Statement by James Goodness,
Director of Communications, Archdiocese of Newark,
in response to a lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese
and Archbishop Myers
I have stated on a number of occasions over the past few years that Fr. Robert Hoatson is a troubled individual. Based on information contained in his filing with the federal court yesterday, I can only reiterate this statement forcefully and unequivocally.
I will not deal with his personal allegations against several bishops, in particular Archbishop John Myers. These allegations are simply preposterous. I believe (a phrase that Fr. Hoatson is very quick to make use of in his filing) that Fr. Hoatson will carelessly and recklessly use falsehoods to draw attention to himself. In making these allegations, he sullies not the reputations of the individuals he is attempting to bring down, but rather his own reputation.
But the mirror has two faces, as they say, and there are some things that Fr. Hoatson has conveniently tried to hide from view.
Concerning his “firing” from the position of director of Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Newark, Fr. Hoatson has conveniently forgotten that on November 6, 2002 – well before he claims that he was fired, Fr. Hoatson wrote to Archbishop Myers requesting that he be relieved as director of Our Lady of Good Counsel School. He cited as his reasons a personal assessment that his work at the schools was completed, and his desire was to return to full-time parish work. He asked for a reassignment by January 1, 2003. Archbishop Myers tentatively approved the request on November 8, 2002
On December 18, 2002 Fr. Hoatson again wrote to Archbishop Myers asking for an appointment. In that letter, he reiterated that he wished a change of assignment by January 1, 2003.
The Archbishop met with Fr. Hoatson on January 14, 2003 and discussed Father’s hopes for a new assignment. In that discussion, Father agreed to remain in the post of director of the school for the spring 2003 semester.
On February 5, 2003 Bishop Arthur Serratelli, then Vicar General of the Archdiocese, wrote to Fr. Hoatson confirming that the reassignment would be effective in June 2003. At this point, the decision had been made to grant Fr. Hoatson’s request to leave Good Counsel School. It is important to note that during this time period, the Archdiocese received correspondence from a number of laypeople involved with Our Lady of Good Counsel advising that during his tenure, Fr. Hoatson was responsible for strained communication with administration, faculty and staff, and that he dismissed the role of parents and other laypeople in the life and direction of the school.
During this time period, and even before he wrote to the Archdiocese in November 2002, Fr. Hoatson frequently made visits out of the diocese as an advocate for victims of sexual abuse. At no time was he reprimanded for these actions or told to cease. However, I must note that while he was away on these visits across the country, he was not performing his duties as director of the school. I can only surmise from his actions that he did not feel that his role as director was an important or necessary one. I can also only surmise that he did not feel that the children of Our Lady of Good Counsel School were important.
On March 27, 2003 Fr. Hoatson wrote to withdraw his request for a new assignment. Unfortunately, a new director had already been selected and was preparing to assume the post, so it was too late to put him back. I can only surmise that Fr. Hoatson finally understood the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Therefore, Fr. Hoatson’s contention that Cardinal Egan and Bishop Hubbard contacted Archbishop Myers in May 2003 to seek his removal from Our Lady of Good Counsel School simply does not bear up under the facts.
Fr. Hoatson also claims that for his entire time as a priest, he has been a “victim of clergy abuse.” What this accusation really comes down to is the following:
Fr. Hoatson appears to believe that the extraordinary amount of work that every parish priest must undertake, and the multiple hats that they must wear as they work in ministry, constitutes abuse. With respect to Fr. Hoatson, such abuse included his work as chaplain of the town fire department and moderator of the parish pre-Cana program. Yes, these duties were in addition to his duties as principal of the parish school and his sacramental work in saying Mass or hearing confessions. All priests are overworked. Most priests in this Archdiocese have multiple assignments and duties. They may be weary, but they do not feel abused. In fact, if anyone should have been pitied during Fr. Hoatson’s parish assignments, it probably would have to be the pastors who had to put up with what soldiers during the Civil War would have called Fr. Hoatson’s “malingering” – shirking one’s duty.
From a brief review of his history, it appears that the only time Fr. Hoatson may have been happy was when he was on leave from religious life and employed as a golf instructor.
Archbishop Myers did issue a “precept” against Fr. Hoatson about a month ago, and here are the reasons for this precept:
1. Fr. Hoatson does not live within the geographic area of the Archdiocese, as required under the laws of the Church. He maintains a regular residence in Rockaway Park, New York, within the geographic area of the Diocese of Brooklyn. There is a residence for him within the Archdiocese – at Nativity Parish in Midland Park. He has not used it. While it is permitted for priests to maintain residences outside of the diocese for which they are ordained for their days off or vacations, they must live the majority of the week “where they work.”
2. Fr. Hoatson established a counseling and advocacy organization – Rescue and Recovery International – located within the geographic area of the Diocese of Brooklyn, without seeking the consent of the Archbishop or the Bishop of Brooklyn. Neither bishop ever gave such permission. Under Canon Law, diocesan priests cannot undertake a ministry or establish a business without receiving permission from their bishops. Nor is it permitted to establish a ministry in another diocese without the permission of that bishop.
3. The precept also calls for Fr. Hoatson to adhere to his assigned duties as chaplain of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, an assignment that he accepted in 2004 but which he apparently deems is a “no show” job. The managers of Catholic Charities have reported that he does not regularly appear and perform the duties he has been assigned. We know this for a fact because, on his own Rescue and Recovery website, Fr. Hoatson claims that he is regularly in Boston working with victims of abuse, and that he travels extensively to promote his work as a victims’ advocate. Unless he has mastered bi-location, Father cannot be in two places at once. He apparently has chosen to be someplace other than the assignment he accepted.
It should be noted in this particular matter that when Fr. Hoatson was offered the chaplain position at Catholic Charities, Archbishop Myers stated that Father could work with victims of sexual abuse within the framework of Catholic Charities, which has extensive facilities and resources to deal with victims. Obviously, Fr. Hoatson chose to disregard the Archbishop’s encouraging recommendation.
4. The precept also reminds Fr. Hoatson that he is to show proper reverence and obedience to his bishop, something that he promised to do when he was ordained in 1994. It is obvious from the filing that Father has forgotten this part of his ordination promise, and has forgotten his calling to serve the Church.
Finally, Fr. Hoatson contends throughout his filing that he has been a victim of abuse from his earliest days, and that his time in high school, and as a member of the Christian Brothers congregation, and as both a seminarian and priest have been marred by a constant stream of sexual abuse by clergy and religious.
Yet, in his own words, written during the time he was preparing for the priesthood, Father presents a very different picture – one in which he claims that his time in high school was idyllic, that his role models among the Christian Brothers in high school were exemplary, but that his problems with the religious life were centered around the rural atmosphere where he was living, and the onset of panic attacks. Archbishop Myers has dealt with Fr. Hoatson and his troubles most patiently and compassionately over these past few years. The disciplinary action taken in November 2005 was necessary only because of the magnitude of his failure to perform his assigned duties.
Throughout his filing, Fr. Hoatson talks about his “belief” in the fabrications he outlined. As a Catholic layperson I, too, believe in many things – in redemption, and most specifically, in the power of prayer. I pray that you will all see Fr. Hoatson’s attempt to hide his own failings for what it is – the work of a troubled man, and that you see that this is newsworthy only in that a priest with failings has chosen not to seek help, but to lash out at those who are ready to help him through his troubles.
Two additional pages -- Fr. Hoatson’s November 6, 2002 request to leave Our Lady of Good Counsel School and Bishop Serratelli’s February 5, 2003 response acknowledging that his request would be effective in June 2003 – are linked above, completing this transmission.