Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - When Bishop Edward Scharfenberger was introduced to the Buffalo catholic community as the newly appointed apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Buffalo, he said he wanted to meet with survivors of priest abuse. That didn't take long as survivor Michael Whalen took to the stage at the Movement to Restore Trust symposium Saturday and offered an honest assessment of the crisis, from a survivor's perspective.
As Whalen, who was seated next to Scharfenberger, walked across the stage inside the Montante Cultural Center at Canisius College, Bishop Scherfenberger was in the front row and stood to recognize Whalen as the crowd of 175 in attendance looked on.
Whalen became real honest real fast as he began to characterize his and other survivors' frustrations over the status quo in the diocese. The exit of Bishop Richard Malone was a monumental and symbolic step in Whalen's opinion, but there are others who need to go, he says. "How can the diocese heal if you still have the old guard in there doing the old playbook", said Whalen as he challenged the new leadership of the diocese to get rid of Auxiliary Bishop Michael Grosz and legal counsel Terrence Connors.
Following the session, Bishop Scharfenberger told WBEN he would make tough decisions, possibly on leadership positions, but only after advisement from others and not on any particular timeline.
Whalen is hopeful that the leadership of Scharfenberger will help navigate the way toward healing within the diocese and Catholic community in Buffalo and Western New York. "The man truly is sincere", said Whalen of Scharfenberger. Whalen said he spoke at length with the Bishop and added that Scharfenberger offered him a promise, saying, "We will do this together and we will change this".
"I never lost my faith", said Michael Whalen. That faith will continue to be tested as Bishop Scharfenberger takes some time to determine the next steps he'll take to guide the diocese and catholic community toward healing.