A Roman Catholic priest who confessed to groping a teenage boy 12 years ago has been named to a prestigious post in the Archdiocese of Newark, drawing furious criticism from advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse.
The Rev. Michael Fugee, who is barred from unsupervised contact with children under a binding agreement with law enforcement officials, has been appointed co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests, the archdiocese recently announced in its newspaper, the Catholic Advocate.
For several years, Fugee also has been director of the Office of the Propagation of the Faith, a fundraising position to support missionary work.
Also blogging about this is our own Mark Shea, who has Rod Dreher’s thoughts on all this—noting that Fr. Fugee was cleared on a “technicality,” despite his confession, and that his record with the archdiocese is clean. Writes Dreher:
So: a gay or bisexual sex offender priest who kind of got off on a technicality (because a judge worried about homophobic jurors) was chosen by the Archbishop of Newark to head the priestly formation office, and one is told that in fact, this priest is a victim in all of this.
Must go get some paper towels. My head is about to explode.
UPDATE: My head is still in place. So is Ed Peters’, evidently. The canon lawyer has a few thoughts on how some are characterizing this:
I am open to arguments that, depending on the facts of the case, clergy convicted of or admitting to sexual misconduct with a minor not just be refused assignment but even dismissed from the clerical state (c. 1395 § 2), but, that being understood, if canon and civil law allow such clerics any assignment, one can hardly attack a cleric’s appointment as “co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests” on the grounds that is a “prestigious assignment”. No disrespect intended to the men and women serving in such roles, but, in terms of arch/diocesan structures, such offices rank pretty low on the ecclesial bureaucrat’s prestige list.
Meantime, a reader writes:
As a deacon, you really should know that Director of Ongoing Priestly Formation is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a “high-profile position.” I think it’s very regrettable that you fell for the sensationalization of what deserves to be a non-story and contributed to the misunderstanding by unthinkingly repeating the characterization others gave to it.
Obviously, I disagree. The director of an archdiocesan department is an important job. And now, a man who is an admitted sex abuser, with an attraction to teenage boys, is overseeing the continuing formation of priests. The archdiocese sees nothing wrong with that. The archbishop clearly approves. A “non-story”? I think not.