The Record: Archbishop John J. Myers Blames His Critics

The Record
August 21, 2013

Newark archbishop John J. Meyers.

NEWARK ARCHBISHOP John J. Myers does not like criticism. In an Aug. 15 letter to priests of his archdiocese, Myers declared that those who question his or the Catholic Church's role in protecting children are "simply evil, wrong, immoral, and seemingly focused on their own self-aggrandizement." Myers has the advantage of being in a job not affected by popular opinion or newspaper editorials. Only Pope Francis can remove him from his position in Newark. The archbishop is miffed that the media, politicians and, yes, the children victimized by clergy, most of them now adults, and their families continue to demand answers and accountability from him. The sexual abuse of minors by clergy is not a myth or the brainchild of anti-Catholic publicity seekers. The U.S. bishops have acknowledged that too many predator priests were allowed to emotionally scar the children they were ordained to protect because too many bishops put the image of the institutional church ahead of the image of the man upon whom that church was founded. Myers, before coming to Newark, was the bishop of Peoria, Ill. That diocese reached a $1.35 million settlement, announced last week, with a man who claimed he had been molested by a priest in 1996, a month after the diocese received a complaint from a woman claiming to have been abused as a child by the same priest. Myers denies any knowledge of that woman's complaint and said the diocese may have lost it because of a "slipshod filing system." His explanation is slipshod as well. In New Jersey, the Newark Archdiocese entered into an agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office that barred a priest who had been convicted of groping a minor from having future contact with minors. The conviction had been overturned because of a judicial error; the agreement with county law enforcement was supposed to keep the priest, Michael Fugee, away from children. That did not occur. Myers did not take responsibility for that either. But the archdiocese's second-in-command, Monsignor John E. Doran, resigned in the wake of the scandal. The lack of confidence in Myers comes not from malice toward the Catholic Church but from anger at church officials who put themselves above reproach. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has committed itself to ending a cycle of abuse and secrecy. But the conference is undermined by bishops who view those who speak of abuse as suspects rather than victims. Myers wrote: "One might ask why the representatives of the media do not explore the records of those who are raising false and misleading statements, perhaps for their own benefit, and the records and personal lifestyles of either disgruntled former, or marginalized and retired clergy of the Archdiocese of Newark or the Diocese of Peoria." These are not the words of a shepherd. We continue to hope the Vatican takes action and either appoints a coadjutor bishop — a bishop who will run the Newark Archdiocese until Myers retires — or reassigns Myers. The archbishop apparently believes criticism is an act of evil. Not all men of the church have felt that way. The Gospel of Matthew says: "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" Myers should start sawing.


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