Appreciation for those who stood up to Catholic Church hierarchy: Editorial
By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
May 11, 2013
Criticizing the Catholic Church is not easy for a politician. The church is naturally organized, politically engaged, and many of its followers are fiercely loyal. The easy path is to be quiet, to keep a safe distance.
So take a moment to appreciate the courage shown by those few politicians who have called for the resignation of Newark Archbishop John Myers over his failure to abide by a legally binding agreement to keep a sexually abusive priest away from children.
Myers has still not said a word. He sent his spokesman out to indignantly deny the agreement was broken, and then sent him back a few days later to admit that it was indeed broken. The archbishop’s personal silence, in the face of a storm of protest, testifies to his inability to justify his failure to protect children under his care.
Among those who called for Myers’ resignation is Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), the likely Democratic candidate for governor. Gov. Chris Christie has so far punted, saying he wanted to speak with the archbishop first. Nearly two weeks have passed since the news broke, and still no word from the governor’s office on his conversastion with Myers.
Our outspoken governor, in other words, is taking shelter in the safe haven of silence.
Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex) and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-Bergen), both wrote heartfelt op-ed pieces in the Star-Ledger calling for Myers to resign. And U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) issued statements to the same effect.
All of these politicians are Catholic, with the exception of Buono, who was raised Catholic and converted to Judaism when she married a Jewish man.
That’s no surprise. To find most vehement objections to the behavior of the church hierarchy over its handling of sexual abuse cases, go to your local church. Many Catholics feel betrayed, that something they treasure has been tarnished.
And not all members of the hierarchy treat the problem as casually as Myers has. Trenton Bishop David O’Connell acted swiftly to accept the resignation of the Rev. Thomas Triggs, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck, whose youth ministers invited the abusive priest, Michael Fugee, to attend youth retreats and other activities with teens in the parish.
A diocesan priest, the Rev. John Bambrick, is an advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse, has been outspoken about Myers behavior, saying Myers has “erased 10 years of hard work by the church in the United States to ensure people are safe.”
It is gratifying to see Myers’ silence answered with such conviction. This is not just a church matter. Myers’ representative signed a legal agreement with prosecutors in Bergen County. Any citizen has a right to object. The politicians who have done so, and the members of the church who have, deserve our gratitude for stepping up on behalf of children.