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Bishop Malone Returned Accused Priest to Ministry After Investigation Some Called ‘A Sham’

Bishop Richard Malone says his congregation’s darkest days are in the past.

The embattled spiritual leader has faced calls for his resignation over his handling of sexual abuse allegations against clergy members in the Diocese of Buffalo, where a public reckoning that started as a local scandal became a national headline.

A whistleblower, Malone’s own former secretary Siobhan O’Connor, leaked internal church documents to Charlie Specht, an investigative reporter for ABC’s Buffalo affiliate WKBW, sparking months of stories about whether there had been efforts to conceal the extent of the problem from the public.

Malone admits that he has made some mistakes, but stresses that he “inherited a decades old horrific problem,” one that extends far beyond the limits of his city, and is now “trying to be part of moving us beyond it” by, among other things, purging pedophiles from their midst.

The Diocese of Buffalo’s list of credibly accused priests has grown from 42 to 132 in a little more than a year, and Malone expects that more names will be added before their work is done.

“This is something that we continue to evaluate over and over again,” Malone told ABC News in a wide-ranging interview, his first on national television, airing Thursday on “Nightline.” “We’re not finished with the list at this point.”

But for anyone who doubts his progress, Malone offers a guarantee.

“There’s no priest with a substantiated, what you called credible, allegation of abuse of a minor in ministry in this diocese,” Malone said. “I can testify to that honestly and 100 percent.”

In the case of Fr. Dennis Riter, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in the Buffalo suburb of Dunkirk, however, Malone decided to allow a priest who had faced multiple allegations of sexual abuse of children to return to ministry, where he remains to this day. He did so, he said, after a lawyer hired by the church investigated the matter and submitted a report, a copy of which has been obtained by ABC News, concluding that the allegations against Fr. Riter had “no merit.”

Read more at ABC News