Church Pays $1.35 Million in Suit Alleging Newark Archbishop Protected Abuser in Illinois
By Mark Mueller
August 12, 2013
|Archbishop John J. Myers is seen in his office in this 2005 file photo|
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria will pay $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit that contends Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, Peoria’s former bishop, failed to take action against a sexually abusive priest in the mid-1990s, freeing him to molest again.
The settlement, reached late last week, is to be formally announced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon outside Myers’ office in Newark, said Jeff Anderson, the alleged victim’s attorney.
Anderson also will release a transcript of Myers’ deposition in the case. The deposition had been under court seal since 2010.
Anderson represents Andrew Ward, who has accused the Rev. Thomas Maloney, now deceased, of molesting him in Illinois in 1995 and 1996, when Ward was 8.
A year earlier, a woman told the diocese Maloney sexually abused her as a child, but the priest was permitted to remain in ministry, the suit contends. Myers also failed to notify police of the allegation, Anderson said.
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Peoria declined to comment on the settlement. Jim Goodness, a spokesman for Myers, said it was his understanding the initial allegation brought by the woman in Peoria was investigated but could not be substantiated.
Maloney, who died in 2009 at age 73, has since been accused of molesting at least three other children, Anderson said.
"The theme that emerges here is that Myers chose to protect himself and the reputation of the diocese at great peril to this child and many others," Anderson said. "That is a pattern that has emerged not just in Peoria but in Newark."
Anderson was referring to Myers’ handling of the Rev. Michael Fugee, who was criminally charged in May after The Star-Ledger reported he attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors in violation of a law enforcement agreement barring him from such activities.
|The Rev. Michael Fugee walks into court in May after his arrest on charges of violating a judicial order.|
Fugee, who has since been released on bail, signed the agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office in 2007 to avoid retrial on charges that he repeatedly groped a teenage boy.
The archdiocese’s vicar general at the time also signed the agreement, pledging to supervise Fugee. The vicar general, the Rev. John Doran, has since been demoted.
More recently, Myers faced criticism after the archdiocese allowed another accused molester, the Rev. Robert Chabak, to live in the rectory of an Oradell parish after his shore home was damaged during Hurricane Sandy. Parishioners at the church, which has a school and youth groups, were not informed of Chabak’s presence.
Myers served as bishop of Peoria from 1990 to 2001, when he was appointed archbishop of Newark.
Goodness has steadfastly defended Myers’ stewardship of the archdiocese through the recent months of upheaval, saying the protection of children is a top priority.
Myers has nonetheless become a frequent target of advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse over claims he has not done enough to hold abusive priests accountable.
"The case in Peoria is a carbon copy of how he has handled things here in Newark," said Robert Hoatson, a former priest who now heads Road to Recovery, a group that aids abuse victims. "The protection of priests has been his priority, and the just treatment of victims has always been secondary."
In Illinois, Maloney allegedly abused Ward when the boy was a second-grader at Epiphany Grade School in Normal, Ill. Ward’s family filed suit in 2008.
Since then, a man and two women have provided sworn statements to Anderson, Ward’s lawyer, contending Maloney abused them as children, too, the attorney said. He said he did not know if they planned to file suit.
Ward’s parents are among those expected to speak at Tuesday's press conference.