Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger will serve as interim administrator for the troubled Buffalo Diocese after embattled Bishop Richard Malone’s resignation. Scharfenberger returned from Buffalo Thursday afternoon. The bishop will be making the commute regularly.
Scharfenberger has led the Albany Diocese since 2014. Malone faced intense criticism for his handling of the child sex abuse scandal in Buffalo. Scharfenberger was introduced to reporters there Wednesday morning.
Scharfenberger told the gathering he has no hidden agenda, that his priorities are to listen to the 700,000 Catholics who populate the diocese, and stressed trust and transparency. He said victims of clergy abuse come first, calling on "any and all" survivors to come forward, adding he would immediately investigate any new allegations. "So my first priorities will primarily be to listen, I want to hear what's in your heart and what your concerns are. Where do you think we should go? This is only my first day here. So I don't come here with a preconceived plan of what I'm going to do. And whatever I do, I want to be something that will build up our family, build up what we're all thing the survivors of sexual abuse are and I want everyone to be known to know that they are treated with respect and continue as I do in the Diocese of Albany to say, if you see something say something, never be afraid to come forward will be treated with respect..."
Scharfenberger says he will be in Buffalo at least one day a week and will use "electronic media" when needed. He arrived back in Albany aboard an Amtrak train Thursday afternoon. "Typically when an Apostolic administrator is appointed it's a temporary position and it really depends upon the Holy See as to when they find a bishop to permanently replace Bishop Malone, and everybody speculates, you know, it could be a month, could be two months, some say Easter, you know, Bridgeport it took them a year and a half.”
Scharfenberger said he spoke with Bishop Malone. "He's not in the diocese at this point, and I don't know where he will actually be. He's retired, that's his status, and he has a great deal of freedom as to where he himself would like to end up."
Scharfenberger emphasized he is not replacing Malone unless Pope Francis reassigns him. "You know I love Albany, and I kind of think at my age, I'm 71, so the likelihood is high that they'll let me stay but I have no inside information, who they may be looking for and who they might add."
He expects to address the possibility of the Buffalo Diocese going into bankruptcy. "The way in which I'm approaching my assignment in Buffalo is actually the way I have been ministering here in the diocese of Albany. We've taken a very strong position in support of victims and survivors of sexual abuse."
Malone offered to retire two years before the mandatory retirement age of 75 after learning the results of a Vatican-mandated inquiry into the western New York diocese and its handling of abuse cases. More than 200 lawsuits have been filed by people claiming they were abused by priests in the western New York diocese.