Retreating from the Truth

FatherJohn Meyers, former rector of the Malvern Retreat House, was found unsuitable for ministry in January of 2019 for a credible and substantiated allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor. The press release from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia stated that Meyers was placed on administrative leave in late 2018 and his priestly faculties were restricted following the receipt of an allegation that he had sexually abused a minor in the early 1980’s.

From the wording in the statement many might think that the allegation was received in late 2018. We attempted to clarify with the Archdiocese, but our email to John Delaney, Delegate of Investigations went unanswered.

We recently were provided with information that tells a different story than the information released by the Archdiocese. It seems that the allegation was first reported to the Malvern Retreat House and the information was quickly handed over to the Archdiocese on March 1, 2018. What didn’t happen quickly however was Meyers removal from the Malvern Retreat House. Meyers remained as rector for seven months after the allegation was known to the Archdiocese. During that time the criminal and internal investigations were carried out.

It seems that “restrictions” were in place during this time for Meyers being with minors. What clergy or staff at Malvern were tasked with watching a potentially dangerous man? What were their credentials for watching a possible child predator and enforcing the restrictions?

Was Meyers escorted from the grounds when the high school students showed up for the overnight Kairos retreats? Did Archbishop Chaput swing by and pick him up before the kids ages 4-12 from Camp Guadalupe came for the summer day camp? Did Leslie Davila of the Office of Child and Youth Protection take Meyers to the mall for the day while the teenage girls were at Malvern for the Young Women of Grace retreat? Did the staff announce to the families at the Family Labor Day weekend retreat that the rector was under investigation? Who watched him when the young people employed by the retreat house showed up for work?

The information was kept from parents. The parents who pack up their little ones up with snacks and drinks for the day camp. The parents who help their excited high school student zip up the overstuffed suitcase for Kairos weekend. The parents who drop off their nervous teenager for their first day of work at the retreat house.

There are dangerous people everywhere in the world, but for the Archdiocese to send children and young people into a situation knowing that someone in that environment could pose a risk, and to withhold that information from parents is something that defies the very relationship between parent and child. It defies basic nature. It defies basic respect.

My parents were long time supporters of the Malvern Retreat House. We have a bench dedicated to my father on the grounds. When I was 18 years old, the Men of Malvern came to my father’s funeral and shared stories with my family about my father that exemplified both his faith and his character. Many years later when my children went on their Kairos Retreats I told them to look for the bench and to enjoy their time at a place that meant so much to their grandfather.

My 19 year old daughter was devastated when I told her that one of the recently removed priests had been the rector at Malvern . Her Kairos retreat was a few months before Meyers arrived at Malvern Retreat, but the feeling that a person who had harmed a child was on that campus is a feeling that she can’t shake. She wanted to know how long they knew about Meyers and how long they left him at a place where children frequent. She wanted to email the Archdiocese and demand answers. A 19 year old was ready to go bat for the kids.

It was so difficult to explain to her that in this type of situation it is not just the decisions of Archbishop Chaput, but it is also the many people involved in these situations who are parents who go along with the decision to keep information secret from other parents. None of this works without lay staff willing to go along with the decisions.

If my father were alive he would be on the doorstep of the Malvern Retreat House demanding to know why an investigation of child sex abuse was kept from the retreat community. My father was a man of great faith and great character. It is possible to have both. Someday the Church might finally learn that lesson.

Thank you to everyone who provides us with information and trusts us to tell the story. The full truth will always come out. It just won’t be in a press release from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

25 thoughts on “Retreating from the Truth

  1. Once again we learn that what our Church officials tell the faithful and what they do are in fact 2 very different things. The only thing our church leaders have learned…as long as they can surround themselves with Catholics who will pay them such deference as to defy common sense regarding the safety of children, they can continue as usual. Further they also now they have well positioned leaders in the legislature that will protect the powerful instead of the people. If the faithful want a better, healthier church, then they better start demanding better…because it’s abundantly clear, here in Philadelphia our church officials are not ready to put our children before the interests of their institution. They fear no consequences as law makers refuse to instill the laws that will make them accountable.

