Archbishop Myers Said He Knew Nothing about Alleged Child Abuse in Illinois While Bishop There
By Jeff Green
August 13, 2013
|Archbishop John Meyers of the Diocese of Newark|
[Read Myer's deposition and case documents]
The embattled Archbishop of Newark claimed ignorance of a sexual abuse complaint against a priest in his former diocese in Illinois, and he dismissed a parishioner’s report of suspicious activity involving the same priest, who showered him with gifts of silver, gold coins and cash during his decade-long tenure there.
The statements by Archbishop John J. Myers were part of a 2010 deposition released today in a settlement between the Diocese of Peoria and a man who says he was abused by Monsignor Thomas W. Maloney when he was 8 years old. According to a letter in the diocese’s file on Maloney, a year before the alleged abuse began, a woman reported to the Diocese of Peoria that she also was molested by the cleric as a youth.
Alleged victim Andrew Ward’s family is holding a 1 p.m. press conference outside the Newark Archdiocese chancery to announce a $1.35 million settlement of the case. His attorney, Jeff Anderson, said that had Myers investigated the case and taken action against Maloney, he could have possibly stopped the priest from allegedly abusing Ward and at least three other children.
“The choice he made was to protect the reputation of the diocese and his own at the peril of Andrew Ward and many other kids who have since come forward when he chose to keep Monsignor Maloney in ministry,” Anderson said.
In his testimony, Myers blamed a “slipshod filing system” for his not knowing about the woman’s complaint in 1995 to his top deputy. Two diocese officials worked in offices about a block away from him and paperwork on priests was sent to several different files, sometimes creating confusion, he said.
“I did not have any suspicions,” Myers said of the Maloney case. “There may have been things that got by me … It could be sometimes two weeks of copies that I would get when they moved them from building to building, and I sometimes didn’t have time to read them all.”
But in 2000, a parish mother and father told Myers in a letter that was included in Maloney’s personnel file about the priest’s excursion with a young girl. The parishioner wrote that she saw the priest, who died in 2009, and a grade school girl together in his car in the parking lot of a pharmacy one night. The girl went inside to purchase about $20 in candy and returned to his vehicle, she wrote.
It’s not certain whether any allegation of sexual abuse emerged from that purported incident.
Myers, who was bishop of Peoria from 1990 to 2001 before he was appointed to Newark, did not deem the activity suspicious. In a reply letter, he told the woman that he was aware that Maloney was “not perfect” but that her characterizations of the “much-loved pastor” were off-base.
“I do know that Father loves people, especially young people, and that he cares for them generously,” Myers wrote. “We have never had allegations of impropriety.”
Myers said during his testimony that he did not remember his correspondence with the woman.
The plaintiff’s lawyer and victims’ advocates said Myers’ responses bear similarities to his handling of a recent scandal surrounding the Rev. Michael Fugee, a former Wyckoff assistant pastor who was arrested in May for allegedly violating a ban on ministering to children.
In that case, Myers said he knew nothing of Fugee’s attendance at youth retreats throughout New Jersey, and after they were revealed in the press he demoted his top deputy, Vicar General John E. Doran.
The archbishop also has consistently downplayed allegations in 2001 that Fugee groped a 13-year-old boy during play wrestling sessions, saying in a recent interview with a Catholic newspaper that the activity was “ill-advised but did not rise to the level of sexual abuse.”
Fugee was found guilty of groping the boy in 2003, but his conviction was overturned three years later because of a judicial error. Instead of pursuing a second trial, prosecutors admitted Fugee into a rehabilitation program for first-time offenders and required that he and the archdiocese sign an agreement that he no longer minister to children.
The newly released documents in the Maloney case also shed light on church gift-giving and record-keeping practices under Myers.
According to correspondence in the priest’s files, on four occasions during the 1990s, he wrote thank you letters to Maloney for Christmas presents and other gifts he said were customary after a bishop presided over confirmation ceremonies. They included silver, gold coins, cash and the priest’s prized camera.
“I really do feel a bit squeamish about being the recipient of your much-loved camera,” Myers wrote to Maloney in 1992. “I would be very happy to hand it back and to look for one on my own. As usual, your spontaneous generosity is too much.”
Myers said some priests’ records, including those related to sexual abuse, were stored in a secret area of a vault known as “the cage” that only he, the chancellor and vicar general could access. When he appointed Maloney a monsignor in 1999, he ordered all of the priest’s files to be reviewed.
He testified, however, that he did not see anything in the “caged files” pertaining to Maloney and that the woman’s 1995 abuse complaint could have been kept in the vicar general’s office. The vicar general at the time, Monsignor James F. Campbell, who died in 2005, did not tell Myers about it, he said.
Anderson, the lawyer for plaintiff Andrew Ward, said church officials asked Maloney about the woman’s complaint and that he denied the allegation. They did not do anything further, saying it could not be substantiated, he said.
Asked by Anderson what he thought of the woman’s complaint after reviewing it during the deposition, Myers said, “That I would have preferred an investigation.”
“Does that alarm you?” the lawyer asked.
“I am committed publicly and profoundly to the safety of children,” Myers said. “So of course it alarms me.”
Myers’ spokesman could not be reached for comment Monday night. Patricia Gibson, the chancellor and attorney for the Peoria Diocese, said in a statement that the diocese has a policy of not discussing details of settlements. Awards are paid through the diocese’s insurance policies, she said.