EDITORIAL: In praise & thanksgiving to Cardinal Joseph Tobin for his fearless approach to handling abuse crisis

When Joseph Cardinal Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, first arrived from Indianapolis to replace embattled retired Archbishop John Joseph Myers, he very likely knew he had a massive mess to clean up. For nearly two decades, Myers did very little to make himself beloved by his flock.

And when Cardinal Tobin first arrived here, we felt there was something very special about this man. After all, he keeps himself off a pedestal, quite unlike many of his brethren ó by often asking to be called just “Joe” or “Padre Joe.”

To say he hasn’t disappointed would be a gross understatement.

Cardinal Tobin has visited every single deanery in the Archdiocese of Newark. Think of a deanery as you would a county but instead, it’s a group of parishes, mostly nearby, but in different municipalities.

When news broke of former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick’s alleged abuse of seminarians and former altar servers in the 1970s and beyond, Cardinal Tobin responded forcefully ó he even had a prayer service at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark where an abuse survivor spoke candidly and frankly about the abuse he suffered ó when he was a young lad ó at the hands of a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark.

What Cardinal Tobin has done, in a short period of time, has topped what Myers did ó or more aptly, didn’t do ó from 2002 to 2016. He speaks candidly, which Myers never did. He touches the hearts of the survivors (and all of his flock, frankly.)

He’s shown he is a leading force in the Catholic Church not just locally, but throughout New Jersey, America and the world. It’s no wonder Pope Francis loves him so much.

Now, last week, we learned Cardinal Tobin has ordered the Archdiocese of Newark and the other dioceses in the state, to set up a compensation fund for victims ó including for those who cannot seek justice in a court of law because antiquated statutes of limitation exist.

Heís also ordered the names of all priests, deacons and religious with credible allegations against them be named publicly sometime in the beginning of 2019. This was something Myers fought against relentlessly and cowardly.

The differences between Cardinal Tobin and Myers is staggering.

To our knowledge, this is also a first-of-its-kind setup where a church is acknowledging crimes were committed, and that despite what the law says, the church says this is unacceptable.

Lastly, the dioceses will also ensure the victims have access to proper counseling ó at no cost ó for the rest of their lives.

We knew Cardinal Tobin was a special man from the get-go. However, we could have never dreamed he would take such a proactive and trend-setting approach to dealing with the abuse crisis.

When things didn’t go well with him, this newspaper chastised Myers. Therefore, it is only fair — almost required — that we take the time to praise Cardinal Tobin for refusing to let the tarnished work and legacy of Myers to continue in the Church of Newark and beyond.

Cardinal Tobin, thank you for being a true leader. Thank you for doing what your predecessor and brother bishops should have done decades ago.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.