Why Bishop Fisher Will Likely Not Be Sacked

It was reported recently that concerned Catholics of the Buffalo Diocese have written to the Vatican requesting that Bishop Michael Fisher be removed. Some people familiar with Fisher’s background in the Washington Archdiocese are not surprised with this development.  Just as Cardinal Wilton Gregory was appointed to cover up for disgraced Cardinal Donald Wuerl who was sent to cover up for ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, so too was Bishop Fisher sent to Buffalo to cover up for disgraced Bishop Richard Malone.

Both Fisher and Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout worked together in the Washington archdiocesan chancery before being made bishops.  Some saw their promotions as a reward for covering up for their complicit cardinals and predator clergy who were often allowed to remain in ministry despite having engaged in sexual predation and homosexual misconduct.

Just as Fisher never restored Father Ryszard Biernat to ministry after he was unjustly suspended by Bishop Malone for reporting his abuse cover-ups to the media, so too did Knestout remove Father Mark White in Richmond for publishing a blog critical of clerical sex abuse and cover-ups by Church leaders. Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory who was in office when Fisher was appointed to Buffalo, is currently seeking to dismiss sex abuse whistleblower Father Michael Briese just like Malone got rid of Biernat and Knestout suspended White.

As a sex abuse victims’ advocate who was ordained 50 years ago and who works with victims from dioceses throughout the United States, I am not surprised that more than 800 sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against the Buffalo Diocese. According to local news reports, “more than 250 priests and nuns have been accused of sexual misconduct.”

According to an investigation undertaken by The Buffalo News, Buffalo police for years were ordered to report Catholic clergy’s behavior to the diocese instead of arresting them. Even though countless minors and vulnerable adults have been abused in this diocese, the former Erie County (Catholic) District Attorney, John Flynn, never prosecuted one predator priest or nun.  Flynn did, however, bring bogus criminal charges against former seminarians, Matthew Bojanowski and Stephen Parisi, who, along with other Buffalo Catholics, were demonstrating in front of the Buffalo Chancery building that is now up for sale along with Christ the King Seminary.

The Buffalo Diocese has a reputation for being infested with homosexual clergy, many like Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz who have been accused of preying on teenage boys. Whenever sexual abuse allegations were filed against Buffalo priests like the late Father Dennis Riter, they were usually ruled “unsubstantiated” by the diocesan review board. For example, when seminarian Wieslaw Walawender reported Anthony Ravarini running out of Father Riter’s rectory covered with semen on his face and shirt, Church and civil authorities opined that Ravarini must have masturbated in the rectory bathroom. What Church officials and the District Attorney’s Office covered up was the fact that Ravarini was only six and a half years old at the time and physically incapable of producing semen.

The Buffalo Diocese is also well known throughout the United States for the death of Father Joseph Moreno who is believed to have been murdered even though the coroner ruled his death a suicide. Moreno helped Walawender compose a letter to Bishops Edward Head and Grosz about Father Riter’s abuse of Ravarini.  Moreno was also preparing to testify about other alleged cases of sexual predation and homosexual misconduct before he received two bullet wounds behind his left ear that he physically could not have executed with his one good right hand. A police investigation failed to explain why there was no gunpowder residue on Father Moreno’s hand, or to report how multiple files and equipment with incriminating evidence against the homosexual network in the diocese were missing from his office.

While Biernat, Walawender, Parisi, Bojanowski, and other courageous whistleblowers are struggling to make a living, most Buffalo diocesan clergy accused of sexual predation and homosexual misconduct are leading very comfortable lives. If the pope will not remove Father Marko Rupnick from ministry after being accused of raping some 25 women, and if he has yet to discipline some 150 Catholic bishops credibly accused of abusing minors and vulnerable adults, what makes Buffalo Catholics think he will remove Bishop Fisher? Aware of all the abuse Martin Boudot documented Pope Francis to have covered up when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, one cannot expect Francis to discipline bishops like Fisher who, in many cases, are no worse than the pope himself.

Gene Thomas Gomulka is a sexual abuse victims’ advocate, investigative reporter, and screenwriter. A former Navy (O6) Captain/Chaplain, seminary instructor, and diocesan respect life director, Gomulka was ordained a priest for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese and later made a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by St. John Paul II.  He can be reached at genegomulka@gmail.com.