Former Newark priest arrested after breaking court agreement

Newark, N.J., May 21, 2013 / 02:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After violating the terms of an understanding with local prosecutors, a priest who recently resigned from ministry with the Newark archdiocese was arrested May 20.

Father Michael Fugee was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 2001, and in 2007 made an agreement with local prosecutors that allowed him to remain in ministry so long as he was not around children unsupervised and did not engage in youth ministry.

In late April, it emerged that the priest had participated in youth retreats and pilgrimages, though without the knowledge of the Newark chancery.

The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, with whom Fr. Fugee had come to the 2007 agreement, arrested him at Saint Antoninus parish in Newark, where he was living since his resignation from ministry. He was charged with seven count of contempt of a judicial order.

Conviction for the charge can carry a prison term of up to 18 months. Fr. Fugee's bail was set at $25,000.

Fr. Fugee submitted his resignation to Archbishop John J. Myers May 2, who promptly accepted it.

In 2001, Fr. Fugee told police he had twice groped a teenage boy's crotch while they were wrestling in the presence of the boy's family members. One instance took place while he was on vacation with the boy's family in Virginia in 2000, he said, and the other was about a year prior to that.

He was charged with criminal sexual contact and endangering a child's welfare. A jury convicted him of aggravated sexual contact in 2003, but in 2006 an appellate court reversed the conviction, saying the trial court had given inadequate guidance to the jury. During his trial, he had protested that his confession to the police was false and that he had lied.

The priest came to an agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor and the Archdiocese of Newark's vicar general in 2007 requiring him to undergo two years of “sex-offender specific counseling/therapy.”

Fr. Fugee has attended two youth retreats, in 2010 and 2012, and has gone on pilgrimages which included youths.

The retreats were held by St. Mary's in Colts Neck, which is in the Trenton diocese. Fr. Fugee was called to assist at the retreats by the parish's youth ministers, with whom he is good friends.

He has heard the confessions of minors on these retreats, according to The Star-Ledger. The article included Facebook photos of Fr. Fugee with minors taken on the retreats.

Fr. Fugee's agreement with Bergen County prosecutors said he could remain in ministry so long as “he shall not have any unsupervised contact with or any duties that call for the supervision/ministry of any child or children under the age of 18…as long as he is a priest and/or employed/assigned within the Roman Catholic Church.”

“It is agreed and understood that Michael Fugee shall not accept any position…that allows him to have any unsupervised contact with or to supervise or minister to any child/minor under the age of 18 or work in any position in which children are involved,” the agreement adds.

“This includes, but is not limited to, presiding over a parish, involvement with a youth group, religious education/parochial school, CCD, confessions of children, youth choir, youth retreats and day care.”

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