Newark Archbishop Strikes Back at Critics, Says 'God Will Surely Address Them in Due Time'
By Mark Mueller
August 20, 2013
|Newark Archbishop John J. Myers celebrates Memorial Day Mass earlier this year at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington.|
|Joanne Ward displays photos of her son Andrew, who was 8 when he was allegedly molested by the Rev. Thomas Maloney in the Diocese of Peoria. At an Aug. 13 press conference in Newark, the mother blamed former Peoria Bishop John J. Myers, now archbishop of Newark, for failing to remove Maloney from ministry.|
|The Rev. Michael Fugee makes his first appearance in court May 21. Fugee was charged with violating a ban on ministry to children.|
• Myers' letter to priests of the archdiocese
• Myers' 2010 deposition related to a lawsuit in the Diocese of Peoria
• Myers' letter thanking Maloney for his 'much-loved' camera
• Myers thanks Maloney for the 'wonderful gift'
• Myers' thank-you letter indicating he will gamble at the dog track
• Myers thanks Maloney for 'your most generous gift,' invites him to Florida
• Myers thank-you letter for a silver object
• Myers invites Maloney to Crete
• Myers assures a parishioner Maloney has not been accused of impropriety
NEWARK — In a sharply worded offensive, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers lashed out at the media and his critics in a letter released over the weekend, saying he has been the target of "deceitful and misleading" information about his oversight of sexually abusive priests.
Myers, who has limited his public comments in the face of recent scandals, took broad aim in the letter, addressed to priests of the archdiocese and distributed to parishioners at weekend services in Essex, Union, Bergen and Hudson counties.
In addition to the media, he questioned the motivations of politicians and former or retired clergy members who have spoken out against him, terming them "traveling bandwagons" and suggesting they have a prejudiced and spiteful view of the Roman Catholic faith. He suggested, too, they would be judged by God.
"For any who set out to claim that I or the Church have had no effective part in the love and protection of children, is simply evil, wrong, immoral, and seemingly focused on their own self-aggrandizement," Myers wrote. "God only knows their personal reasons and agenda. We are still called to love them. And God will surely address them in due time."
Myers wrote the letter in response to newspaper and television reports last week about a $1.35 million legal settlement reached between the Diocese of Peoria, Ill., and the family of a man who contends an Illinois priest abused him as a child in 1995 and 1996.
Myers served as bishop of Peoria from 1990 to 2001.
At a press conference in Newark last Tuesday, the mother of the man publicly blamed Myers for her son’s alleged abuse at the hands of the Rev. Thomas Maloney, saying Myers failed to remove Maloney from ministry despite an earlier allegation against him.
Myers, in a 2010 deposition in the case, said he had no knowledge of any allegations against Maloney until long after he left Peoria. Documents produced in the legal case show Myers was copied on certain memos with potentially incriminating information about Maloney, but the archbishop said he didn’t see them, likely the result of what he called a "slipshod" filing system in the diocese.
In his weekend letter to priests, Myers reiterated that he didn’t know about the claims.
"At no time was I ever aware that some people thought him to be a threat to children or young people," he said.
Maloney died in 2009.
The archbishop said other information released by the alleged victim’s lawyer, Jeff Anderson, was inaccurate, including the contention that Myers and Maloney vacationed together.
Documents released as part of the settlement do not provide evidence of shared vacations, though Myers did extend written invitations for Maloney to join him during stays in Greece and Florida.
Myers also took issue with the characterization that Maloney showered him with gifts, including jewelry, cash and gold coins. The archbishop said he never took anything from Maloney that wasn’t typically offered to a bishop from a pastor at the time.
"Since we were both coin collectors, I recall that he once gave me a coin of minimal value, of which he had several examples," Myers wrote in the letter.
That account differs from what Myers said in the 2010 deposition, in which he told Anderson that Maloney gave him gold coins "two or three" times, according to a transcript. Asked by Anderson whether they were valuable, Myers responded, "I don’t have any idea."
Several thank-you letters are part of the court file, with Myers expressing gratitude for a range of gifts, from Maloney’s "much-loved camera" and a piece of silver "too big for a watch fob" to cash Myers said he planned to bet at a Florida dog track.
Myers maintained in the weekend letter that he has acted aggressively to remove priests who have been credibly accused of abuse. At the same time, he suggested priests were sometimes the target of false accusations.
"One can understand when family difficulties lead parents, even by conjecture, to blame someone outside the family, but conjecture is no reason to undermine the ministry of individual priests (or bishops, for that matter)," he wrote.
He also suggested the media should investigate the "records and personal lifestyles" of former, retired or "marginalized" priests who have criticized him in the Newark Archdiocese and in Peoria.
The statement appears to refer to the Rev. Patrick Collins, a retired priest in the Diocese of Peoria, and former New Jersey priest Robert Hoatson, who agreed to be removed from the priesthood, or laicized, after filing an unsuccessful lawsuit against Myers. Hoatson heads Road to Recovery, a support group for abuse victims.
Both men are members of the newly formed group "Catholic Whistleblowers," which claims the church has not done enough to address the clergy sex abuse crisis.
Collins, in a telephone interview Monday evening, said he stands by his criticism of the archbishop.
"I’m not out to hurt him," Collins said. "I’m just out to get the truth, and I think given the situation he’s in, he should resign."
In recent months, Myers has been buffeted by claims that he has mishandled or failed to supervise priests accused of abuse. In the most high-profile case, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office criminally charged the Rev. Michael Fugee with violating an agreement that barred him from ministering to children. The archdiocese was a party to the agreement.