New Jersey Archbishop Strains out Gnat of Legalities, Swallows Camel of Child Sex Abuse

“Whoever harms one of these little ones that believes in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck and he was cast into the sea.”

I support the bishops.

How many times, over how many issues, have I said that?

I support them whenever and however they teach and preach the Gospel of Christ. I support them in their battles against secularism and the social dissolution around us. I support them in their efforts to evangelize this great Church and inspire the people of God to stand up and speak out for Jesus.

I support the bishops.

Except when I don’t. 

When a bishop stops preaching Christ and Him crucified and starts parsing legalities in order to get around rules he wrote himself and which he gave us his word he would keep, I take a look at him. When a bishop does this in order to excuse another violation of the promises to stop endangering children by placing them in the care of priests who are known child abusers, I don’t follow him.

A case in point is Archbishop Myers of New Jersey. Archbishop Myers has evidently placed a priest who is a convicted child abuser in a position where he will be in extensive contact with children.

Let me repeat that: Archbishop Myers put a convicted child abuser in ministry to children. 

Of course, as usual, the Archbishop is not the only bad guy involved here. Father Michael Fugee confessed to “fondling a 14-year-old boy’s genitals.” In the course of his confession, he evidently also said that he was a homosexual. Three years after his conviction, an appellate court vacated his conviction because the trial judge had allowed the jury to hear the part of the confession in which he said he was a homosexual.

I don’t know the legal hat they hung this on, but I do know that whatever basis it was sounds very much like political correctness run amok once again. I would guess that the assumption was that his admission of homosexuality was somehow regarded as too prejudicial for a jury to hear. The confession of child sexual abuse? Not so much.


We have a confessed, convicted child abuser that the courts turn lose. Rather than go through another trial, the prosecutor’s office decided that what Father Fugee really needed was some of that counseling for sex offenders that has been shown to work so well at changing these guys.

The prosecutor basically did what we’ve condemned the bishops for doing. They gave a child abuser useless counseling, then put him back in the situation where he could do it again. The sop to public safety was that they made Father Fugee sign a piece of paper saying he wouldn’t do it again. More specifically, he signed a paper saying he would stay away from children, and Archbishop Myers signed it, too.

Let’s think this through. We have a court that vacates a judgement because the jury also heard that the confessed and convicted child abuser said he was a homosexual. Then, we have a prosecutor who follows in the footsteps of bad bishops and decides that what this guy really needs is some counseling and to make a promise that he won’t do it again.

Archbishop Myers, not to be outdone in this chain of abuse of the public trust and disregard for the welfare of children, follows through by putting said child abusing priest back where he’s with children, once again. As if that’s not enough, we also have a couple of people at the parish level who know all about Father Fugee’s conviction and go along with placing him with children.

Is there anyone involved in this situation who hasn’t violated the public’s trust? 

It is so tiresome to keep hearing about abuse of the system that is so egregious that we end up more disgusted with the public and Church officials who should have done something and didn’t than we are with the actual child abuser.

Everybody involved needs to lose their job. From Father Fugee on up the food chain to the appellate court justice, they all need to go into a line of work where they are not responsible for other people’s lives. I’m including Archbishop Myers in this, as well.

I haven’t read the fine print, but I honestly thought that the bishops gave us their word that they’d stop this nonsense of putting child molesting priests back with children so they could do it again. I thought they promised us they’d stop doing this. I also thought they meant it.

I think just about every bishop out there did mean it. But it’s becoming obvious that at least a couple of them made these promises with their fingers crossed behind their backs. 

Archbishop Myer sent an it-all-depends-on-what-the-definition-of-is-is letter to his priests in which he explains, basically, that he’s done nothing wrong. His reasoning is all about the finest of fine points in the Charter for the Protection of Children, a document he says that he helped write. He says that claims that he violated this Charter are “baseless.”

I wonder, has this guy ever heard of Jesus Christ?

Has he ever once thought about the Gospels he proclaims?

What does he think that shepherd’s crook he carries means?

I think that Archbishop Myers has broken the real Charter, and that’s the charter of trust with the Catholic people of the world. Notice, I did not say the Catholic people of his archdiocese. I did not say the trust of the children he allowed this priest to be near.

He violated my trust. And yours. And the trust of every person on this planet who follows the Church with the belief that it will lead us in the narrow way of Christ.

Whatever the fine points of this Charter that the Archbishop helped write himself to govern himself, he has violated both the letter and the spirit of the Gospels he proclaims. Jesus said, “Whoever harms one of these little ones that believes in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck and he was cast into the sea.”

What part of that contract doesn’t the Archbishop understand?

Archbishop Myer’s letter:


Amid calls for a Vatican investigation, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers came under fierce criticism Monday for his handling of a priest who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors in defiance of a lifetime ban on ministry to children.

