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Report: Myers 'shielded' sex abuse in Church

Criticized Newark Archbishop also leads Hall’s Boards of Regents, Trustees

By Brian Wisowaty
On December 8, 2010

 

A Sunday Star-Ledger article reported that Newark Archbishop John Myers has "shielded" priests accused of sexual abuse.

Myers is both the chair of the Board of Trustees and president of the Board of Regents at Seton Hall.

The piece, written by Star-Ledger religion reporter Jeff Diamant, followed a review of Myers' record with handling sexual abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Newark.

It says that four priests involved with misconduct, either after admitting to it or being convicted of related crimes, received treatment from Myers that did not reflect the Dallas Charter.

The charter, a 2002 document, was ratified to keep sexual abuse from priests in the Catholic Church as transparent to parishioners as possible.

Since the article's publication, Jim Goodness, director of communication for the Archdiocese, has submitted to the Star-Ledger, a five-page response to the report claiming it was "misleading" and "outright wrong."

Goodness also addressed the article to The Setonian on Wednesday.

"I'm not releasing much more than the statement (to the Ledger)," Goodness said. "There is a comprehensive approach the Church is taking (to the abuse scandal) that is open and transparent."

Goodness spoke about the University and the Church, too, stating that all seminarian candidates at Seton Hall undergo a background screening and that members of Campus Ministry are trained in regards to the abuse scandal.

Some specifics reported by Diamant in the Star-Ledger include a priest who confessed to molestation of a minor eight years ago, but was then reassigned to be a chaplain at a Newark hospital last year. The article says the hospital – St. Michael's – was never informed of the priest's past.

Goodness said the Archdiocese acted appropriately by informing the local parish of the priest as well as the media when he confessed to the molestation.

Goodness also added that the case had been closed by both court and church officials before the priest's assignment to St. Michael's.

Another claim in the Diamant report involved a priest accused of home invasion and assault in 2004 who the Archdiocese wrote letters of recommendation for.

Goodness said of the recommendation letters that the charges against the priest were not "definitive" and thus were omitted from the letters as they were sent, intended for the priest who was seeking work in Florida.

He also said that an official for the Archdiocese told any Florida church that considered hiring the accused priest to not assign him to a parish, and that he should return to Newark instead.

Anne Barrett-Doyle, co-director of the site bishopaccountability.org, spoke negatively of Myers in the Star-Ledger story.

She told The Setonian that Myers' actions were "appalling…so careless and reckless in his own diocese."

"Once I learned about him (Myers), I was absolutely dismayed in how he handled abuses," Barrett-Doyle said. "Students should invite him (to campus) and urge him to come defend himself…have a terrific debate about the sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Newark." 

The Ledger has not released a subsequent article to follow the Goodness statement, where he also said that the Archdiocese of Newark "helped develop and implement a program of sexual abuse awareness training that is in use in dioceses throughout the country."

 

Myers also served on an Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.

Myers could not be reached for this story, as Goodness has addressed all media inquiries regarding the Star-Ledger article.

Brian Wisowaty can be reached at brian.wisowaty@student.shu.edu. 


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