BUFFALO, N.Y. — Is the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo divided in the wake of the priest abuse scandal?
Some people in Bishop Richard Malone's inner circle seem to believe so.
2 On Your Side's Steve Brown spoke to the bishop's right-hand man and the head of one of the church's ministries on Friday about the state of the church right now.
"Could this cost you your place in clergy?" Brown asked.
Father Ryszard Biernat: "If it does, so be it. I can always minister to people on the street."
Father Biernat, the secretary to embattled Bishop Malone, on Friday added his voice to those calling on Malone to resign.
"He needs to go," Father Biernat said. "He needs to go for the sake of the diocese, and the sake of the victims."
Bishop Malone himself admitted he has mishandled cases in the clergy sex abuse scandal, but has consistently maintained he will stay put, prompting Father Biernat to secretly record three meetings with the bishop, where even he hinted at a premature end.
"We're in a true crisis here, true crisis. And everyone on the office is convinced this could be the end for me as bishop," Malone said.
And Father Biernat, who before going on leave was part of the bishop's inner-circle, says among Malone senior advisers, there is a split on whether he should step down.
"I think it's fairly accurate," said Cheryl Calire, who is a prominent figure inside the Catholic Center. She runs the diocesan pro-life office and other ministries.
Calire says she's worried that in the raging debate about whether Malone stays or goes, the mission and the very fabric of the diocese is at risk.
"We have a lot of good parish priests," Calire said. "We have a lot of great deacons. We have a lot of good lay ministers, and we have wonderful people who all belong to the church."
Father Biernat, on a leave of absence from the diocese, says he has no misgivings. He exploited Bishop Malone's trust to make the now-famous secret recordings.
His regret is that he did not act sooner.
"That I remained silent. And I think that's where I believe I broke Canon Law that allowed Bishop to ... to remain ... to keep priests ... predators in ministry," Father Biernat said.