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Bishop Malone criticized for $200,000 house renovation

Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, N.Y. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

In April he said he would sell his bishop’s mansion to help pay for compensation for abuse victims

Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York has come under fire for reportedly spending an estimated $200,000 to renovate his new home – a former convent near St. Stanislaus Church.

Malone had announced in April that he would sell his bishop’s mansion to help pay for compensation for victims of sexual abuse in the diocese. He has since moved into his new residence with his priest assistant.

Internal diocesan documents and emails detailed the cost of the renovation, and were released in a Nov. 12 report from Charlie Specht of local news station WKBW. The estimated expenses include $22,000 for ramp access for handicapped visitors, $30,000 for landscaping, $7,200 to install WiFi, and $46,000 for a garage addition and a parking spot for staff.

Malone wrote in email released by WKBW that a visiting priest was “alarmed about my living in such a run down neighborhood” when Malone took him by the new residence.

“I wasn’t surprised by [the priest’s] reaction…no successor of mine would want to go there!” Malone wrote.

Publicly, however, Malone has told the press that he was looking forward to moving in, and said “it’s a good thing for me to be over there” in a neighborhood where “there are some encouraging signs.”

Last month, Siobhan O’Connor, former executive assistant to Malone, leaked internal diocesan documents to the local press. The documents purported to show that the diocese culled down a list of over 100 clergy accused of “criminal, abusive or inappropriate behavior” to a final, publicly released list of just 42 who were “removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry” due to allegations. This list was originally released in March.

The diocese has since added names of accused clergy to the list, bringing the total number acknowledged by the diocese to 78.

O’Connor reportedly suggested to Malone in March that he could live in the rectory of St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo, taking up residence in a newly-vacated suite and allaying some of the additional costs of renovating the convent.

Malone thanked O’Connor for the idea at the time but said he needed the additional space for his “rather ample personal theological library” and his piano, and said he preferred to live in a residence that was solely his own, and not a parish rectory, WKBW reported.

According to additional emails, Malone requested that the convent be used solely as his residence, despite the fact that the building had been used for parish meetings, choir practices, and gatherings since the 1970s.

“I prize privacy above most everything,” Malone reportedly wrote. “I cannot live in a building that is used or meetings, or for anything other than my residence.”

Kathy Spangler, spokesperson for the diocese, responded to the situation in a statement to local media.

She said the rectory at the cathedral was “simply not suitable for the gatherings [the] bishop hosts and was therefore not considered,” and that the convent was chosen in order to “accommodate the many gatherings and events that a bishop hosts during the year.”

She said much of the expensive work was being done to make the building handicapped accessible, as well as other non-cosmetic improvements such as repairing air conditioning and bringing electrical systems up to code.

Spangler also said Malone would not have made the move to the convent if he were concerned for his safety in that neighborhood, and that the bishop “does not want to be alone.”

CNA reached out to the Diocese of Buffalo for further comment but did not receive a reply by press time.