NEWARK, N.J. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The retired archbishop of Newark, New Jersey died on Thursday, leaving behind reports of conservatism and cover-up.
Church officials announced that Abp. John J. Myers died on Thursday at the age of 79. He was shepherd of the Newark archdiocese for 15 years until his 2017 retirement.
"On behalf of my brother bishops and the entire family of God here in our local church of Newark, I extend my heartfelt prayers and condolences to his family," said Cdl. Joseph Tobin, who now heads the Newark archdiocese. "Let us thank God for archbishop Myers' service and his love of our Church. I entrust him to the loving arms of our Blessed Mother Mary, and I pray that Our Lord grant him peace."
Originally from Illinois, Myers was ordained to the priesthood in 1966, installed as the bishop of Peoria, Illinois in 1987 and archbishop of Newark in 2001. He died in a senior living facility in Illinois.
Myers succeeded disgraced homosexual predator Theodore McCarrick as archbishop of Newark after the ex-cardinal was sent to Washington, D.C. Pro-homosexual Cdl. Tobin succeeded Myers after his retirement.
While serving in Peoria, Myers was considered conservative, according to the Journal Star, the local newspaper for Peoria. The paper reported Myers stopped a bishop from meeting with a progressive group and chided priests for distributing Holy Communion to pro-abortion parishioners, as well as those divorced and remarried without annulments.
"He impacted a lot of young men who wanted to become priests in his diocese because of his conservative philosophy. He was not bashful about it," said former U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood.
He recalled that even when Myers was teaching and just a young priest, "he was so smart, so humble, and he really understood the importance of Catholic education."
But in his latter years, Myers faced criticism for his handling of clergy sex abuse, as well as luxurious living.
In 2013, the Peoria diocese settled a clergy sex-abuse lawsuit in the amount of $1.35 million — a case alleged to have happened when Myers was bishop prior to leaving for Newark. Myers said he had no knowledge of that case.
The New York Times reported in 2018 that two "New Jersey dioceses secretly paid settlements, in 2005 and 2007, to two men, one of whom was Mr. [Robert] Ciolek, for allegations against the archbishop [McCarrick]." At least one sex abuse payout was overseen by Myers. He did not publicly disclose the settlement.
In 2006, Myers was named in a lawsuit by Newark priest Fr. Robert Hoatson, an alleged victim of sex abuse and harassment while in seminary, who claimed he was wrongfully dismissed from his position for his efforts to expose clerical sex abuse.
In a sworn affidavit, Hoatson alleged Myers colluded with Bp. Howard Hubbard of Albany:
in retaliation against me for reporting my own abuse, testifying before the New York State Legislature, and speaking out about the criminal behavior of sexual abuse by priests and religious, and all three bishops who covered up, defended, and misled the public and me about sexual abuse by clergy of all three dioceses.
Hoatson alleged he had "independent evidence that Myers is an active homosexual who engages in consensual adult relationships." The affidavit went on to note that Myers did not deny Hoatson's claims "by way of affidavit or admissible evidence."
The suit, Hoatson v. New York Archdiocese, was dismissed by the court on multiple technicalities. Hoatson left the priesthood in 2011.
"While the passing of any person is unfortunate, many clergy sexual-abuse victims feel as though archbishop Myers was not held sufficiently accountable for his leadership role in the clergy sexual-abuse cover-up," said Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who has represented more than 100 alleged victims of clergy sex abuse in New Jersey.
The Star-Ledger, New Jersey's most circulated newspaper, reported in 2014 on blowback Myers received for building a $500,000 addition to his retirement home. The 3,000-square-foot, three-story addition upset many Catholics in the archdiocese, especially in light of the bishop's annual appeal at the time.
One of those Catholics, Joan Rubino, at that time called Myers a "hypocrite."
"To ask people to make sacrifices and then to live in a sumptuous residence, it makes me very annoyed," she added. "Isn't there a better use for this money? In plain English, I feel like people are getting screwed."
Church officials said Myers often said, "I cannot make someone believe. I can, however, explain what the Church teaches and the reasons for that teaching and then invite him or her to be open to that teaching and embrace it."