Illinois Diocese to Pay $1.35 Million in Suit That Alleges Myers Failed to Stop Pedophile Priest While Bishop There

By Jeff Green
The Record
August 12, 2013

Archbishop John Meyers of the Diocese of Newark

A Catholic diocese in Illinois has agreed to pay $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit that claims John J. Myers, its former bishop and now the archbishop of Newark, failed to keep an alleged pedophile priest away from children.

The Diocese of Peoria received a complaint from a woman in 1995 that she was molested by Monsignor Thomas W. Maloney during her childhood, but church officials did not act, the suit contends. A year later, the suit says, Maloney went on to abuse 8-year-old Andrew Ward, the plaintiff in the case.

The settlement will be announced Tuesday at a press conference outside Myers’ office in Newark. A deposition of Myers, which had been under court seal since 2010, and other documents also have been released.

Ward’s family is expected to attend the news conference, where they will “discuss Myers’ pattern and practice of repeatedly failing to protect children while working as bishop in Peoria and now as the archbishop of Newark,” said Ward’s attorney, Jeff Anderson.

Anderson said church officials talked to Maloney after receiving the woman’s complaint and he denied the allegation. They did not investigate further, saying it could not be substantiated, he said.

“That’s hardly an investigation,” Anderson said. “That’s what we call in lay terms simply a coverup.”

Ward and at least three other victims were abused by Maloney after the woman came forward, the lawyer said. Many of them reported the abuse following Ward’s lawsuit, he said.

“We know there is a long trail of sorrow and hardship,” the lawyer said. “It was clear he was a very oppressive priest. It’s also clear he was very close to Archbishop Myers.”

Victims’ advocate Robert Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery Inc., said Myers’ handling of the Illinois case bears resemblance to a recent scandal concerning the Rev. Michael Fugee, a former Wyckoff assistant pastor who was arrested in May for allegedly violating a ban on ministering to children. Prosecutors said Fugee, who was accused in 2001 of groping a 13-year-old boy, heard confessions of minors during youth retreats throughout New Jersey, in defiance of the ban.

“The basic modus operandi is keep everything under wraps, hopefully it will go away and just move priests from place to place like he did with Fugee,” Hoatson said.

Anderson agreed that the Fugee case was emblematic of Myers’ attitudes toward complaints of sexual abuse.

“I think there’s an overarching theme here of denial, deceit and deflection,” he said.

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.

The lawsuit, filed in 2008 against the Diocese of Peoria and Maloney, claims that Ward was molested by Maloney in 1995 and 1996. The alleged abuse of the boy began a year after a woman had told the diocese that she had been molested by Maloney as a youth, according to the suit.

Had Myers and the diocese “acted properly” to investigate the woman's claim, Maloney, who died in 2009, might have been stopped before he preyed upon the boy, said Anderson, who has sued the Catholic church hundreds of times on behalf of sexual abuse victims.

Ward’s mother, Joanne, previously told The Record that in 1995 or 1996, when her son was a second-grader at Epiphany School in Normal, Ill., Maloney picked the boy to help out in the church after Mass on Sunday and sometimes in the morning before school.

She said the abuse happened on two occasions while her son was helping Maloney.

“Maloney molested Andrew once in the church sanctuary before school and once behind the altar after 10:30 Mass on a Sunday.”

She said that she and her husband, David, did not find out about the alleged abuse until 2007. She said she and her husband notified police in Illinois. There was an investigation, she said. But police found there wasn’t enough evidence to bring charges at the time.

Andrew Ward filed his civil suit soon after.

In the Fugee case, the priest was found guilty in 2003 of groping a 13-year-old boy, but his conviction was overturned three years later because of a judicial error. Instead of pursuing a second trial, prosecutors admitted him into a special program for first-time offenders and required the priest and the archdiocese to sign an agreement forbidding his future work with children.

Myers, who returned Fugee to ministry in 2009, has said he was unaware of Fugee’s youth group excursions and that he would not have allowed them had he known. In the aftermath of the scandal, he demoted his top deputy, Vicar General John E. Doran, who signed the priest’s agreement with prosecutors. Several Democratic state lawmakers and victims’ advocates have called for his resignation over the case.



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