Children, Child Molesters and Pinocchio’s Nose

Heads are rolling in the Father Fugee scandal. 


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Father Thomas J Triggs

Father Thomas J Triggs, pastor of St Mary Parish, Colts Neck, NJ and Michael and Amy Lenehan, parish youth ministers at the same church have resigned their positions. The reason is that they allowed Father Fugee to participate in parish ministries with children, despite his record as a convicted child molester. 

I would guess that this puts the St Mary Parish into quite an uproar with people taking sides either for or against their former pastor. 

It’s difficult for Protestants to understand the emotional bond that Catholics form with their parish priests. These men hear our confessions, comfort us when we in pain and listen to our most scalding confidences. 

It is beyond difficult to suddenly be faced with assertions that the pastor you’ve trusted so completely has betrayed you in such a fundamental matter. I have no doubt that the entire parish of St Mary is suffering from a sense of betrayal and confusion. 


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The Lenehans and Father Fugee

It appears that the Lenehans are long-time friends of Father Fugee. According to a news report, he publicly thanked them for standing by him when he was convicted of child abuse. 

I understand sticking with a friend when he falls into disgrace. If you love someone, you don’t stop loving them when they get into trouble. What I don’t understand is putting a convicted child abuser in contact with children. 

The Lenehans are saying that they did not know about the agreement between Fugee and prosecutors that he would not come into contact with children. Even if that’s true, they still must have known that he was a convicted child abuser. That alone is reason enough to keep him away from children. 

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It doesn’t matter if they thought he was innocent. It doesn’t matter if the conviction was overturned on a technicality. Their responsibility to the children of St Mary Parish, as well as their responsibility to the entire parish and the Church should have been important enough for them to not put a convicted child molester in contact with children. 

One of the things I’ve seen with people who are tempted to molest children is that they always find ways to put themselves into contact with children. Once they’re caught, they tell the judge sad tales about how they fought their dark impulses. But they also always seek out positions where they will have access to children. 

The debate seems to be what did this parish priest know. I’m guessing, but I would imagine that a conviction of a brother priest for child molesting right there in his own state might just have been something that this priest was aware of. If he did know, then so far as I’m concerned, he’s in the same slot as the Lenehans. Ignorance of an agreement with prosecutors is a technicality. 

If someone is convicted of child molesting responsible people do not place them in positions where they will be in contact with children. 

I do not understand why it’s necessary to say this. It’s obvious. Like Pinocchio’s nose. 

From the Trenton Diocese website:

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., has accepted the resignation of Father Thomas J. Triggs as pastor of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, effective immediately. The May 4 resignation follows recent reports that Father Michael Fugee, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, had assisted in several activities of the parish’s youth group despite having been restricted from such ministry in an agreement with law enforcement authorities in Bergen County.

 

Bishop O’Connell has granted Father Triggs a period of sabbatical before he will be given a new assignment. A parish administrator will be appointed for St. Mary Parish.

 

In one of his last official acts as pastor, Father Triggs accepted the resignations of Michael and Amy Lenehan, parish youth group ministers, effective immediately. The Lenehans had invited Father Fugee to take part in youth ministry events without ensuring that he would have been cleared for such ministry in compliance with the Diocese of Trenton’s policies.

 

The Diocese of Trenton released a statement April 29 reporting that it was first made aware of the presence of Father Michael Fugee at a youth retreat held in St. Mary Parish through an inquiry from the media on April 23, 2013.  The statement stipulated that Father Fugee had been given no permission to exercise ministry there by the Diocese nor had he filed with the Chancery the “letter of suitability” required of all priests outside of the Diocese before they are to conduct ministry here.   

 

According to that statement, upon learning of Father Fugee’s activities, Bishop O’Connell immediately contacted Father Triggs and indicated that Father Fugee may not exercise ministry there, including any ministry involving youth.  Bishop O’Connell then contacted officials in the Archdiocese of Newark to inform them of developments concerning Father Fugee.

