Pope Francis Tuesday appointed Bishop Michael Fisher, an auxiliary of Washington, to be the next bishop of the scandal-ridden Diocese of Buffalo, New York.
Bishop Fisher, 62, will take over leadership of Buffalo as the diocese faces a new lawsuit from the State of New York for failing to protect children from clergy sex abuse.
The diocese also filed for bankruptcy in February of this year, after it was named in hundreds of clerical abuse lawsuits filed in New York courts.
Bishop Fisher will be the 15th bishop of the western New York diocese, following Bishop Richard Malone, who resigned amid controversy in December 2019.
In September 2019, Bishop Malone’s former secretary leaked audio of conversations where Bishop Malone appeared to acknowledge the legitimacy of sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the priest was removed from active ministry.
A month later, the Vatican ordered an apostolic visitation of Bishop Malone’s diocese, which has been embroiled in scandal since November 2018, when Bishop Malone’s former assistant leaked records reportedly showing that the diocese worked with lawyers to conceal credible abuse allegations from the public.
While the diocese had reported the names of some priests credibly accused of abuse, it had not reported others, the records appeared to show. Bishop Malone denied claims that he had covered up abuse.
Six months later, Bishop Malone apologized for his handling of the case of Fr. Art Smith, a diocesan priest who faced repeated accusations of abuse and misconduct with minors.
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