Finding Fr. Meyers: A C4C Investigation

By Kathy Kane

The strangest thing happens when you are not even looking for an abusive priest – you end up finding him. What started from an obnoxious comment by a priest on the C4C facebook page created a series of events that led to the discovery of Fr. John Meyers’ new life in Tucson, Arizona. Meyers was found unsuitable for ministry in January 2019 by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for a credible and substantiated allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor.

Sometimes the way things fall into place can’t be explained although Jeremy Roebuck did a fantastic job chronicling the series of events in his article. Thank you to Carolyn Fortney who is a tireless advocate for children . Carolyn is a clergy abuse survivor and her eagle eye helped crack this case wide open. Maybe someday the Pennsylvania legislators will join the efforts to protect children by enacting very important SOL Window legislation. Until then it is amazing what a few women with a laptop can accomplish.

Click here to read: “From victim to vigilante: Clergy sex abuse survivor finds accused Philly priest online, working for charter school system in Arizona,” by Jeremy Roebuck, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 23.

Excerpt: “This is a prime example of survivors working together to take the law into our own hands,” said Carolyn Fortney, the Harrisburg woman who uncovered Meyers’ new life in Tucson. “We’ll do what we have to do to protect children.”

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

Putting the Pieces Together

Much of today was spent sifting through the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s press release regarding three priests removed from ministry. The following are some initial thoughts and findings. We will update as more information becomes available.

Father Raymond Smart

The press release claimed that Father Raymond Smart “has not served in any school or parish since 1995 due to poor health. He has been retired and living in a private residence since 2002.”  While this may paint a picture of a priest who has long been away from ministry and living at the local Korman Suites, the truth tells another story.

  • We confirmed that Father Smart was acting as a weekend assistant priest at St Teresa of Calcutta parish as recently as 2016;
  • The parish bulletin of St. Philip Neri, Pennsburg, has Father Smart listed as Retired; resident, as recently as 2015.  In 2014, he is listed as being the celebrant of the Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday daily Masses. In December 2015, he was hearing Christmas confessions;
  • From the press release we know that Father Smart was investigated three times since 2011. However, the two prior investigations and resolutions were never announced by the Archdiocese. Father Smart had his faculties restricted in 2017 and this was not even shared with the priests of the Archdiocese. The announcement of the final removal included the information of the prior investigations.

His case raises many important questions:

  • Is a parish rectory considered a private residence?
  • Is being listed as a weekend assistant priest in a parish bulletin not considered serving at a parish?
  • If the Archdiocese wants to protect children, then why not release the information of every parish where he has resided or assisted? Transparency or technicality, which one will it be?
  • Does the Archdiocese realize that the internet exists and everyone can put the pieces of together?

Father John Meyers

Father Meyers may have had the quickest resolution in Archdiocesan history if the timeline is to be believed. The press release states, “in late 2018, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia placed Reverend John F. Meyers on administrative leave following receipt of an allegation that he had sexually abused a minor in the 1980’s.” He was placed on administrative leave in late 2018.

However, the press release fails to state when the allegation was actually received. If the allegation was truly first known in late 2018 and the case is resolved and already in the hands of the Vatican, that’s quicker than the case of Msgr. Hugh Campbell, who admitted committing abuse. His case still took another five months for resolution. Maybe the Archdiocese has implemented a fast pass – like the Disney World ride fast pass?  How much time elapsed between receiving the allegation and removing Father Meyers from the Malvern Retreat House?

Father Meyers was the rector at the Malvern Retreat House, where many Archdiocesan students attend the Kairos retreats. The students spend a few nights at the retreat house without their mobile phones or outside contact.  High school staff helps supervise, but discovering the rector of the retreat house was a predator sent chills down the spines of parents and kids.

We are looking to John Delaney, Delegate of Investigations, to provide an honest answer to these kids.

Was Father Meyers left at the Malvern Retreat for even one day after the Archdiocese received the allegation?

We have not had a chance to review Msgr. Logrip’s case. Logrip was placed on administrative leave for the second time after an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. That’s next.

If you would like to share information in regard to the recently removed priests, please message us through the contact link or email Kathy: kmkane242@gmail.com.