Archbishop Myers Again Puts Children at Risk: Moran

By Tom Moran
The Star-Ledger
August 14, 2013

This time, court documents include convincing evidence that Newark Archbishop John Myers lied about his handling of an abuse case

The story is familiar by now, but no less infuriating. Newark Archbishop John J. Myers hears a credible complaint of sexual abuse against a priest. He hides that fact. He protects the priest. He doesn’t tell police.

And instead of stopping the abuse, he allows the abuser to search for a fresh victim among the children of the faithful, the little souls he should be protecting.

"I don’t want his resignation," said the mother of one victim. "I want Bishop Myers to go to jail."

Her name is Joanne Ward, she lives outside Toledo, Ohio, and she knows that’s not going to happen, despite the convincing evidence in freshly released court documents that Myers flat-out lied this time to protect the accused abuser.

But Ward wants to the world to know about Myers, at least. So she came to Newark yesterday with her husband and stood outside his office holding a poster-sized picture of her boy when he was 8 years old, the year she says he became a sexual play thing to a priest in the Peoria, Ill., diocese where Myers was in charge.

The accused priest, now deceased, used to vacation with Myers, and shower him with gifts of silver, gold coins and even cash. Myers arranged for his promotion to monsignor well after the first abuse complaints began to roll in.

"To the family, Myers is a calculating monster who weighed the damage to children against the damage to the church, and sided with the church."

Ward’s son, Andrew, is 25 now, with many of the familiar problems of victims. He has an explosive anger. He wrestles with the twin demons of alcohol and drug abuse. He is improving, his dad says, but every day remains a struggle.

At age 8, Andrew looked like a sweet and trusting little boy, with a blond buzz cut and blue eyes, a big smile and a set of ears that he hadn’t quite grown into yet. His mom was a devout Catholic back then, and she put him within reach of the abuser day after day. She encouraged him to love the church and to trust its leaders.

Today, she feels a searing guilt over that fact, a soul-crushing regret that is the special province of parents who feel they failed to protect their children. And she has that misery in common with her husband, David, an insurance adjuster.

"The poor kid," he says of his son. "You wonder why you didn’t see the signs you should have."

Andrew took a knife to school once, just as the abuse began. His anger was explosive, with his mother as the main target but not the only one. The parents worry about their daughter, too, and regret letting her grow up amid all this emotional heat. This abuse has been like a living beast, still biting into the family’s flesh nearly two decades later.

"It makes me sick now when I pass my church," the mom says.

Myers responded to all this with his customary arrogance, refusing to speak and issuing a bland statement denying any guilt. By now, though, only the most die-hard defenders of the institution can believe him.

To the Ward family, exposing Myers is a mission. They regard the abusive priest as a sick and weak man, a "kid in a candy store" as the mom put it. But Myers is a monster to them, a calculating person who weighed the damage to vulnerable children against the damage to the church, and sided with the church.

They agreed to settle their lawsuit for $1.35 million, but on the firm condition that the Peoria diocese released relevant documents, including a lengthy 2010 deposition of Myers. The files show that the diocese received complaints about the priest who abused Andrew years before the abuse started. When one woman complained that this same priest had abused her as a child, Myers wrote a letter telling her that no one else had ever accused him, a claim that is patently false.

This all fits a pattern. Myers has allowed tainted priests like the Rev. Michael Fugee to remain in contact with children over and over, and he has sometimes kept these dark secrets even from other church officials.

No, he won’t go to jail, because the law is full of protections for people like him who are one-step removed from criminal acts. He will probably keep fending off calls for his resignation.

But he will be remembered mostly as a man who failed this most important test. And for the Ward family, that will offer at least some consolation.



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