In Deposition, Newark Archbishop Says Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse by Priest 'Got by Me'
By Mark Mueller
August 14, 2013
|Joanne Ward embraces a supporter after the press conference. Attorney Jeff Anderson who represents Andrew Ward, announced a settlement in an abuse case in Diocese of Peoria when Newark Archbishop John Myers was bishop, press conference in Newark across the street from the Basilica on Tuesday August, 13, 2013.
|Dave Ward, father of Andrew Ward speaks after Attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents Andrew Ward, announced a settlement in an abuse case in Diocese of Peoria when Newark Archbishop John Myers was bishop, press conference in Newark across the street from the Basilica on Tuesday August, 13, 2013.
|Joanne Ward holds a sign of pictures of her son Andrew when he was the age that he was abused. Attorney Jeff Anderson who represents Andrew Ward, announced a settlement in an abuse case in Diocese of Peoria when Newark Archbishop John Myers was bishop, press conference in Newark across the street from the Basilica on Tuesday August, 13, 2013.
|Archbishop John J. Myers, whose deposition in a sexual abuse lawsuit reveals he knew of other cases but did not contact police, celebrating Memorial Day Mass earlier this year
[Bishop Myers deposition via BishopAccountability.org in easy to use format]
In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Ill., signs that the Rev. Thomas Maloney posed a danger to children were hard to miss.
In late 1994 or early 1995, a woman told church officials Maloney had molested her when she was a child, documents show. Later in 1995, the woman’s sister wrote to the diocese on her behalf, again insisting action be taken against the priest.
Four years later, a couple wrote to the vicar general, second-in-command of the diocese, complaining Maloney had an explicit sexual conversation with their 13-year-old son during confession, the documents show.
The warnings would continue in letters from parishioners and in internal diocese correspondence.
But Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, then bishop of Peoria, says he missed it all.
In a deposition unsealed as part of a $1.35 million settlement with one of Maloney’s alleged victims, Myers said he had no inkling Maloney — a friend who vacationed with him and lavished him with gifts of jewelry, gold coins and cash — was a potential molester.
"I did not have any suspicions," Myers said in the deposition, taken in Newark in 2010. "I — because of the, perhaps slipshod filing system that we had between the two different buildings of the office of the bishop, there may have been things that got by me. But I did not have any suspicions."
The deposition — released publicly Tuesday with a trove of letters and other diocese documents — provides a window into Myers’ unswerving support of Maloney. It also suggests the protection of predatory priests in Peoria trumped the protection of children, according to the parents of one of Maloney’s alleged victims and the lawyer who represented them in the long-running civil suit.
They say it is a pattern that has repeated itself in Newark, where Myers has come under fierce criticism in recent months for his handling of priests accused of abusing children.
"What you have here is a bishop complicit in the crime of child sexual abuse," Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota lawyer who filed the suit on behalf of the alleged victim, said Tuesday during a press conference outside Myers’ office in Newark. "The legacy of Myers and the choices he makes is alive and well and in the present."
Jim Goodness, a spokesman for Myers, declined to comment on the release of the deposition and other documents. He also would not directly address comments made by Anderson or the alleged victim’s parents, Joanne and David Ward.
"The record in Newark has been very clear," Goodness said in a statement. "The archbishop has consistently reported all allegations to authorities, has provided outreach to victims, and has removed priests."
Holding a poster with side-by-side photos of her son as an 8-year-old — his age at the time of the alleged abuse — Joanne Ward characterized the archbishop as a liar who knew full well Maloney, whom Myers helped elevate to monsignor, was a danger to children.
Andrew Ward, the family contended in the suit, was molested by Maloney in 1995 and 1996, nearly a year after the complaint by the woman who said Maloney abused her as a child.
"Bishop Myers knew Monsignor Maloney was molesting children and allowed him to go into my son’s school, and because of that, my family went through devastation," said Joanne Ward, 50. "I don’t want the resignation. I want Bishop Myers to go to jail as a predator because he was the one who played the chess game in allowing predators to be placed in our children’s school."
By reading the deposition, she and her attorney contend, it became clear Myers was obfuscating, repeatedly saying he did not recall receiving gifts from Maloney or hearing reports of other abusive priests.
At one point in the deposition, Myers said he didn’t recall writing a letter to a woman who had contacted the diocese in 2000 to express concerns about Maloney’s behavior with young girls.
"I do know that Father loves people, especially young people, and that he cares for them generously," Myers wrote in the letter, which was produced as evidence in the civil case. "We have never had allegations of impropriety."
Myers did say under questioning that he had removed five priests from ministry over claims of sexual abuse in Peoria, but he could not recall if anyone in the diocese reported those allegations to police. He said he forwarded suspicious complaints to the vicar general or chancellor and left it at that.
"I would copy them with correspondence and they knew that my general expectation is that it would be dealt with," he said. "Whether I gave a direct order to report to the authorities I don’t recall."
Andrew Ward, now 25, was an altar boy at Epiphany Church in Normal, Ill., and a student at the parish school when the alleged abuse took place. Over the next decade, as he maintained his silence, he spiraled into drug and alcohol abuse, his parents said.
It wasn’t until 2007 that he told them what had happened, they said. The family went to police but could not bring a criminal case because there were no witnesses, the parents said.
What police didn’t know — what the Diocese of Peoria never told them — is that Maloney had been accused before and that his personnel file was filled with reports of questionable or salacious behavior.
After the family filed suit in 2008, three other people — two women and a man — came forward and provided sworn statements saying they, too, were abused by Maloney as children. Maloney died in 2009 at age 73. At the time, he remained a priest in good standing.
The Wards said Tuesday they were intent on bringing their suit to trial to expose the actions of Myers and the Diocese of Peoria. They said they settled only because the diocese agreed to make Myers’ deposition and the other documents public as part of the deal.
Andrew Ward, now a college student, did not attend the press conference. In a statement read aloud by his father, he said he was speaking out and allowing his name to be used publicly "so that the diocese and those top people aren’t allowed to continue to lie and deny and blame victims like me."
The family and their lawyer called on Myers to release the names of all priests in the Newark Archdiocese who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse, a move Myers has steadfastly resisted.
Robert Hoatson, a former priest and the founder of the support group Road to Recovery, called on Myers to resign.
"We have heard enough of his cover-ups, his defense and promotion of pedophile priests and repeated nose-thumbing of victims, law enforcement officials and parishioners," Hoatson said.