North Jersey Churchgoers Voice Skepticism about Archbishop - See More At: Http://

By Eff Green
The Record
August 18, 2013

Archbishop John Myers of the Archdiocese of Newark

One churchgoer on Sunday said he has a hard time buying the Newark archbishop’s explanation after a settlement was announced last week between an alleged sex-abuse victim and the Illinois diocese the archbishop once led. Others said he has made mistakes, with a few echoing the suggestion of some state lawmakers that he step down.

Only a few of the more than dozen parishioners interviewed on Sunday praised Archbishop John J. Myers’ leadership and his handling of three priests accused of molesting children.

Following the 10:30 Mass at Our Lady of Visitation in Paramus, Dr. Lino Mier called on Myers to “accept responsibility” in the case that led to the Illinois settlement. The victim’s parents charged that Myers, who led the Peoria Diocese between 1990 and 2001, failed to keep a predator priest from their child and others by not acting on a woman’s abuse claim.

Documents released last week revealed that a top Myers aide received a molestation complaint about the priest and that no action was taken. Myers testified in a deposition that the complaint got lost in the diocese’s “slipshod filing system” and he never saw it.

But Mier said the archbishop is a “well-informed person” who is now looking for scapegoats.

“He’s the one who is in charge, he knows what’s going on, he knows about the priest,” Mier said. “I don’t know about him resigning. … People in high places should take responsibility and acknowledge [sex abuse by priests] happens, and make sure they don’t happen again.”

Mier said he stopped donating to an annual archdiocese fund because of the sex-abuse lawsuits. “I personally think it’s been a coverup on his part,” he said. “You can’t be too blind about this. The public cannot be easily fooled.”

Other churchgoers said they were unaware of the Peoria case, but expressed disappointment about Myers’ handling of the Rev. Michael Fugee, arrested in May for allegedly violating a ban on ministering to children.

One Our Lady of Visitation parishioner — who only gave her first name, Christina — said she was upset with the archbishop after finding out that Fugee had allegedly heard confessions of children at her parish.

She said perhaps Myers should resign for showing poor judgment for not keeping a close eye on Fugee.

“Too many things are covered up,” she said. “He should have been more aware. It’s irresponsible.”

Christina, whose two young children attend a school affiliated with the parish, said she wouldn’t want them to be around a priest accused of abuse. “After that accusation, there should be no contact,” she said.

Another Our Lady of Visitation parishioner said of Myers, “Don’t believe everything you read. He’s a fine gentleman. He’s just a wonderful man, and I love him.”

At Sacred Heart Church in Rochelle Park, another parish where authorities say Fugee heard confessions of children, parishioners said they’ll reserve judgment on Myers until Bergen County prosecutors complete an investigation entering its fifth month.

Ralph Guerra, a parishioner of 30 years, said “it’s hard not to have a witch hunt,” but all the facts need to come out.

“It’s unfair to presume somebody’s guilty,” he said. “The bottom line is, justice will prevail.”

A church volunteer who declined to give her name said she, too, will look to authorities for more answers.

“If they find that someone should be held accountable, I have trust in that,” she said. “If [Myers] flat out did something wrong, then ‘get out.’Y”

The volunteer called on Myers to give clearer direction to pastors on how to handle priests accused of abusing children.

Fugee was found guilty in 2003 of groping a 13-year-old boy but his conviction was overturned a few years later because of a judicial error. He and the archdiocese later signed the agreement with prosecutors that prohibited his work with minors.

Myers has said he lived up to his end of the deal and that Fugee’s activities with youth were unknown to him until the press reported them.

Last month, the pastor of an Oradell parish resigned after it was revealed that he and the archdiocese allowed the Rev. Robert Chabak to live in the church rectory. Parishioners were not informed that Chabak was removed from the ministry after the church found “sufficient evidence” that he had abused a teenage boy in the 1970s.

A poll conducted in March by the Pew Research Institute found that 70 percent of Catholics said addressing the church’s sex-abuse scandal should be Pope Francis’ top priority. A parishioner of St. Anne Church in Fair Lawn said Myers also needs to show leadership on the issue.

“It’s very tragic what’s happened to the church, it’s difficult for people to understand,” she said. “We know most importantly that children have to be protected.”









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