At the Monmouth County church where the Rev. Michael Fugee had been spending time with a youth group, angry parishioners said they were never told about Fugee’s background and they questioned Myers’ defense of the priest, the subject of a lengthy story in the Sunday Star-Ledger.

“It’s complete craziness that the church can let this happen,” said John Santulli, 38, a father of two at St. Mary Parish in Colts Neck. “I’m a softball coach, and I need a background check just to get on the field. Every single person I spoke to today said, ‘Oh my God. I didn’t know about this.’ It’s incomprehensible.”

Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell, who previously said Fugee was operating in the diocese without his knowledge or permission, has ordered the pastor of St. Mary to bar the priest from any church activities, a spokeswoman said in a statement Monday.

The bishop of Paterson, Arthur Serratelli, has likewise said Fugee was on a retreat at Lake Hopatcong without permission.

For the first time in his many years as an advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse, Mark Crawford, New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on the archbishop to resign, characterizing Fugee as the latest in a string of problem priests shielded by Myers.

“The archbishop continues to insist it’s fine for Fugee to work with children. It’s a very dangerous message,” Crawford said.

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  • Joe M.

    Wonderful article. Your photo calls to mind a monument in my childhood parish…

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      That’s a great photo! Maybe every parish should have a millstone as a reminder.

  • Fred Krueger

    May God forgive these people for the wrongs they’ve done. May the Church remove everyone involved, and do it today!

  • FW Ken

    The document in question said the this priest would not be with children unless supervised by adults knowledgeable of his background. The claim is that he never was unsupervised (leaving aside the confessional).

    The question is why this man was still in ministry at all. I’ve seen priests removed for much less and frankly, the whole thing stinks. And not just as a matter of public relations.

    What about about this man’s soul? a convicted child molester said to me: “I’ll always have these urges and I have to arrange my life to not offend again” His preacher and their tiny congregation knew about him. He stayed away from temptation. That’s called repentance. without meaning to judge, that picture with the boys reeks of grooming.

    If the archbishop won’t resign, the pope should transfer him, say to that new diocese in Antarctica.

    • Theodore Seeber

      Not quite. The claim is that he was never unsupervised *in any capacity the Archbishop was informed of*. Apparently, individual lay Youth Leaders asked this priest to go on retreats with children, and to hear confessions.

      If I was this Archbishop, I would very publically be finding a deep, dark hole to drop this guy into. Probably an assignment in a monastery under a vow of silence.

  • pagansister

    It seems that NO ONE in the Church has learned ANYTHING! Really? How could the Archbishop even have considered the priest continuing to be a priest, much less be allowed AROUND CHILDREN? (even supervised). Sorry for the caps—it is just unbelievable that this just continues and continues—–and to make it worse is that there are parish members who know of the priest’s conviction —-go along with all this? Where is their head? I would be so out of that place—either another parish or even another denomination. All those involved do belong somewhere (prison?) where no one can ever see or hear from them again. They need to be removed from their titles—priest & archbishop, before their decent into a place like jail. They have, along with the other members of the priesthood who have molested children, continued to degrade the Church.

    • Fabio P.Barbieri

      Not “no-one”. Bishops O’Connell and Serratelli, if you read, were loud and explicit, even though that meant going openly against their hierarchical superior. And if the man from SNAP is to be believed, Archbishop Myers has what the British call “form” – a bad and consistent record. Let’s hope this one is heard as far as the Vatican.

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        I agree.

  • Doug

    When the scandal first began to reach a public “critical mass” it was accompanied by a veritable symphony of misdirection, obfuscation, and easily demonstrable lies in the catholic media. From EWTN to Ave Maria/Relevant Radio, NCRegister and Reporter; all of them could be relied upon to serve as propagandists for the USCCB. Not one of them could be counted upon to ask critical questions which might reveal the truth. None could be counted on to do ANY research which might reveal the mendacity and depraved indifference with which the majority of American Bishops knowingly acted. None could be counted on to reveal the viciousness and hatefulness which characterized American Catholicism’s response to this evil. At best, the catholic media outlets sought to spin such stories in support of their own cherished “sacred cows” if you will. Slowly, very, very slowly, some seem to be learning just how egregiously they’ve been used for the propagation of lies designed to cover up the direct responsibility held by bishops in this matter.