    1. If you truly want change stop your financial contributions to it. The “dollar” is more important than kids; that is evident by the churches actions to date. Fact, sell one wing of Vatican art and world hunger could be almost eliminated. How does it feel to know the contributions and gifts given to the Philadelphia archdiocese are being used to pay for their miss deeds from the past and PRESENT. Are we not saying it’s ok to hurt children by allowing this to happen?

  2. “None of this works without lay staff willing to go along with the decisions.”

    This is the reality of the situation. Lay staff often know, but are expected to keep the secrets. Some know, and are happy to be Father’s favorite. Others know they’ll be unemployed and unemployable if they speak up. They”re told they sin if they tell because it leads to scandal, gossip, rash judgement, detraction, judgement.

    This isn’t true! If there is abuse involved, speak up! While child abuse is the most heinous and should NEVER be tolerated, there are other abuses that God’s people suffer, too, which could not continue without lay people being silent: emotional and verbal abuse, psychological abuse, the sexual abuse of adults, financial abuse, neglect for the pastoral care of parishioners, all of which constitute “cultural abuse.” The hierarchy uses the Catholic faith against her people to perpetuate and cover up abuse.

    If you are a lay person with information, report it to the proper local and state authorities. Don’t rely on EthicsPoint, which is a smokescreen for the Archdiocese: reports go to the Archdiocese, which “investigates,” concludes complaints are “unsubstantiated,” and allows abuses to continue, except now they know what evidence lay staff has and can more easily cover it up. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

  3. When Jesus went on retreat into the wilderness the Devil showed up and God sent his Angels to protect and comfort him. I wanna know who among the catholic laity especially those working in parishes, the AD , retreat houses etc.are going to start being ANGELS and protect and guard our children, our most precious gifts from God? I am praying for you that you find the courage to do the right thing and report to the FBI, Police, AG when need be.

  4. Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle, Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;May God rebuke him, we humbly pray and do thou, O Prince of heavenly host, by the power of God, Thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who Wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen

    1. Amen. I think St. Michael is an excellent patron for the protection of the Catholic faithful. Thank you.

  5. I know of two catholic laity that have been Guardian angels to our kids. Their names are Kathy and Susan. Thankyou so much for your courage, love and perseverance over so many years.

  6. Yet again I read your email and am sick to my stomach and sick in the depths of my soul. How can the hierarchy possibly still be doing this kind of criminally irresponsible cover-up, and in Philadelphia …? But they are. Why don’t people speak up who know what the truth is …? But they don’t. The evil is not the evil of a “fallen angel” it is the evil of molesters and rapists who represent themselves as “men of God,” and it is the evil of the clergy, and the laity who work for them, who choose to continue to put children at risk in order to save the church from more scandal.
    I am glad you are still telling this story and that you remember that the essential issue is not the corruption of the church but the violence done to children in the name of God by clergy in the “holy, [C]atholic and apostolic church.”

    To remind people of the real and excruciating trauma of being sexually assaulted by a priest as a child I offer this poem. You may choose not to print it and that’s ok. I know it’s intense.

    What I have tried to represent in the poem is that the child is the one who carries the guilt, not the priest. The priest blames the child and “Satan.” The priest revels in his control of the situation and his power and authority to forgive sins, a power he verbalizes to the victim. She is now dependent on him for absolution because as a good Catholic girl she has been taught that only the priest can give her God’s forgiveness. So she has to keep him happy even though it disgusts her, makes her gag, makes her feel dirty and ashamed, because he has the power to keep God’s forgiveness from her and send her to hell. The child is 4.

    Child of grace

    Child of sorrow.

    Are you the sinner

    Because of what you’ve done?

    God’s anointed

    Men in black.

    “Come here, child,

    I’ll soon be done.”

    “On your knees

    Child of Satan

    Touch me, suck me

    Temptress, whore.

    “On your knees

    Beg God’s forgiveness

    And I’ll absolve you

    And beg for more.”

    1. Fr Jankowski is able to see past his own local Bishop and realize that some day he will have to answer to God for his action/inactions. While the current consequences he faces are certainly unjust, at least when his actions will truly be judged he has done the right thing. I don’t think many clergy or laity are looking at the end game so clearly. Remember when Frank Keating left the National Review Board and said many people are more concerned with being invited to the Bishop’s cocktail party than anything else? Very true..and willing to throw kids under the bus in the process.

