Catholic bishop embroiled in US child sex abuse scandal steps down

Bishop Richard Malone’s resignation has been accepted following criticism over how he handled allegations of clergy sexual misconduct. (AP pic)

VATICAN CITY: A senior American Catholic clergyman quit on Wednesday, the Vatican said, as the diocese of Buffalo continues to wrestle with an ongoing sexual abuse scandal.

Bishop Richard Malone, 73, has been accused by US media of concealing the names of accused priests and allowing some to remain in the ministry in his diocese in Buffalo in New York state.

He admitted last year he had “fallen short” in his handling of allegations of misconduct, particularly by priests accused of abusing adults.

Buffalo has been in turmoil since February 2018 when a retired priest admitted to sexually abusing children, sparking further allegations across the diocese.

The Church has already paid US$17.5 million to victims, according to the Buffalo News, which says that 220 lawsuits have been filed by people claiming to have been abused by priests.

Malone, in his post since 2012, announced he was retiring early, explaining that Catholics in Buffalo would be “better served by a new bishop who perhaps is better able to bring about the reconciliation, healing and renewal that is so needed”.

He added in a statement on Wednesday: “I have acknowledged on many occasions the mistakes I have made in not addressing more swiftly personnel issues that, in my view, required time to sort out complex details pertaining to behaviour between adults.”

In a brief communique, the Vatican said Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Malone and offered no further detail.

The bishop of Albany, Edward Scharfenberger, will take over until a new bishop is named.

The Catholic church continues to struggle with a worldwide sex abuse scandal.

In the United States, an August 2018 grand jury report examining child sex abuse within six dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania found more than 1,000 child victims, underscoring the scale of the problem.