An investigation into Bishop Richard Malone’s handling of priests in the Roman Catholic diocese in Buffalo, N.Y., who have been accused of sexual abuse has led to renewed scrutiny of his time leading Maine’s Catholic diocese.

The Buffalo-based television news station WKBW this summer investigated how Malone allowed one priest who had been accused of misconduct to return to ministry after a previous bishop suspended him. It also detailed how Malone failed to remove or discipline another priest who faced multiple accusations. Finally, the station revealed that a list Malone released in March of 42 priests in the Buffalo diocese who were removed from ministry or retired because of abuse was incomplete. Church records showed that there were more than 100 priests who have been accused of abuse or misconduct.

The New York Attorney General’s Office is now investigating, as is the FBI. Many have called on Malone to step down, but he has said he will not.

On Wednesday, WKBW followed up its investigation of the Buffalo diocese with a closer look at Malone’s record in Maine, where he led the statewide diocese from 2004-2013.

The station specifically looked at how Malone handled two priests – the Rev. Paul Coughlin, who allowed a convicted child sex offender to live in a South Portland parish rectory, and the Rev. Thomas Lee, who was accused of sexual abuse dating back several decades.

In the case of Coughlin, Malone removed him from the ministry but then reinstated him quietly two years later. Malone then rescinded that decision after it became public.

Lee was not disciplined even though a diocesan review board substantiated the allegations. Malone allowed Lee to carry out some church duties for years before he was forced to resign.

The Portland Press Herald reported extensively on both cases.

The WKBW investigation relied heavily on two sources – Paul Kendrick, a prominent advocate for church abuse victims, and confidential reports written by John Brennan, former director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland.

Malone, in a written statement to the Buffalo station, defended his actions in both cases.

Many Catholic dioceses across the country have been subjected to increased scrutiny since the Boston Globe’s investigative series nearly 20 years ago, which was retold in the movie “Spotlight,” released in 2015.

Bishop Accountability, a nonprofit that tracks priest abuse, estimated this year that the Catholic Church has paid out nearly $4 billion in settlements to victims.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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