Pope Francis names new bishop to Buffalo diocese facing hundreds of sex abuse lawsuits

Washington Auxiliary Bishop Michael W. Fisher greets a family after Mass in July 2018 at St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Hyattsville, Md. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A new bishop was named Tuesday for the troubled Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

The diocese announced that 62-year-old Washington, D.C. Auxiliary Bishop Michael William Fisher was appointed by Pope Francis. Fisher’s installation will take place Jan. 15 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Buffalo.

The Buffalo diocese — upstate New York’s largest with 163 parishes and missions across eight counties — sought bankruptcy protection in February, citing hundreds of lawsuits filed against it since August 2019.

The Buffalo diocese sought bankruptcy protection in February, citing hundreds of lawsuits filed against it since August 2019.

New York’s attorney general last week sued the diocese, former Bishop Richard Malone and another church leader, alleging they covered up allegations of sexual misconduct and misused charitable assets by supporting predatory priests who were allowed to retire or go on leave.

Malone resigned in December 2019 amid mounting calls for his ouster from his staff, priests and the public over his handling of allegations of clergy sexual misconduct. The diocese has been led on an interim basis by Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger.

Fisher said he was humbled by the appointment and eager to serve.

He said in a prepared statement that “though the challenges that currently confront the Diocese of Buffalo are many and significant,” people involved with the church in western New York are up to the task.

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