I have written before on these pages about the Bishop of Newark, John Myers. At a time when Pope Francis is emphasizing love, compassion and concern for all of God’s children, including those previously repudiated by the Catholic church, demanding that church leaders adopt a humbler lifestyle, and speaking out harshly against the abuse of children by the clergy, Myers has consistently taken the opposite tack. He has, without question and according to incontrovertible evidence protected and defended priests who have abused children, both here and in his previous position in Peoria; used tens of thousands of dollars from diocesan funds to build a palatial retirement home for himself in a tony part of Jersey, and cracked down on any priest who dares to show compassion to the divorced, LGBTQ or politically liberal Catholic.
Now he has doubled down. In an article in today’s Star Ledger, it is reported that Myers has sent a letter to the unfortunate priests in his diocese demanding that they show no mercy towards those who deviate from Catholic doctrine, denying communion and even the use of Church facilities to people whose ideology does not match that of Myers. Frankly, I don’t get it. The Pope has shown his willingness to remove Bishops who are corrupt and venal, but Myers has remained untouched. For a time, Rome sent a co-Bishop to actually run the diocese as a response to Myers’ egregious behavior, but he has since left. What does Myers have on the Vatican, or on Francis, that leaves him untouched? It is not that Myers is liked by his flock; it appears that not only is he disliked, but disliked widely by lay Catholics. Contributions to the diocese are way down, because Catholics are wary that their monies are going to feather Myers’ own nest (literally).
As a religious leader myself, I am always responsible to those whom I serve, and accountable for every action and decision. I get that. It is the price of leadership. But Myers appears untouchable. I must admit, I am a little wistful and envious that Myers appears to have a complete insulation from his actions that most of us never achieve.