Desposition Key to Settlement

By Pam Adams
Peoria Journal-Star
August 13, 2013

Jeff Jones, 59, of Rockford, talks Tuesday about his history as an abuse victim of a priest while growing up in Pekin in the 1960s. The Catholic Diocese of Peoria agreed to pay $1.35 million to settle a case of sexual abuse that occurred in the mid-1990s when Monsignor Thomas Mahoney was at Epiphany Catholic Church in Normal and Newark Archbishop John J. Myers was head of the 26-county Peoria diocese.

PEORIA — The Catholic Diocese of Peoria’s $1.35 million settlement of a sexual abuse lawsuit occurred a month before the case was scheduled for trial in Peoria County.

Attorneys for the plaintiff, once an altar boy in Normal, announced the settlement Tuesday in Newark, N.J., where former Peoria Bishop John Myers is now archbishop.

The lawsuit alleged Myers, while in Peoria, failed to prevent the Monsignor Thomas Maloney from abusing Andrew Ward. Maloney died four years ago.

Ward’s mother, Joanne, called for jail for Myers during a news conference Tuesday in Newark, while Ward’s local supporters gathered outside the Peoria diocese to urge law enforcement officials to review Myers’ deposition and Maloney’s personnel file, both released as part of the settlement, for possible criminal charges.

“If Myers had done something, maybe Andrew wouldn’t have been abused,” said Jeff Jones, 59, of Rockford, referring to a complaint made to Myers about Maloney a year before Ward made his claims.

In a deposition released as part of the settlement, Myers maintained he knew nothing about the allegations of abuse.  

Jones, his brother, Joe, 63, of Pekin, who both grew up in Pekin, are members of Survivors Network for those Abuse by Priests, or SNAP, an advocacy group for abuse victims. They say the Peoria diocese also settled with them after they filed lawsuits alleging abuse by a priest, the late Walter Breuning, during the 1950s and 1960s. They would not divulge specifics of their settlement. The Peoria diocese paid for some counseling for the brothers before the settlement.

Jeff Jones wanted to focus on Ward, now 25 and living in Michigan. He praised Ward for having the courage to speak out at a young age and encouraged other victims of abuse to come forward. “He (Ward) has done more to help kids than Bishop Myers or Bishop (Daniel) Jenky put together.”

Jenky is the current bishop of the Peoria diocese.

Jeff Jones was not surprised that the diocese would settle before a trial.

“The last thing Jenky or Myers would want is for this to go to trial. It would be a disaster for the Catholic Church in general,” Jeff Jones said.  

But the release of Myers’ deposition was as important as the financial settlement, Jeff Jones said.

Myers said he was unaware of allegations of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior made against Maloney, who had lavished him with gifts, including rare coins and silver, according to the deposition.

One gift, a “much loved” camera, made Myers feel “a bit squeamish” about taking it, according to the deposition.   

Myers was bishop of Peoria from 1990 to 2001. Maloney served at St. Mary’s Cathedral parish in Peoria and at parishes in Ottawa, East Peoria, Chenoa, Lexington and Normal.

Myers said he never saw correspondence related to a woman’s 1995 claim that Maloney sexually abused her sister in the 1970s, according to the deposition. He also said he never saw a 1996 letter stating Maloney was hugging and kissing altar boys and girls.

Myers said he wasn’t alerted to the allegations by subordinates and never saw the documents despite reviewing Maloney’s file when suggesting to the Vatican he be promoted from a priest to a monsignor in 2000. Myers left for Newark the following year.

In 2008, an Illinois state’s attorney found there was insufficient evidence to charge Maloney with a crime.  

Myers said throughout the deposition that the diocese had a slapdash filing system and he worked in an office separate from where personnel records were kept.

Myers said he was alarmed by the allegations and if he had learned of them he would have called for an investigation.

“I am committed publicly and profoundly to the safety of children,” he said.

In Newark, Myers has been under fire for his handling of the Rev. Michael Fugee, who was charged with violating an agreement between the diocese and the Bergen County prosecutor’s office.

The Peoria diocese reiterated Tuesday that it does not discuss details of specific lawsuit settlements and that settlements are paid through insurance coverage.



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