Has Archbishop Meyers Lifted the Lifetime Ban From Ministering to Youth For Fr. Michael Fugee? UPDATED

Archbishop John J. Myers. Image Credit: Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger

It appears that this might be the case, if I’m reading the letter that Archbishop Meyers wrote to the priests of the Archdiocese of Newark back in February correctly. Of course, he may not have known that Fr. Fugee was violating the agreement with the local Prosecutors Office, though there seems to be plenty of evidence pointing in that direction.

That letter to priests, along with a links  to the confession Fr. Fugee gave police in 2001, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Archdiocese and the Bergen County Prosecutors Office, are included in another of a series of articles published recently in The Star Ledger. Yesterday, Mark Meullar reported the following,

Greeting the deepest crisis of his 12-year tenure with silence, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers faced new calls for his resignation yesterday from two New Jersey lawmakers, who blasted him for allowing a priest to minister to children despite a lifetime ban on such interaction.

Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) said the archbishop has displayed “arrogance” and a lack of common sense over his handling of the Rev. Michael Fugee, 52, who admitted fondling a 14-year-boy in 2001.

Under the terms of a binding agreement with authorities six years later, Fugee and the archdiocese vowed the priest would not work in any position involving children.

Yet for the past several years, Fugee has attended youth retreats, heard confessions from minors in private rooms and traveled to Canada with children from a Monmouth County parish, The Star-Ledger reported earlier this week.

“Enough is enough,” said Vitale, who has pushed for laws that aid victims of sexual abuse. “Based on everything that’s happened, not just in New Jersey but around the country and the world, you have to follow the spirit of the law, and they have not done that in this case. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance.”

Myers, the state’s highest ranking Roman Catholic official, was not alone in facing scathing criticism. At St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck, longtime parishioners called for the removal of the pastor, the Rev. Thomas Triggs, and the removal of the two youth ministers who invited Fugee to take part in youth group activities.

The lay minsters, Michael and Amy Lenehan, are longtime friends with Fugee. A spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese has said Triggs and the Lenehans knew of the priest’s past and of the agreement Fugee reached with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office in 2007. The three were monitoring Fugee accordingly, the spokesman has said.

But like the lawmakers, parishioners said it was clear Fugee should not have been in the presence of children at all, supervision or no supervision.

“There aren’t enough words to describe how we feel,” said Grace Collins, 68, a member of the parish for three decades. “It is a betrayal. It is their job to keep children safe, and they brought a known pedophile into their midst. The pastor should resign immediately. The Lenehans should be removed from ministry immediately.”

Triggs and the Lenehans have not responded to requests for comment.

Read the rest.

In Archbishop Meyers’ letter to his priests, he goes to great length to emphasize the importance of restoring the reputation of priests “who return to ministry if so permitted.” He goes on to say,

This sometimes can be difficult, because of the notoriety that a particular case involving a priest or deacon may generate. But if the legal process brings a not guilty verdict or dismissal of charges, and the Church’s inquiry under the (Dallas) Charter concludes that no sexual abuse took place, then the Charter requires, and the individual priest deserves, a return to ministry.

The Archdiocese followed all of these elements of the charter and the Memorandum of Understanding in the more-than-a-decade-old case involving Father Michael Fugee. At the end of the entire process, Father Fugee’s acquittal and dismissal of charges, and the Review Board’s conclusion that no sexual abuse occurred, guided me in my decision to return him to ministry. It is also important to note that , in reaching my decision, the recommendation of the County Prosecutor regarding Father Fugee’s ability to return to ministry and future assignments in ministry carried great weight. We have followed those recommendations fully.

Read the entire letter.

I can understand standing by your troops when they have been accused of sexual abuse. I can understand fully investigating incidents, and waiting until accused priests have been either cleared of charges, or have been found to have committed crimes, before either restoring them to, or permanently removing priests from ministry, and having them arrested, etc. But in this case what is absurd, given that Fr. Fugee confessed to behavior that endangered the wellbeing of children whom he was tasked to shepherd, and for which he would be subject him to both censure, and having criminal charges made against him, he still seems to have been allowed to minister to teenagers regardless of the MOU’s requirements (see Article 4) that he not be allowed to do so.

