Bishop Malone below
For the first time on television, the former executive assistant to Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone explains why she decided to speak out against the bishop for not taking action against priests accused of sexual abuse
The Roman Catholic Church is facing its biggest crisis in the United States since the Boston sex abuse scandal 16 years ago. 13 states are now investigating whether abuse was concealed by church leaders, including bishops who head each diocese. We have learned one place under scrutiny by federal investigators is Buffalo, New York. In August, information about dozens of accused priests was leaked from the diocesan secret archive. What it revealed, infuriated many of Buffalo’s 600,000 Catholics. Tonight, you will hear from a priest who will share his direct knowledge about what he has called a cover-up. But first, the anonymous whistleblower who uncovered proof that Bishop Richard Malone withheld the names of dozens of priests accused of abuse.
“At the end of my life, I’m not going to answer to Bishop Malone. I’m going to answer to God.”
Until now, Siobhan O’Connor had carefully kept her identity secret.
Siobhan O’Connor: I had to rely on God even more than I ever have before.
She is the whistleblower who leaked records from the secret archive of the Diocese of Buffalo. Siobhan O’Connor worked closely with Bishop Richard Malone as his executive assistant for three years. Last week she spoke with the FBI.
Bill Whitaker: Some people would say that you betrayed Bishop Malone.
Siobhan O’Connor: I did betray him, and yet I can’t apologize for that, because there was a greater good to consider.
The hundreds of pages Siobhan O’Connor uncovered included personnel files and memos. They revealed that for years Bishop Malone allowed priests accused of sexual assault such as statutory rape and groping to stay on the job.
Siobhan O’Connor: I love my church, I love our diocese, and I– I loved him. I– I genuinely did as my bishop and as my boss.
Bill Whitaker: So why are you doing this?
Siobhan O’Connor: The reality of what I saw really left me with no other option. Because at the end of my life, I’m not going to answer to Bishop Malone. I’m going to answer to God.
At first, she took pictures with her phone. Then she used the copy machine at the bishop’s offices. The documents provided an extraordinary window into how the diocese handled abuse.
Bill Whitaker: And nobody caught on to what you were doing?
Siobhan O’Connor: No, they didn’t. I was always working with paper, and I was always there, so it wasn’t as though I had to ask for keys or take them from someone’s desk.
Her decision to act was influenced by the phone calls she fielded from dozens of people who said they had been abused. O’Connor says she tried to get the bishop to be more responsive to them. He would tell her it’s not her concern. She said by last summer she was, in her words, “morally allergic” to what she witnessed. Just before O’Connor quit her job in August, she anonymously leaked the church documents to a reporter at Buffalo television station WKBW.
Bill Whitaker: There was no other way you saw to handle this?
Siobhan O’Connor: Not with any expediency, no. I mean, I– I did hope and pray that a grand jury would eventually be convened and that there would be hopefully an independent investigation, but I felt that there could be other victims between now and then, and I– I couldn’t have that on my conscience if there was a way to prevent that.
Her doubts began in March. Bishop Malone had agreed to release a list of 42 priests accused of sexually abusing minors. But O’Connor knew there should be more names because she had seen the draft list that circulated between the bishop and diocesan lawyers. There was also something else, a dossier about priests she discovered in a supply closet.
Siobhan O’Connor: There was one particular binder, which was of pending litigation that had been presented to Bishop Malone when he first was installed as our bishop. And this was from the lawyers. And this was a large, over 300-page binder, and I found it when I was cleaning the closet where they kept the bishop’s vacuum. And I remember finding this obviously very important and sensitive information and thinking, “How did it ever end up here, first of all?” And– and then I was shocked at the volume of it.
The cases in the dossier Bishop Malone inherited when he arrived in 2012 stretched back decades. As they worked on the list, the bishop and his lawyers decided they would not reveal the names of accused priests still in ministry.
Siobhan O’Connor: It was a very carefully curated list. And I– I saw all the– the lawyers coming in and out, and I was aware of the– the various strategies that were in place.
Bill Whitaker: What were they trying to do if not help the victims?
Siobhan O’Connor: Well, to my mind the overarching attitude seemed to be to protect the church’s reputation and her assets.
Bill Whitaker: And the assets?
Siobhan O’Connor: Uh-huh. Very much so.
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