One person not surprised by the recent scandal with Father Mike Fugee and Newark Archbishop John Myers is Helen Rainforth of Illinois. She knows Myers from when he was a bishop in Illinois and told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he tried to suppress allegations of sexual abuse after more than a dozen males came forward. Her son was one of the accusers.
Rainforth said Myers wasn’t bishop when the alleged abuse occurred, but he was when the accusations were brought forward. She explained that two young men came forward from Lincoln, Ill. accusing a monsignor and that number swelled to 13 over two years.
“In that two-year process, Bishop John Myers and his Vicar General Steve Wallace were instrumental in literally trying to destroy families,” Rainforth said. “I’ll use us as an example. We have a business in Peoria, Ill. and a business in Lincoln, Ill. Bishop John Myers said that if we went forward, the Peoria diocese would own our business.”
According to Rainforth, Myers made that comment to a group of priests and it got leaked. She said the Chicago Tribune picked up on the story and contacted Myers for comment. “He said, ‘Yes I actually did say that but I didn’t really mean we would take it away from them. That it would just harm their business,'” she relayed.
She said Myers was never conciliatory or understanding about the situation. “It was hell going forward because of the reactions back from Bishop Myers and from Monsignor Wallace,” she said.
The diocese had mediation in Chicago after the abuse allegations. Rainforth said the Peoria diocese hired one of the most prestigious law firms in Chicago and a settlement was reached, she believed in 1999.
“[Myers] did not leave Peoria until I believe it was ’01 and in that time frame, he truly never took any accountability for any of it,” Rainforth said. “He would still refer to well possibly they were lying, possibly this wasn’t really how it happened. Only after he left for Newark, N.J. did then Bishop Jenky come to Peoria, Ill. and he indeed dismissed this priest and then some other priests at the same time.”
Some published reports have had Myers say he was unaware of the events in Illinois when they were occurring, but Rainforth said, “I find it hard to believe that he could be unaware when two years before he left for Newark he was in on all the mediation process that took place … in Chicago, Ill. There wasn’t anything that that man did not know.”
Rainforth said she spoke to Myers four months ago because she wants to make available lists of men who were taken out of the priesthood for abusing children.
“They’re moving into neighborhoods, they’re moving into school districts to where people still don’t know that these men are abusers. And that’s what we’re working on right now, to get a perp list of these abusers that is made public that will go on the internet where people will know exactly where they’re located,” Rainforth said. “But today the bishops will not make that information public.”