NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – The Roman Catholic archbishop of Newark, N.J., has issued a scathing rebuke to his critics, blasting them as “evil, wrong, immoral” for questioning his handling of an allegation of sex abuse in his previous diocese in Illinois.
In a letter to clergy, Archbishop John J. Myers defends himself in the case of a man who sued the Diocese of Peoria, Ill., which Myers helmed from 1990 to 2001. In a 2010 deposition that a lawyer for the accuser recently released, Myers said he did not know of other allegations against Monsignor Thomas Maloney. The diocese of Peoria reached a $1.35 million settlement in the case this month.
The deposition said diocesan correspondence recorded one allegation of abuse and another of inappropriate behavior against Maloney, but Myers said they may have been lost in the diocese’s slipshod filing system and did not cross his desk. Myers said he wasn’t alerted to the allegations and didn’t see them when reviewing Maloney’s files while recommending him for a promotion in 2000. Maloney died in 2009.
“At no time was I ever aware that some people thought him to be a threat to children or young people,” Myers wrote, noting the case that recently settled was brought to the attention of the Diocese of Peoria in 2007, years after he left.
He reserved his harshest words for his most vocal critics, namely former priests, and questioned their motives.
“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 reason and agenda,” the letter continued. “And God will surely address them in due time.”
Myers also excoriated New Jersey media for their coverage of the story, saying it provided “deceitful and misleading information.” Myers said he has a duty to denounce impressions “presented as false and harmful to many people.”
Myers also suggested that priests could be falsely accused of abuse.
“One can understand when family difficulties lead parents, even by conjecture, to blame someone outside the family,” he wrote. “But conjecture is no reason to undermine the ministry of individual priests.”
Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for the man who accused Maloney of abuse, said the letter is proof that Myers has a clerical mindset that he’s above the law.
“His comments reflect a mentality that goes back to a different century and is a reflection of the depths and the breadth of the problem at the top of the Archdiocese of Newark,” Anderson said.
Such strongly worded messages from high-ranking Catholic officials are rare. In 1992, Cardinal Bernard F. Law in Boston called for God’s power to come down on the media, particularly The Boston Globe. He resigned 10 years later, nearly a year after the newspaper exposed the cover-up of clergy sexual abuse in the archdiocese.
Myers has been under fire in Newark for his handling of the case of the Rev. Michael Fugee, who confessed to grabbing a boy’s crotch but returned to the ministry under an agreement between prosecutors and the archdiocese that he be kept from unsupervised contact with minors.
Instead, authorities say, Fugee became a fixture at a youth group. He resigned in June, and some have called for Myers to resign in the wake of the case.
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