    I’m sorry to disagree with Representative Hamilton who I respect greatly, but I don’t support the Bishops. From the beginning, they have viewed this as a public relations disaster in which their image was the ONLY cause to be served; pretending to care about the welfare of catholic children was nothing but a means to the end of rehabilitating their deservedly trashed image. From the beginning, they have acted with a slavish self-interest which was more than willing to sacrifice someone else’s children for the preservation of an entirely undeserved respect. To this day, bishops may speak of the “small, minority of priests” who did this, but none will speak of the majority of bishops who preserved and perpetuated this evil. No, not even national favorites such as Chaput or Dolan can be counted on to tell the truth in any but the most vague, non-specific terms. No, I do NOT believe that this current generation of bishops is in any way any different from the previous generation. Had the public relations disaster of exposure not occurred, I do not believe a single american bishop would be acting in any way different from their predecessors. There is no REASON to believe they are any different. It must be the assumption that if a bishop speaks or acts regarding this evil, their only motivation is the protection of their own image. That is not cynicism, it’s realism. When they accept the term “Father” they make themselves liars.

    • Theodore Seeber

      My archbishop- recently raised to that position to be sure- has spoken out on this quite strongly, before his installation:

      Q: A priest of the Archdiocese of Portland is facing criminal charges related to sexual abuse. What does an archdiocese owe to a priest in that position? For example, is it appropriate for an archdiocese to give or lend an accused priest money to cover his defense?

      A: I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment on that situation. I’m not the archbishop there yet and don’t know all the details. But I can answer from my own experience.

      A lot of people in the church don’t understand the implications of what we call incardination, the attachment of a priest to a diocese. The church has certain obligations. If a priest is completely dismissed from the clerical state, the responsibility of the archdiocese ceases. But if he is removed from ministry, but not dismissed from the clerical state, canon law requires that the church provide some sustenance, some decent support of living to that person. Not that we have to support them in luxury, by any means, but health insurance and a minimal stipend to live on is required. Many of these men are elderly and not able to find other employment.

      This causes great concern from people used to a more secular mode, where a person is fired and you’re done with him, you have no other responsibility.

      Q: The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, says you’ve “done nothing to distinguish” yourself from “the overwhelming majority of Catholic officials who continue to minimize and hide clergy sex crimes.” How could you be more transparent in regard to this issue?

      A: It’s a very tricky minefield I have to navigate. There are competing interests at stake. First and foremost are the interests of those who have been victimized. But there are also the interests of the accused. We live in a system, in a church, where the accused has a right to defense. And, in civil cases, we have to be concerned for the patrimony of the diocese and the interests of the folks in the pews.

      Sometimes the bishop is in the middle. People are angry because he hasn’t done enough for the victims or hasn’t been just to the priest. Parishioners are mad because we’ve removed their beloved pastor and the charges couldn’t possibly be true and why are they bringing it up 25 years later. And the issues of confidentiality and the right to privacy apply to victims as well.

      I mean to be as open as we can, saying as much as we can, keeping people as informed as we can without getting into confidential details. If a priest is removed for some kind of misconduct, we used to say he had health issues. We wouldn’t give the reasons. That’s what we have to get over. If father is removed because of an accusation, we need to tell the people straight out. They are adults, they have a right to know this information. We can’t afford to forget about the victims, they need to be informed and brought along through the process.

  • Joanne

    Myers allowed my son to be raped in 95 fully knowing that he was putting a child molestor in my sons school!!! Myers needs to go to jail!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • david Lorenz

      Joanne – I’m so very sorry for you and your son. You areright Myers should be in jail.

    • pagansister

      “Myers needs to go to jail!!!!!!!!! ” Joanne Couldn’t agree with you more. Jail with no chance for parole.

  • David Lorenz

    In the bishops letter he mentions that the charter states that they are to help restore the reputaion of priests… Interesting that the beginning of the paragraph of the charter from which that statement is taken is: ‘We affirm the words of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his Address to the Cardinals of the United States and Conference Officers: “There is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young.”
    Sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric is a crime in the universal law of the Church.

    The bishop is quite selective in what he chooses to follow from the charter

  • SteveP

    Let us not take lightly the fact of the overturned conviction based on an admission of sexual orientation. Who protested that? Did SNAP run into the breach and question the judge’s judgment? It seems Fugee was aided and abetted by many; he gamed the system just as other men gamed the system 20 years earlier. Not much has changed.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      All true.

  • Stephen Dalton

    Abp. Myers behavior doesn’t surprise me at all. When he was in Peoria over a decade ago, the families of sexual abuse victims noted he was cold toward them and their children.

  • Survivor’s wife

    If I were Myers, I wouldn’t brag about helping craft a policy that has zero accountability factored into it. He’s so arrogant, he doesn’t even see how truly ignorant that statement is. He underestimates his flock.

    Every Catholic has to ask themselves, “what happens if these men do not follow the Charter?” I can tell you. The Fugees of the priesthood do what they want and the bishops have no consequence for their reckless decisions on the backs of Catholic children. Then they use parishioner money to manage their PR for such poor leadership.