For immediate release: Tuesday, Aug. 20
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
It’s inappropriate and unseemly for a purported shepherd to use religious services to harshly attack the motives of others. It’s always suspect when a powerful officials claims the news media is to blame for his difficulties.
And it’s extraordinarily cruel to publicly accuse an abuse victims parents of trying to “undermine the Ministry of individual Priests . . .or Bishops (sic),” as Myers did on Sunday.
Andrew Ward’s brave and caring mom and dad are trying to deter cover ups, not “undermine Ministry.” They are to be commended, not censured, and especially not censured from pulpits paid for by parishioners.
Shame on Myers for heaping even more pain on this family that has already suffered immeasurably.
Myers selfishly exploited his “captive audience” last Sunday for his personal defense. He cynically tries to conflate his own justifiably-tattered reputation with “our Roman Catholic Faith and its Teachings.” But every Catholic knows there’s a difference between one individual bishop’s wrongdoing and the entire collective Catholic faith. To claim otherwise is perverse.
Demanding that Myers apologize or step down is meaningless. The Vatican, not Myers, should take the next step. And that step should be to denounce and demote this selfish man.
Finally, almost 15 years ago, when the first clergy sex abuse and cover up case began to attract national attention, Catholic officials in Louisiana urged their flock to stop reading and buying a local newspaper.
Now, a New Jersey priest – Fr. Jim Chern - advocates a similar tactic, as has Cardinal Justin Rigali in Philadelphia and so many other Catholic officials. Shame on each of them.
The reverse, is of course, true: Kids are safer when adults read and learn more, not less, about child sex crimes and cover ups.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 15,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
LETTER FROM ARCHBISHOP MYERS
My Dear Brother Priests in the Archdiocese of Newark:
This past week local media, once again, provided deceitful and misleading information about situations in the Diocese of Peoria and in this Archdiocese. I am duty bound to denounce the impressions presented as false and harmful to many people. They can also be confusing to many others.
To the best of my knowledge, the particular case cited was brought to the attention of the officials in the Peoria Diocese in or about 2007, more than five years after I left that Diocese and arrived in New Jersey.
In the deposition given by me and selectively quoted by an interested attorney, some upset parents, and a former Priest of this Archdiocese, I spoke under oath and truthfully about matters relating to a certain Priest. I never vacationed with him, and I received no gifts other than those often given to a bishop by Pastors or Parishes. Since we were both coin collectors, I recall that he once gave me a coin of minimal value of which he had several examples. At no time was I ever aware that some people thought him to be a threat to children or young people. Officials at the Diocese of Peoria who investigated an earlier case during my years there found that no allegation was sufficiently supported by evidence. In 2007, when Law Enforcement officials investigated the case cited in the lawsuit, the Diocese of Peoria provided all information concerning the earlier case. That investigation by the authorities determined that neither allegation had any basis for any criminal action. If the opposite had been the case, I would have acted to protect children and young people as I did on any other occasions in Illinois and here in New Jersey. Priests would have been taken out of Ministry as I have done in both locations. Children should never be at risk in so far as we can know.
In Peoria, as here, even before the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children, either I or other representatives of the Diocese met with those making allegations and often their families, and offered and provided counseling or other methods of support. One can understand when family difficulties lead parents, even by conjecture, to blame someone outside the family, but conjecture is no reason to undermine the Ministry of individual Priests (or Bishops, for that matter).
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 either the Archdiocese of Newark or the Diocese of Peoria. One might also ask what are the true motivations of all who have become a part of these 'traveling bandwagons' - including our local media representatives and politicians? What is their own historical and present relationship or animus against our Roman Catholic Faith and its Teachings, the Teachings of which I have always been a staunch and outspoken supporter, despite their 'unpopularity' in the secular and 'politically correct' society that has developed around us?
For those who are truly with us -the Church -in the protection of children, they have my respect, gratitude, and embrace. For any who set out to claim that I or the Church have had no effective part in the love and protection of children, is simply evil, wrong, immoral, and seemingly focused on their own self-aggrandizement. God only knows their personal reasons and agenda. We are still called to love them. And God will surely address them in due time.
Please feel free to share this with your parishioners, and all who are interested in the truth. I thank you sincerely for your continued leadership, Priestly Ministry, prayers, and support. Know that you can count on mine in return.
