There are almost 200 Catholic dioceses in the United States. Over the past two years or so, one of the most controversial dioceses, in terms of clergy sexual abuse, has been the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey.
So you might expect that Newark Catholic officials would be particularly responsive and forthcoming and sympathetic these days when new abuse cases surface.
But sadly, you’d be wrong. As a new and alarming case shows, despite boatloads of recent and devastating coverage of this crisis, in Newark it’s apparently “Business as usual.”
Mary Joy Morgan of Montclair, New Jersey charges, in a new civil lawsuit, that a priest raped her while two nuns held her down.
And here’s how the official Newark Archdiocesan public relations honcho responds: “”inappropriate for the Archdiocese of Newark to discuss or comment on matters in litigation, or under investigation, or concluded settlements with victims.”
That PR staffer, Maria Margiotta, also declined to
—-give information about Dowd’s status as a priest
—say whether he is allowed to wear the clerical collar
—disclose whether he can perform priestly functions in public
—answer questions about the recent settlement or
—answer questions about the new accusations against Dowd and the two nuns.
And in a remarkably extreme statement, Margiotta went on to claim it would be “inappropriate for the Archdiocese to discuss or comment on matters in litigation, or under investigation, or concluded settlements with victims.”
So let’s say that 50 adult women walk up to all four Newark bishops: Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Bishop Elias Lorenzo, Bishop Michael Saporito and Bishop Greg Studereus. Let’s say they all report having been raped as girls by Fr. Bob Jones. And, being charitable, let’s say the Newark church officials suspended Fr. Bob.
It’s somehow “inappropriate” for archdiocesan staff to then tell parents and parishioners Fr. Bob’s being investigated?
Or what if the Newark Archdiocese paid $1,000,000 to each of Fr. Bob’s 50 victims. It’s somehow “inappropriate” for archdiocesan staff to then tell the public about this settlement?
Give us a break. How on earth does anyone square this secrecy with the allegedly binding 18 year old national church transparency pledges and policies and protocols that Tobin, Lorenzo, Saporito, Studereus and virtually every member of the Catholic hierarchy – in the US and in Rome – repeatedly tout?
And similar abuse transparency promises are also riddled throughout the local church’s policy too.
A 30 second search of the Newark archdiocesan web page turns up its official abuse policy which pledges that with reports of child sex crimes, the archdiocese will deal as openly as possible with members of the community.”
We at Horowitz Law sometimes seem skeptical toward Catholic officials. We’re often unimpressed by their claims they’re ‘doing better’ on abuse and cover ups.
One key reason for our attitude is this kind of hypocritical and self-serving and hurtful behavior by well-educated men who know better.
We wish this brave victim well. We extend the same concern and well wishes to every person and family that has been hurt by these three alleged predators.
And we hope Cardinal Tobin reconsiders the role of his public relations staff: Maria Margiotta (973-497-4186, Maria.Margiotta@rcan.org), Jai Agnish (973-497-4027, Jai.Agnish@rcan.org) and Donna LaBadie (973-497-4190, Donna.LaBadie@rcan.org. We hope he apologizes for their secrecy. And we hope he begins to honor his promises of openness.
(The nuns, Sister Maria Michael Garner and Sister Alice Bernadette, are deceased. The cleric, Fr. William Dowd, is alive. Almost 20 years ago, he was suspended for reported abuse.)