Yesterday’s New York Times profiled New Jersey’s newish archbishop, John Myers (In New Jersey, an Archbishop Conservative and Controversial). He’s apparently a greatly ambitious, doctrinaire Church conservative who’s the darling of Vatican hardliners. In fact, he moved from Peoria, IL., a sleepy old Midwestern town directly to New Jersey, one of the larger archdioceses in the nation. Someone in high places must like this guy.
While he’s a gladhander and has the ‘gift of gab,’ Archbishop Myers has no patience for any of this new-fangled moral temporizing in modern society. The reforms of Pope John XXIII are anathema to him, though he himself championed them when he was a young seminarian. His biggest claim to fame is championing the movement to deny “wrong-headed” politicians the right to a Church communion. He goes even farther by sermonizing to his flock against voting for such politicians at the ballot box.
I’d say that the response by New Jersey’s ‘wrong-headed’ policitians was right on the money:
In New Jersey, where polls consistently find that voters have liberal views about abortion, his letter caused an uproar, prompting the State Senate majority leader to say that he was leaving the church and causing Gov. James E. McGreevey to announce that he would no longer seek communion during public services. Archbishop Myers’s action gave Mr. McGreevey a badly needed lift in public opinion polls.
The good archbishop’s record on priest child abuse in both his former and current parishes leaves something to be desired. The new leader of his old archdiocese immediately fired eight priests who had records of abuse going back years.
He [Myers] also refuses to meet with the group Voice of the Faithful, which represents abuse victims, because he says its leaders are dissenters who favor the ordination of women and other departures from church doctrine. Last month, he joined with several other bishops to ask the church to postpone its plans to conduct another audit of their sex abuse policies saying, “I think we need time to catch our breath.”
It doesn’t matter how much pain and suffering these victims suffered. If they hold wrong-headed theological views, they’re not worthy of the good Archbishop’s attentions. Right on top of the problem, aren’t you Mr. Archbishop?
After the reporter mentions several times that New Jersey Catholics were among the most liberal in the country and that Myers’ theological views were out of step with so many of his flock, Myers tosses all of this aside with righteous rectitude:
He was confident that, in time, his robust leadership would revitalize the church by giving believers something to rally around. And even if his detractors are right, and the emphasis on traditional doctrine leaves the church smaller but more theologically pure, Archbishop Myers said he would have no regrets.
“Then so be it,” he said.
Ah yes. He’d rather have a small coterie of diehard followers than the throngs and multitudes which would compel debate regarding the Church’s most contenscious issues. Now that’s a leader! Surely, the New Jersey Church can do nothing but flourish under such leadership!
Man, am I glad I’m not a Catholic!
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.