With kindest personal regards, I am
+Most Reverend John J. Myers
Archbishop of Newark
Archbishop Myers fires back in letter to the faithful
MONDAY AUGUST 19, 2013, 10:19 PM-BY JEFF GREEN - STAFF WRITER - THE RECORD
A defiant Newark archbishop lashed out at critics in a letter to Catholic clergy, defending his handling of an alleged pedophile priest and denouncing the media, victims’ advocates and politicians as “evil” for distorting his record.
John J. Myers distributed the letter in response to press accounts that detailed a 2010 deposition in which he denied knowing about a priest’s alleged sexual abuses while he was bishop of an Illinois diocese. But during Myers’ time as bishop in Peoria, the diocese received an allegation that the priest had molested a child and that no action was taken, according to records made public in the settlement.
In the letter, which Myers urged priests to share with churchgoers, the archbishop declared that anyone who claims that he had “no effective part” in protecting children from abuse is “simply evil, wrong, immoral and seemingly focused on their own self-aggrandizement.”
“God only knows their personal reasons and agenda,” the archbishop wrote. “We are still called to love them. And God will surely address them in due time.”
Francis Fiorenza, professor of Catholic Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School, said he has never seen such a strongly worded statement from a bishop. Many Roman Catholic prelates have gone on the defensive during the decades-long sex-abuse scandal, but Myers may be the first to cast their critics and the media as sinners, he said.
“That’s the old story of you kill the messenger,” Fiorenza said. “It’s a rare case, in these times especially.”
Andrew Ward alleged in a lawsuit that he was molested by Monsignor Thomas W. Maloney in 1996, only a month after the diocese received a complaint from a woman who said she was abused by the same priest when she was a child. A $1.35 million settlement in his suit against the Peoria diocese was announced last week.
A top Myers aide received the woman’s complaint and took no action against the priest, but Myers testified in the deposition that he never saw the report and that it possibly was lost in the diocese’s “slipshod filing system.” Ward’s parents and lawyer insisted that as the leader of the diocese, there is no way he would not have received that information.
In his letter, the archbishop said media reports about the case “provided deceitful and misleading information” and that he had a duty to correct it. Myers said he told the truth in his testimony, reiterating that he did not have suspicions that Maloney was abusing children.
“One can understand when family difficulties lead parents, even by conjecture, to blame someone outside the family, but conjecture is no reason to undermine [priests] or bishops, for that matter,” Myers wrote, apparently alluding to drug and criminal problems Andrew Ward had as a child and young adult.
Ward’s mother, Joanne, said she was stunned by the archbishop’s words and that he struck an intimidating tone toward victims of clergy sexual abuse and their supporters. If she was abused by a priest, she said the letter “would make me so afraid, and that makes me sad.”
Patrick J. Wall, a canon lawyer and former priest who has assisted the Wards in their lawsuit, said the letter was a “clear attack” against the family’s legal team and victims’ advocates.
“It’s completely disingenuous that he’s not aware of these incident reports," Wall said. "He’s supposed to be aware of them.”
The Rev. Jim Chern, the Catholic chaplain at Montclair State University, posted Myers’ letter to a personal blog over the weekend, repeating some of the archbishop’s arguments. He implored readers to think twice about purchasing local newspapers, saying that one unnamed paper “has made it one of their goals to force our Archbishop John J. Myers to resign.”
Myers wrote that his former diocese provided Illinois authorities with the initial abuse claim when they investigated Maloney in 2007. He said police found that neither of the complaints “had a basis for criminal action.” Ward’s lawyer disputed those assertions last week, saying police never saw the woman’s complaint during their inquiry.
Police did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Letters in Maloney’s personnel file show that Myers invited the priest on at least two vacations, including a weeklong visit to Greece, and that they dined together with friends, once on the archbishop’s birthday. In one letter, Myers wrote that he did not “ever expect to ‘profit’ from our friendship.”
In his letter to clergy, Myers downplayed his relationship with the priest, writing that he never vacationed with Maloney and that he only remembered receiving customary gifts from him, including a “coin of minimal value.” The archbishop testified that he did not consider the priest to be a “very close personal friend.”
“The file absolutely speaks differently,” said Mark Crawford, the New Jersey director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
A Myers spokesman did not return multiple calls for comment Monday.
Victims’ advocates and several Democratic state lawmakers have called on Myers to resign over his handling of recent sex-abuse controversies in the Newark Archdoicese. Critics have said Myers did not do enough to supervise the Rev. Michael Fugee, who was arrested in May for allegedly violating a ban on ministering to children, and that he allowed another cleric to live in the rectory of an Oradell parish without alerting parishioners about his past as an alleged abuser.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: Jeff_A_Green