BUFFALO (WIVB) – Bishop Richard Malone held a press conference Wednesday afternoon regarding a recent scandal involving his former secretary, a seminarian and a priest currently on administrative leave.
Bishop Malone called the scandal “a convoluted matter” during the press conference, which was held in front of a select group of reporters who were issued invitations from the Diocese.
The people involved are Malone’s secretary and vice chancellor Rev. Ryszard Biernat, former seminarian Matthew Bojanowski, and Fr. Jeffrey Nowak, was placed on leave amid an investigation into accusations that he harassed a former seminarian.
Last month, the Diocese of Buffalo released a statement after Rev. Jeffrey Nowak, the pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Cheektowaga.
Bojanowski claims that he was sexually harassed by Rev. Nowak after their relationship deteriorated because of a supposed relationship that developed between Bojanowski and Biernat.
Bishop Malone said that he repeatedly ordered Rev. Nowak to undergo a behavioral assessment, which he refused to do and was subsequently placed on administrative leave.
Bishop Malone also suggested Fr. Biernat, take a leave of absence from his position “because it was apparent that he publicity around the Fr. Nowak investigation might lead to the publication of a letter written by Biernat to a seminarian”, and that such a move “might avoid embarrassment to Fr. Biernat and the Diocese”.
He described the letter between Biernet and Bojanowski as a love letter, although he said “I am not aware at this time of any allegations of sexual impropriety between” Fr. Biernat and Bojanowski.
Barry Covert is the attorney representing both Fr. Biernat and Bojanowski. He said the contents of the letter shouldn’t matter. Instead, he said the Diocese should focus on Bojanowski’s allegations against Fr. Nowak.
“To pretend there’s all this confusion because you’re going to mischaracterize this as a love triangle – there is no characterization of this,” Covert said. “That is absolutely inappropriate and it victimizes my clients, and it gives power to the abusers like Nowak.”
The Diocese said that media reports that Bishop Malone had engaged in a cover-up and done absolutely nothing in response to the allegations against Fr. Nowak were inaccurate. The Diocese is continuing to stand by the statement.
Bishop Malone said that he is not planning to resign.
“I’m not a masochist-I’m here because I feel an obligation…to carry on,” he said, adding that a majority of area Catholics want him to stay. “I do feel enough support honestly to continue on.”
He also noted that he has had conversations with the apostolic nuncio (the pope’s ambassador) about the Diocese’s handling of sex abuse cases, but he hasn’t spoken to the pope directly.
The Diocese noted in a statement issued late on Tuesday that they had and still have never received any allegation that Fr. Nowak ever engaged in sexual contact with anyone.
“While the diocese did receive allegations of questionable behavior – behavior which was concerning enough to Bishop Malone that he felt Fr. Nowak needed a professional assessment – the diocese was and is aware of no behavior that threatened harm to the public,” the statement said.