There seems to be plenty of photographic evidence that Fr. Fugee violated the Memorandum of Understanding. It should come as no surprise, then, that this story is not going away anytime soon, or that folks are asking their elected representatives to look into these matters further.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE:

Kevin O’Brien analyses similarities between what is happening in Newark, with what happened in Kansas City. The upshot?

It is not surprising that our shepherds fall short of the high standards of the Christian Faith. It is surprising that they don’t even rise to the low standards of the secular world.

Indeed.

UPDATE II:

Bergen County prosecutor probing whether former Wyckoff priest violated agreement in molestation case.

The Bergen County prosecutor, John Molinelli, pointedly disagreed Monday with that interpretation of the agreement — which he called “a very clear document” — but would say little more except that his office is conducting an open-ended investigation.

Asbury Park Press, Bishop: Rev. Michael Fugee should not have been allowed in youth ministry at Colts Neck church.

  • Ann

    IMO Archbishop Myers is going to do whatever he wants to do, when he butts up against the law, he will lie and twist words and deflect and blame the messenger. I think he is truly an evil genius, and I don’t say that lightly. The damage he is doing to our Archdiocese is immense. No one is asking for a witch hunt for Fugee. We are only asking that he not be around our children. Now he is blaming the Colts Neck parish, the youth ministers, everyone but him. Myers only cares about Myers. This AD was only going to be a way for him to become a cardinal IMO. He never cared about this great AD, great state, or it’s great people. The fortunate thing about this area is that we are near other dioceses closeby. I suggest that every family who can switches to a parish at a neighboring diocese if possible. Drain the coffers.

  • Carol

    Thank you for looking at this objectively. Unfortunately Bill
    Donohue is saying that the agreement Fugee made was actually being
    Honored. If one reads the agreement carefully it is obvious that it was not.
    I love the Church and that is why this corruption must be revealed and rooted out.

    • Ann

      Bill Donahue is taking Myers’ side/defense. He’s a very predictable man.

  • Bob Schwiderski

    Here’s a shocking list of 228 accused clerics, nuns and staff
    http://mnsnap.wordpress.com/spooks-fakers-false-spiritual-healers/

  • Carol

    http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/abbott/090912

    The pope needs to look carefully at the
    Accusations made by Father Bob Hoatsen in
    his lawsuit mentioned in the above column against Myers and Cardinal Egan.

  • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

    I know Fr. Fugee and he (and those close to him) maintain that the “confession” was forced out of him after a long interrogation and that the accuser recanted their testimony (in fact saying that his father was pushing him to make the complaint in order to get $$). Everyone commenting on this story keeps working under the assumption that Fr. Fugee is in fact guilty of the crime when that is not necessarily so.

    I understand that in light of bishop’s past grave mishandling of abuse claims that the narrative anytime something like this comes up is “Bishop’s cover up pedophile priest” but how is it that you and Mark Shea and others can’t seem to see that that narrative is determining the (reported) facts of the story and not the other way around?

    Fr. Fugee was accused and railroaded 10 years ago, his conviction was overturned (although he had already agreed to the counseling and MOU which remained in efect) and diocese as well as CDF found that “no abuse had occured”.

    • Frank Weathers

      I may be mistaken, but I think only the Prosecutors Office has the authority to rescind the Memorandum of Understanding. If it is still in place, and it appears to be, then the terms outlined in it have been violated.

