NEWARK, N.J. — In a sharply worded offensive, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers lashed out at the media and his critics, saying he has been the target of “deceitful and misleading” information about his oversight of sexually abusive priests.
Myers, who has limited his public comments in the face of a string of recent scandals, took broad aim in the letter, addressed to his priests and distributed Aug. 13-14 to parishioners at weekend services.
In addition to the media, he questioned the motivations of politicians and former or retired clergy members who have spoken out against him, terming them “traveling bandwagons” and suggesting they have a prejudiced and spiteful view of the Roman Catholic faith.
He suggested, too, they would be judged by God.
“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,” Myers wrote. “God only knows their personal reasons and agenda. We are still called to love them. And God will surely address them in due time.”
Myers wrote the letter in response to recent reports about a $1.35 million settlement between the Diocese of Peoria, Ill., (where Myers was bishop from 1990 to 2001) and the family of a man who contends an Illinois priest abused him as a child in 1995 and 1996.
At an Aug. 16 press conference in Newark, the mother of the man publicly blamed Myers for her son’s alleged abuse at the hands of the Rev. Thomas Maloney, saying Myers failed to remove Maloney from ministry despite an earlier allegation against him.
Myers, in a 2010 deposition in the case, said he had no knowledge of any allegations against Maloney until long after he left Peoria. Documents produced in the legal case show Myers was copied on certain memos with potentially incriminating information about Maloney, but the archbishop said he didn’t see them.
In his weekend letter to priests, Myers reiterated that he didn’t know about the claims.
“At no time was I ever aware that some people thought him to be a threat to children or young people,” he said.
Maloney died in 2009.
He also suggested the media should investigate the “records and personal lifestyles” of former, retired or “marginalized” priests who have criticized his record in Newark and Peoria.
Two former priests, one in Peoria and one in New Jersey, are members of the newly formed group “Catholic Whistleblowers,” which claims the church has not done enough to address the clergy sex abuse crisis.
The retired Peoria priest, the Rev. Patrick Collins, said he stands by his criticism of the archbishop.
“I’m not out to hurt him,” Collins said. “I’m just out to get the truth, and I think given the situation he’s in, he should resign.”
(Mark Mueller writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark.)
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