Catholic Bishop Richard Malone resigned his position in Buffalo, New York Wednesday following criticism of his handling of sexual misconduct allegations.
The Vatican announced Pope Francis had accepted Malone’s resignation, but did not give a reason.
Malone’s departure follows an investigation by the Vatican into the Buffalo diocese and his handling of abuse cases.
The diocese is named in more than 220 recent lawsuits filed by people who say priests sexually abused them.
Many of the lawsuits were filed before Malone arrived in Buffalo in 2012.
Critics say, however, that Malone has committed more recent mistakes. They include a decision to return a priest to ministry who had been suspended by another bishop for posting on Facebook a “love you” message to an eighth-grade boy.
Malone later showed his support for the same priest when he endorsed him for a position as a cruise ship chaplain after the priest was accused of making unwelcome advances toward young men.
Malone had refused to resign earlier even after admitting to making mistakes involving adult sex abuse victims.
Pope Frances has appointed the bishop of Albany, New York, Edward Scharfenberger, as head of the Buffalo diocese until a permanent replacement is found.
Malone’s resignation came two years before the mandatory retirement age of 75.
Sexual abuse claims have plagued the Catholic Church for years. The crisis reignited in 2018, placing bishops across the U.S. under greater scrutiny for crimes that allegedly occurred under their leadership.