 

In 2001, Father Fugee, while serving in Wycoff, was convicted of criminal sexual contact with a minor. That conviction was later overturned on appeal for procedural reasons. Rather than retry the case, authorities offered Father Fugee the opportunity to undergo counseling and rehabilitation and agree to limited ministry that would preclude access to children and youth. In compliance with those restrictions, the Archdiocese had given Father Fugee responsibilities in the Chancery in Newark. (Read the rest here.)

 

Cardinal Warns Bishops About Seeing Themselves as a ‘Mere Manager or Functionary’

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Cardinal Marc Ouellet gave a homily at the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales a few weeks ago that seems particularly pertinent in light of the scandal in New Jersey. 

Rather than comment on it, I’m going to let Cardinal Oullet’s words speak for themselves:

My brother bishops, you face many challenges In your apostolic ministry in England and Wales. Perhaps you can identify with Peter and John as they are dragged before the Sanhedrin to be pressured, threatened and even beaten to stop proclaiming the saving Truth of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps you can sense viscerally the pressure to obey men rather than God, to see yourself-as a mere manager or functionary rather than a disciple and an apostle.

 

Yet as St Peter discovers, the encounter with Jesus on the shore and the food He shares with him is not only for him and the Apostles. It is also for Jesus’ lambs and His sheep. Real love for Him, Jesus is telling Peter, has to be shown in love for others, love shown in deeds of self-giving and service.

The Venerable Bede, commenting on today’s Gospel, reminds us of this. He writes: “[T]he Lord added at the end of each inquiry [to Peter], ‘Feed my sheep,’ or ‘Feed my lambs,’ as if he were clearly saying: ‘There is only one true proof of wholehearted love of God – if you strive to exercise care by labouring solicitously on behalf of your brothers ‘” (Bede the Venerable, Homily 1122 on the Gospels).

 

Pope Francis, also makes us feel uncomfortable. One thing I have noticed, even in my personal meetings with him, is that Pope Francis’ sole criterion is Jesus Christ. The Holy Father does not get distracted by peripheral considerations. He goes to the heart of things with simplicity and boldness. You recall that just two days after his election he said to the Cardinal Electors gathered in Rome: “If we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord …. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness” (Homily from Missa pro Ecclesia with the Cardinal Electors, March 14,2013).

 

When you return home refreshed by prayer and rest in the Lord, let the joyful presence of the Risen Christ in your heart become an open space for your sheep or even a shore where He can meet them and give them love and hope. Amen.

You can read the full text here

Convicted Child Molesting Priest Resigns: Does that Make it All Better?

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“The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

 Jesus Christ

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I am Catholic, has the story. 

Father Fugee, the convicted child molester, has resigned. Archbishop Myers, who put him back with kids after his conviction, has accepted his resignation.

Tra-la-la-la.

Rather than go through another trial, prosecutors required Father Fugee to undergo counseling – which I assume they thought would make him all better – then they required him to sign a document promising he wouldn’t be around children anymore. 

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You may remember Father Fugee. He’s the New Jersey priest who pled guilty to child sexual abuse and whose conviction was subsequently vacated on a technicality by an appellate court. 

Archbishop Myers is the New Jersey archbishop who also signed the document promising that Father Fugee wouldn’t be around children. It sounds like the prosecutors tossed this child molestor back into the same place where he had committed his original crimes on the basis that he had promised them he wouldn’t do it again. 

Prisons are costly enterprises. Just think how much money we could save in Oklahoma if we were smart like these New Jersey prosecutors. We never thought about asking felons to promise us they wouldn’t do it again. Think how much money we’ve wasted, locking people up, when all we had to do was get them to promise us they wouldn’t do it ever, ever, ever, again. 

Of course, Archbishop Myers, who was Father Fugee’s supervisor the first time he sexually abused children, needed to promise that he wouldn’t do it again, too. That fixed it. No problems now.

Tra-la-la-la.

When the Archbishop got caught recently, breaking his promise, well, all we needed was for him to explain that he hadn’t done anything wrong. Which he did. He sent a letter to the priests in his archdiocese, explaining to them that he had not violated the rules he helped write to govern bishops concerning how they handle child sex abusers. 

