In an open letter last week to all of the priests of his archdiocese, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers responded to "false" and "deceitful" reporting that has characterized the recent frenzied media coverage of a case involving Myers' supervision of a now-dead priest decades ago in the 1990s in the Diocese of Peoria (Illinois) when he was a bishop there.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger newspaper – which has relentlessly attacked Archbishop Myers this year – has claimed that Myers did nothing after he received first-hand knowledge that a priest under his watch in Peoria was accused of abuse.
In truth, after a thorough examination of the matter by TheMediaReport.com, the facts are clear: Myers, while he was Bishop of Peoria, had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of any sex abuse committed by the particular priest in question, and the Star-Ledger has uncritically trumpeted the unfounded claims of Jeff Anderson, the high-profile contingency lawyer who has an extensive history of disseminating misinformation and malice against the Church, and who has been at the center of a money-seeking lawsuit in this case.
Moran's world of facts
A recent article by the Star-Ledger's Editorial Page Editor, Tom Moran, contains an eye-opening number of outright falsehoods that falsely attack Archbishop Myers regarding his relationship to the abuse case:
1. In trying to portray Myers as having a close personal relationship with an accused priest and thus connecting him to the abuse that has been alleged, Moran claims that Archbishop Myers "vacationed" with the priest in question.
(From page 22:)
Q. And did you ever vacation and travel with [the accused priest]?
(From page 136:)
Q. And would [the accused priest] vacation with you?
Moran's claim is thus patently false.2. Again trying to portray Myers as closer to the accused priest than he actually was, Moran claims that the priest "showered [Myers] with gifts of silver, gold coins and even cash."
In fact, as Myers pointed out in the 2010 deposition and in his letter last week, the gifts from the priest in question were typical of the tokens that just about every bishop receives from priests around Christmastime and at times when bishops visit parishes for Confirmations and other events.
Spread out over the course of over a decade – the period of time that Myers was Bishop of Peoria overseeing the priest in question – the number of gifts and their value are hardly noteworthy at all.
Therefore, Moran's characterization that suggests something unethical about these token gifts is grossly misleading.
3. Most importantly, Moran egregiously smears Archbishop Myers claiming that there is "convincing evidence" that Myers heard "a credible complaint of sexual abuse" against the priest in question, "hid the fact," "allow[ed] the abuser to search for a fresh victim among the children of the faithful," and then "lied" about his knowledge of the complaint.
It cannot be overstated that this set of claims from Moran is manifestly bogus. In fact, there is not a single shred of evidence that at any time during his tenure in Peoria that Myers had any personal knowledge or suspicion whatsoever of sexual abuse by the accused priest in question. Here is Anderson again questioning Myers at the four-hour deposition:
(from page 88)
Q. What was the first indication you personally had that [the accused priest] had either been reported to have committed sexual abuse or there were suspicions of him having committed sexual abuse by diocesan officials from Peoria?
A. I think it would be at the time of this publication of this [2008 newspaper] article.
Again, there was nothing in Myers' deposition to even suggest that he was being anything other than truthful.
Myers left his position as Bishop of Peoria to become Archbishop of Newark in 2001. In 2002, the accused priest retired with health issues. The accuser filed his lawsuit in 2008, and the accused priest died after a lengthy illness in 2009 at the age of 73.
4. Moran also claims that a woman actually wrote personally to then-Bishop Myers and "complained that [the] priest had abused her as a child."
In fact, no such letter at all was ever written to Myers in all his years in Peoria.
It must be reiterated that Moran's depiction that Myers in Peoria knew of sexual abuse by the particular priest in question is 100% false. Even lawyer Jeff Anderson has not been able to provide a single shred of evidence that Myers knew of the accused priest's alleged abuse at any point before newspaper accounts were published years after Myers left Peoria.
Moran's proud bigotryIt should be noted that Moran has openly admitted his bigotry and hostility against the Catholic Church in an opinion piece just last year, describing himself as a "spiritual refugee" who has proudly "fled a million miles from the church."
Naturally, Moran is also an avowed leftist who openly opposes many of the Church's teachings, like those on gay "marriage" and abortion. And he is still incensed, apparently, that when his sister wrote a letter decades ago to the Vatican when she was 10 years old asking why she could not be an altar girl, she did not receive a personal written response.
So now it appears that Moran's bigotry and bitterness has actually resulted in him ignoring his journalistic obligations to get his facts straight in order to engage in a vengeful jihad against Archbishop Myers over a decades-old matter.
Moran doggedly seeks to portray Archbishop Myers (and the whole Catholic hierarchy, for that matter) as insensitive to the protection of children, and, yet once again, nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, Myers removed several priests from ministry in Peoria for abuse when he was the bishop there. From Myers' letter:
"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 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."
In light of the Star-Ledger's ongoing attacks on Archbishop Myers over the last several months, it is pretty obvious that the paper is gunning for the man's resignation. It will have little luck doing so, however, and will only likely embarrass itself further for its lack of journalistic integrity and standards in its grudge campaign against Myers.
And it is no secret at that those who harbor a deep animus against the Church, like members of the hate group SNAP, deliberately flood the email inboxes at newspapers – under the deceitful and bogus premise of being "concerned, lifelong Catholics" – to spur coverage unfavorable to the Church.
And, unfortunately, folks like Moran at the Star-Ledger are more than happy to oblige.
We urge Archbishop Myers to stand firm against this false attack from Tom Moran and the New Jersey Star-Ledger and ask that honest, clear-thinking citizens cancel their subscriptions to the paper.
**UPDATE**, 8/27/13: The Star-Ledger published the following correction in its print edition on Sunday, 8/25/13:
In a column on Aug. 14, Tom Moran incorrectly stated that Newark Archbishop John J. Myers vacationed with a priest who was later accused of child abuse. The bishop of Peoria, Ill., Myers invited the priest on two vacations, but did not actually vacation with him. In addition, the column misidentified the recipient of a letter Myers wrote in 2000 in which he falsely claimed the diocese had received no prior complaints about the priest.
We are pleased that the paper at least acknowledged some of its mistakes.