Archbishop Myers Accepts Resignation of Fr. Michael Fugee…

Archdiocese of Newark spokesman Jim Goodness
Photo Credit: The Star-Ledger

Effective immediately. The news came earlier this evening, via The Star-Ledger’s Mark Mueller,

The Roman Catholic priest at the center of a public furor enveloping Newark Archbishop John J. Myers has resigned from ministry, a spokesman for the archdiocese said tonight.

The Rev. Michael Fugee, who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors in defiance of a lifetime ban on such behavior, submitted his request to leave ministry this afternoon, said the spokesman, Jim Goodness. Myers promptly accepted Fugee’s request, Goodness said.

Fugee, 52, will remain a priest — only the Vatican may grant a leave from that role — but will no longer have authority to represent himself as a priest, say Mass or perform any Sacramental work, Goodness said.

Asked if Myers had requested that Fugee step aside, Goodness said, “I only know that he offered to leave ministry and the archbishop accepted.”

****

Earlier this week, The Star-Ledger reported Fugee had seemingly violated the agreement with law enforcement, openly engaging in youth group activities at St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck. Fugee is longtime friends with the church’s youth ministers, Michael and Amy Lenehan.

Since the disclosure, Goodness has argued Fugee did not violate the agreement because he was under the supervision of the youth ministers or other priests.

Tonight, the spokesman sought to clarify his statements, saying that while it was “good” Fugee was under supervision, the priest did not seek permission from the archdiocese ahead of time.

“He engaged in activities that the archdiocese was not aware of and that were not approved by us, and we would never have approved them because they are all in conflict with the memorandum of understanding,” Goodness said.

Fugee, the spokesman added, acknowledged to Myers that he violated the agreement, an admission that could lead to more trouble for him down the line.

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Fugee when The Star-Ledger alerted the agency late last week. The assistant prosecutor who authored the agreement told the newspaper Fugee could face civil penalties, criminal charges or both.

Goodness said he believed Fugee remained within the archdiocese today. Now that he is out of ministry, however, it is not clear whether he will continue to reside there, the spokesman said.

 ****

Advocates, joined by several lawmakers, called for Myers to resign, and rank-and-file Catholics inundated the archdiocese with letters and phone calls of protest.

Even in the face of Fugee’s decision to walk away from ministry, the criticism of Myers continued tonight.

“Father Fugee should have been fired and removed from ministry by Archbishop Myers years ago, not simply allowed to resign today,” said Mark Crawford, New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national advocacy and support group. “There must be consequences for those that enabled his continued access to children.

“If the Archbishop went to such great lengths to protect Father Fugee, then it’s likely he may be protecting others,” he said. “He has failed to be transparent, open and honest, and for that Archbishop Myers must step down.”

  • Ann

    There must be more to this. How does he go from defending him on Weds to him resigning on Thursday, assuming that Myers really requested that he put in a resignation, which I think is the more likely scenario versus him resigning freely. More to this story…

    • Donna

      I can tell you that back in 2000 when Michael Fugee was a young priest at St. Elizabeths parish in Wyckoff NJ, I was a parishioner with a young daughter in the school. Actually , prior to Fugee being accused of molesting a boy (2000), I had playground duty a couple of times , as mothers had to take their turns supervising at lunchtime—anyway, I personally saw how this guy appeared way too chummy and close to the young kids esp. boys when he walked onto the playground. Kids flocked to him and hugged on him. It bothered me and I got a weird “vibe” from this guy and witnessing this interaction. So, I asked my then 3rd grade or so daughter about him in a round about way. I clearly remember her telling me how she did not like him , thought he was creepy and avoided him. Good instincts–and I’ve always taught her to trust her instincts ( and there’s good and bad in every profession, nun, priests, teacher, cop…whatever). When the first accusations came out about him while he was still at St. Elizabeths, I was stunned and sickened by how many other mothers/parents defended him, refusing to believe Fugee could do anything wrong because he was so nice!!!! What idiots. Once he left St. E’s and Bergen County, I thought he would have to do some jail time or at least no longer function as a priest!….The Church (his superiors) and the people(sheeple) around him have let him get away with this. They also have responsibility in this case. The entire thing stinks to high heaven and disgusts me.

  • Carol

    I agree with Ann. I also find it fascinating that now Goodness, the
    Spokesman for the diocese is softening his earlier stance on the agreement.
    I am a Catholic and I am faithful to the Church’s teachings, but the Archbishop failed to
    Uphold the agreement to protect children and should be held accountable by the pope.

  • bill bannon

    Bishop Jenky who replaced Myers in Peoria in 2002 immediately removed 7 priests from ministry in his first eight weeks in Peoria. The CDF should have at that point investigated the discrepancy…why hadn’t Myers removed them. Why was Myers promoted to a larger episcopacy in that context. Cardinal Law advanced in his career by speaking orthodox on birth control etc as did Cardinal Groer who proved to have been an abuser himself…as did Fr. Macial Degollado of the Legion who was actively bisexual. If you talk conservative, it hides much and Rome is smitten… who let’s face it, knows little in many cases about those she is promoting.

    • Joanne

      Bishop Jenky is an ass. Do you know him? Good grief- look at some of his comments comparing Obama with Hitler. Let’s not hold Jenky up as the standard of what is right.

  • Joanne

    Fugee “will remain a priest”? I don’t think Mr Fugee ever really WAS a priest because I don’t think Christ gives sex predators genuine vocations to the priesthood. But okay, I’ll play along with the terminology and ask: What does this mean in terms of compensation? Will Fugee continue to receive a stipend or room and board or whatever from the archdiocese (which really means from all the faithful Catholics he lied to and betrayed)? Sorry if I sound angry and disgusted, but I am angry and disgusted. I’d like to be able to support Christ’s Church financially, but I just can’t give money to an organization thinking that the money could quietly go to the support of sexual abusers, as I was recently reminded that it STILL does in my own archdiocese.


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