Tra-la-la-la.

When ignorant people who don’t understand continued their outrage, it was time to drain the boil. Father Fugee resigned and the Archbishop accepted his resignation. 

Archbishop myers

I think — not know, think — Father Fugee agreed to exit stage left and Archbishop Myers “promptly” accepted his resignation because the two of them talked it over and decided it was the best way to save the Archbishop’s bacon.

The rest of us, of course, are expected to wipe our brows, go whew! I’m glad that’s over. And fergitaboutit. 

According to a nj.com article, Father Fugee “submitted his request to leave ministry,” and “Archbishop Myers promptly accepted the resignation.” I hate feeling this way about one of the bishops of the Church, but that sounds like one fine case of professional courtesy to me. 

Tra-la-la-la. 

Again, I hate saying things like this about a bishop of the Church, but when I have to choose between the bishop and following Jesus, the bishop loses. According to another nj.com article, Archbishop Myers has a history of things like this. 

From nj.com:

Myers and his aides say the archdiocese has taken aggressive measures to identify abusive priests.

 In other cases:

 - In 2004, the Newark Archdiocese wrote letters to six dioceses in Florida on behalf of the Rev. Wladyslaw Gorak, one week after learning Gorak’s ministry had been terminated in the Orlando Diocese — after he was accused of breaking into a woman’s home.

- Also in 2004, the archdiocese banned the Rev. Gerald Ruane from public ministry after investigating an allegation he molested a boy, but did not publicly notify lay people or other priests. Ruane continued to say Mass and wear his collar in public.

- In 2007, the archdiocese failed to inform lay people that it found a molestation claim credible against the Rev. Daniel Medina, who had worked in parishes in Elizabeth and Jersey City. The case wasn’t made public until a victims group uncovered an alert sent by the archdiocese in September 2008 to other bishops saying Medina was on administrative leave and could not be located.

PROCEDURES FOLLOWED

Neither Myers nor the priests identified above would agree to an interview for this story. But Myers’ spokesman, James Goodness, said the archbishop has lived up to his promises of 2002 and that the archdiocese has carefully followed procedures meant to bar abusive priests from ministry. He said it has trained thousands of church employees to spot molestation, published procedures for filing sex accusations against priests and passed annual audits examining whether it keeps its promises. He noted, too, that the archdiocese has an agreement with the state Attorney General’s Office to forward all allegations of sexual misconduct to county prosecutors.

“We do not have priests in ministry without proper supervision, and those who have had credible allegations have been removed from ministry,” Goodness said. “We do notify the communities where people (priests) have served of the existence of allegations and the results of all our inquiries.

“We believe we are living both within the letter and the spirit of the charter,” he said.

One thing that troubles me is all this debate about whether or not Archbishop Myers followed the guidelines the bishops set up in Dallas. I don’t care if he followed those guidelines or not.

  1. He deliberately, with full knowledge of what he was doing, put innocent children in harm’s way.
  2. He violated the trust of every Catholic on this planet that our bishops will follow Jesus and shepherd us in the Way.
  3. He knew what he was doing
  4. When he got caught, he wrote a letter explaining how he hadn’t done anything wrong by putting a convicted child molester back with kids. He based this on a set of guidelines that he helped write. 

Let’s get off the guidelines and take a look at the Gospels of Christ. This man did not follow Jesus. He did not do his job of caring for the welfare of the people that the Lord God has entrusted to him. 

Father Fugee resigned and Archbishop Myers promptly accepted his resignation.

Tra-la-la-la????

Does that make it all better?

Not for me, it doesn’t. Archbishops Myers refuses to even promise that he won’t do it again. In fact, he tells us he didn’t do it in the first place. 

To top it off, if that nj.com article is accurate, he has a history of doing things like this. I repeat a question I said yesterday: Has he ever heard of Jesus Christ? 

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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.”

Minnesota030

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.

So.

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

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.

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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:

Arch myers letter

Arch myers letter page 2

 

From NJ.com:

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Fr Fugee with two boys during pilgrimage to Canada in 2010. Facebook photo

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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