Fr John 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