the Tlazten First Nations says he hopes the apology will help “many people move forward.”
“We heard the prime minister’s apology a year ago in June. And today, to listen to the Holy Father explain his profound sorrow and sadness and to express that there was no room for this sort of abuse to take place in the residential schools, that is an emotional barrier that now has been lifted for many people,” he said.
Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said he appreciated the apology from the Church.
“I think His Holiness understands the pain that was endured by so many and I heard him say that it caused him great anguish,” said Fontaine, who attended the meetings, on Wednesday.
“I also heard His Holiness say that the abuse of the nature that was inflicted on us has no place in the Church, it’s intolerable and it caused him great anguish.”
“What I heard,” Fontaine added, “it gives me comfort.”
More than 150,000 native children were forced to attend the schools from the 19th century until the 1970s. It was part of an effort to remove them from the influence of their homes and culture and assimilate the children into Canadian society.
The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was rampant. Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages and losing touch with their parents.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology in Parliament last year, calling the treatment of children at the schools a sad chapter in the country’s history. He said the policy of forced assimilation was wrong, caused great harm, and had no place in the country.
Canada has also offered compensation, as part of a lawsuit settlement between the government, churches and surviving students.