Clerical culture, Newark division

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Imagine two teachers at a private school who are good friends, and one is fired by the headmaster as the result of credible accusations that he molested a teenage boy 25 years ago. The dismissed teacher relocates to his beach house where his friend also goes to live when he is not in residence on campus.

A decade after the dismissal, the house is damaged in a storm and the headmaster gives permission for the man to come live on campus with his friend. The rest of the school is not told anything about the man’s past. When the story comes out, the friend is forced to resign.

This is a secularized version of the story reported in the Newark Star Ledger by Mark Mueller on Sunday, about two priests of the Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, Robert Chabak and Thomas Iwanowski. The headmaster? Archbishop John J. Myers, of course.

Myers’ spokesman, Jim Goodness, explained to Mueller that the decision to let Chabak stay at Iwanowski’s rectory was made “out of a sense of compassion.” As for Iwanowski, his comment to Mueller was, “He lived in the rectory and went to Mass every day. He didn’t do anything else. I don’t see the problem with that.”

The problem, in a nutshell, is clerical culture, in which compassion for fellow priests takes precedence over truth, justice, propriety, and responsible oversight.

The problem, as well, is that there’s no board of trustees this side of Rome to whom bishops report. When the parish learned who Chabak was and an uproar ensued, it was Iwanowski, not Myers, who got the heave-ho.

And while we’re on the subject of Newark’s clerical culture, let’s recall the case of Michael Fugee, the priest who was found to be hearing children’s confessions and going on camp trips with them after he and the archdiocese signed a court order forbidding him to minister to minors.

Initially, the archdiocese contended that the order actually only forbade Fugee to minister to minors without supervision. But in an article on the case in the Bergen Record Sunday, Jeff Green calls attention to a 2010 brief from the Bergen County prosecutor’s office that gives the lie to that interpretation. It states that Fugee “agreed that he would never supervise or minister to any children under the age of 18 and that he would never have any unsupervised contact with children.” (italics in original)

In the brief, the prosecutor charged that both Fugee and the archdiocese “recently teetered on a potential violation of his agreed to restrictions” when Fugee was assigned to serve as a chaplain at St. Michael’s Hospital. The Fugee and Chabak-Iwanowski affairs both show that, when it comes to priests charged with abuse, the Archdiocese of Newark does what it can to keep the norms of clerical culture intact.

  • tony

    hmmm…maybe its not a “clerical” issue…maybe its a “liberal”. I seem to remember allot liberals preaching that we need to stop incarcerating people, that we need to understand root causes of crime, that we can never really understand what someone has gone through in their life, that everyone should get the benefit of the doubt, that we shouldn’t “judge” and that everyone should get a second chance. that sounds an awful lot like a world view where “compassion …..takes precedence over truth, justice, propriety, and responsible oversight.” where everything is a right and nothing is a responsibility. we are now like gods, naming good and evil.

    If the Prof wants to fix this issue rather than creating boards, which the Epispocal church has and still leads to abuse, he needs to stop spinning stories for political gain and be honest.

    btw can we just go ahead and re-name this blog…”Why I hate Conservative Christians and other believers in revealed religion (except muslims)”. Its the same story and the same villains over and over again.

  • tony

    Sorry. Typo. ” where everything is a right and nothing is a responsibility. we are now like gods, naming good and evil.” should read:

    where everything is a right and nothing is a responsibility. for how else can we all be like gods, naming good and evil.

  • Mark Crawford

    So Tony, are you saying that Archbishop Meyers and most of the Catholic bishops are all liberals because they want to excuse, minimize, conceal knowledge of clergy who have abused children? This has nothing to do with the professor’s ideology and everything to do with a business that continues to harbor known sexual predators, for whatever reason. They have taken every opportunity to keep knowledge of such abuses quite at all costs, they continue (Archbishop Meyers is just 1 very clear example) to refuse to accept responsibility for their reckless actions as they put our children at serious risk of harm from a predator. Why is it these church leaders also oppose changes to laws which will hold them accountable? Why do they oppose changes to the statute of limitations? Is that because they are too liberal as well? Of course not, it’s because they think and act as if they are above the law. They don’t believe secular society has a right to hold church officials accountable and they certainly don’t want to be forced into revealing documents in a civil court of law.

  • tony

    I identified a set of belief that at least in the 80 and 90s seemed to be quite popular with the enlightened liberal mindset. These are the same beliefs that the Prof thinks to the church subscribes to in the name of clericalism.

    We keep hearing that with the exception of burning unborn children and gay marriage, that the church secretly agrees with everything that the democrats have to propose. So maybe it is also true in this case. You do the math.

  • No one has explained to me how Fr. Chabak would be more of a threat to children living *supervised in a rectory* than living free as a bird in his home in Normandy Beach, where he can come and go as he pleases with *no one* watching him.

    This episode is a non-story and is nothing more than bigoted fodder designed to sully the Catholic Church.

  • Andy

    I agree. It is a complete over reaction to a non-issue. News reports acknowledge pre- existing disagreements between the pastor and complaining parishioners. There seems to be a hidden agenda. The analogy to the Fugee case is unfair. There Is no contact here with children and the criminal acts occurred 25 yrs. ago. I am no fan of the coverup mentality of the hierarchy but valid criticism is weakened when a case like this is blown out of proportion. St Joes lost a good pastor for no reason.

  • James Keegan

    DPierre – I can understand how you might conclude that the”episode is a non-story” but I cannot follow your logic when you conclude it is “nothing more than bigoted fodder designed to sully the Catholic Church.” How about just two people of good faith having a difference of opinion? JK