      1. Also what I like about the Fr. Jankowski story is that it flies in the face of church officials and the laity who think that concerns about children being in close proximity of offenders are only the concerns of neurotic mothers, looking for small and unimportant errors or faults.

  7. Micklega, Msgr. Pichard when he had parish meeting a few months ago about issues going on in the Catholic church had a parishioner thank him for standing up to Archbishop Bev. Msgr. Pichard said priests besides him have stood up like him but you don’t hear about them because they weren’t in the grand jury report and he used the word ” punitive” as bishops response to those priests that stood up for the right thing.

  8. There are many things that disturb me to my core. The horrible personal stories of our survivors keep me up at night. Those stories cry out for action on the part of every catholic. The thing is at the same meeting Msgr said the laity will save the church it won’t be the priests. We need to keep organizing and keep shedding light on this horror and demand every last cardinal, bishop and priest resign that’s involved in abuse or cover-up and stop donating money. Lay groups are starting to do this and we are now becoming more aware of priests speaking up or through their actions trying to keep kids safe.

  9. I have a request. I apologize if perhaps I have posted the above poem before, but the plight of the child-victim should be heard and heard again. My request is for someone, anyone, just to tell me they read my comment- that I was heard. Thanks.

    1. Mona, I hear you. I was happy to see your name pop up in the comments. You have shared very valuable insights over the years and we know people sometimes follow along silently and don’t always comment so it was nice to see that you are one of the people from years ago who still visit the site. Thank you for contributing to the conversation and offering a survivor’s perspective that needs to be heard.

    2. Mona, I read your authentic poem and reflects your courage to deal with the bad along with the good. From this you asked for a comment and after reading your poem I could feel myself drawing back. I held your poem at a distance, as my subconscious is tired of this shock. I believe you did not mean your poem to shock me into awareness, as you appear to mean to express your pain and suffering as the authentic thing to do within your poem. This takes guts to face suffering and it takes guts to give meaning to suffering. From me, just understand I am not emotionally mature enough to give meaning to all suffering. I am tired of it all and I have not grown into a deeper acceptance of pain and suffering. I still cuss at the meaninglessness of it all, which still express my inability to accept this black hole.

      Your poem is raw material and is very good because you are direct and with authenticity. This is not merely incidental to who you are, as you have a penetrating depth, and I appreciate this about you. I am, though, still learning to give meaning to suffering and still learning to transcend it. I am still trying to find hope in this hole and confidence to rest in hope. Hope is this the enormous creative dance that can understand God is doing a good job, but my hope is not in the dance. In a direct way my emotions are trying to understand the incongruities of the human conditions and find Holy Hope in the black hole.

      From this I say thank you for bringing your good to the world and the depth of your poem.

    3. Mona, Your words and poem are powerful. I wanted to take some time to process what you said. I have a very deep respect and reverence for your Truth. I am unable to express in words my sadness that this happened to you.Sending my love and letting you know we hear you and are here for you.

        1. Mona, your simple words appear to acknowledge how your emotions are balanced. You appear touched and affected by your experiences, even in a profound way, yet you appear not swept away by your emotional reactions. This appears to be your maturity. Your emotional maturity offers hope and your hope appears able to transform every experience into something worthwhile and valuable. You hope appears to be your gift to the world. In the tremendous creative intelligence your hope offers and simply resting in hope, maybe consider bringing this richness more to the light of day. I truly feel the world needs this from you.

          Also, it appears to me hope is no particular image or idea to create. If anything, it is just who you are and it helps knowing someone who could transform their pain and suffering into something positive. This is the good you bring to the world and is a supreme hope you offer. It appears your experience offers equanimity, built around hope, and this is the painting, the book, and the dance your hope offers.

          Anyway, I am just trying to make you aware of what appears to be your gift, hope and equanimity, and maybe consider ways to communicate your gift to the world. This is just a place to begin and your hope will give you the guidance you will need.

          1. Syd, thank you for your affirmation. I indeed have tried to bring hope out of all the suffering. In fact my second book is called Traces of Hope.

  10. Mona, thank you for telling me about your book and I see it on amazon. I look forward to reading it and the hope you offer. This is a special gift from you.

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