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Making Church Leaders Pay for their Negligence

Criminal trials aren’t always the most effective way to hold negligent parties accountable for their wrongdoing. In the case of Andrew Ward, a young man who was sexually abused as a child by Peoria, Ill. priest Thomas Maloney, the civil lawsuit that his family launched against the Diocese of Peoria is making the church pay in the way that hurts the most-with information.Andrew alleges that he was molested by Rev. Maloney in 1995 and 1996, though he did not come forward as a victim until 2007, following years of struggle with drugs and alcohol stemming from his trauma. His family brought suit against Maloney and the Peoria Diocese in order to bring to light the widespread abuse that was perpetrated by Maloney and was enabled by the negligence of Peoria Bishop John J. Myers.The Ward family agreed to a settlement of $1.35 million, with the condition that a 2010 deposition of Archbishop Myers and a trove of incriminating church documents be released to the public.Among these documents are letters from Peoria parishioners accusing Rev. Maloney of sexual abuse, dating back a year before his molestation of Andrew. Had Archbishop Myers taken any action against Rev. Maloney in response to these complaints, Andrew, as well as many other victims may have been saved from the childhood trauma that has and continues to wreak havoc on their lives.But Archbishop Myers claims ignorance to the letters of complaint sent to his office. In his deposition he even asserted that he did not recall personally responding to one such letter, defending Rev. Maloney to a woman who accused the priest of molesting young girls.Nor did Archbishop Myers find it relevant to the case that he received various gifts of jewelry and gold coins from Rev. Maloney, or that the two vacationed together.In response to the release of this information, Archbishop Myers has sent out a letter asserting his innocence to the priests of his current Archdiocese in Newark, NJ. In the letter he paints the Ward family as lashing out against the priesthood as a way to cope with their son’s substance abuse. He calls his accusers “evil, wrong, immoral, and seemingly focused on their own self-aggrandizement.”Unfortunately the abuse that occurred on Archbishop Myers’ watch does not stop at Rev. Maloney. Newark priest Michael Fugee kicked up a scandal earlier this year when, after being convicted of the sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy in 2003, he violated a court agreement by attending a number of youth retreats at a Trenton parish. Monseigneur John Doran, the Newark’s Archdiocese’s second-in-command resigned in light of the allegations. Archbishop Myers claimed he was unaware of Father Fugee’s actions until after it was reported by local news sources.Cases of sexual abuse against minors are nothing new in the Catholic Church, and the pattern of negligence and abuse will continue so long as the likes of Archbishop Myers are allowed to turn a blind eye on guilty priests. The civil lawsuit brought by the Ward family, and their insistence on the release of church documents related to their handling of Rev. Maloney is an essential step forward in holding church leaders accountable for their negligence.Sources:National Catholic Register, “Archbishop Myers: The Facts of the Father Fugee Case Aren’t Fully Known,” June 25 2013.NJ.com, “In deposition, Newark archbishop says warning signs of sexual abuse by priest ‘got by me’,” August 14 2013.NorthJersey.com, “Archbishop Myers fires back in letter to the faithful,” August 19 2013.