      • Seamus

        I’m curious: What was the legal consideration that the Archdiocese received for entering the MOU? I see that Fr. Fugee got something pretty significant–the chance to get the charges against him dismissed. As far as I can see, though, as a legal matter, the Archdiocese was simply volunteering to help the Prosecutor’s Office enforce the terms of its resolution of the Fugee matter, but not getting anything in return. It’s as if I had been prosecuted for DWI after having been involved in a fatal car crash while driving home from the company Christmas party, and my employer, the local prosecutor, and I executed an agreement under which the charges against me would be dropped, provided that I went through alcohol abuse counseling and the employer undertook never to allow me to attend a company activity at which alcohol would be served. If I later went to a company party in violation of that agreement, I would imagine that the prosecutor might reinstate charges against me, but I don’t see what could be done to my employer.

      • mortimer zilch

        what I find particularly troubling about Fr. Fugee and Archbishop Myers is that for the last several years (3?) Fugee has lived under Myers own roof at the chancery. I am not positive of that, but when Fugee was at St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark where did he live? (which appointment is a violation of the terms of the agreement, but may have pre-dated the agreement). I did see reported that when Fr. Fugee was PROMOTED to the Archdiocesan post of being in charge of the spiritual formation of the priests of the archdiocese that he did in fact live in the Archbishop’s residence. Fr. Doran, the vicar for priests, must be involved with this shuffling, and be able to say with certitude where Fugee lives, and lived. Doran may even have knowledge of an out-of-bounds relationship between Fugee and Myers that accounts for this favored treatment Fr. Fugee has been getting. Or, Doran may be himself involved more intimately. All this could actually be nothing at all….Or, it could be a bigger mess than Scotland’s Cardinal O’Brien, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it were!

    • Ann

      His conviction was overturned. However, instead of retrying the case, the prosecutor and Fugee came to a plea agreement for sex offenses. He is still under the terms of that agreement, and seems to have violated the agreement. That is for the prosecutor’s office to deal with now. In terms of Fugee, please tell me how he keeps ending up in these situations. Can he not find adults to minister to? Why did the Lenehans think that it was a good idea to bring him on a trip with teens to Canada? Are there any adult-only facilities anywhere in a gigantic AD of 1,000,000 souls where Fugee can act as a priest? Would Fugee be able to pass through the AD legal hurdles that every parent who wants to volunteer in their children’s parish school has to jump through? Leave the legal stuff aside…what is best for the AD and the children of the AD…Is there a middle way in all of these questions? YES

    • JRG

      Have you read Fr. Fugee’s actual confession?

      How could anyone be forced to admit what he clearly and calmly admits to? Waterboarding wouldn’t make me say what Fr. Fugee says:

      Q: Was there something that occured between yourself and **** which would be considered inappropriate?
      A: Yes.
      Q: What was that?
      A: Well, while wrestling with ****, I grabbed his crotch.
      Q: Okay. With your hands?
      A: Yes.
      Q: Over his clothes?
      A: Yes.
      Q: Why?
      A: In the — while wrestling, the sudden urge to do it, I did it.
      Q: Did it excite you in some sort of way?
      A: No, not to arousal, no.
      Q: Okay. But did it excite you at all?
      A: Yes.

      Q: Do you have an interest in males?
      A: Yes.
      Q: Okay. Would you consider yourself homosexual?
      A: Bi-sexual, homosexual, I guess, but struggling with that identity.
      Q: Still to this day?
      A: Yes.
      Q: How did **** react after that incident?
      A: Immediately shut down. Would not talk to me at all the rest of the weekend.

      Q: Okay. In your own words, tell me what happened that day.
      A: That was more of a sudden grazing of, you know, of his privates while wrestling, and immediately stopped.
      Q: Was it intentional?
      A: Yes.
      Q: Okay. And again, was it an urge you were feeling?
      A: Yes.

    • James

      Fugee was in a sexual addiction rehab before he was sent to wyckoff. He has admitted multiple times to having uncontrolled urges to teenage boys. He picks his victims wisely, he preys on the weak social outcast and troubled youth. At the same time he builds relationships with the popular kids and parents. As he said himself, he is sick. Lets hope the archdiocese will be willing to send him back to rehab

      • Journalist

        James,

        I am a journalist
        and I would like to talk to you about Rev. Fugee attending rehabilitation for a sexual addiction.
        Please email me at clericreporter86@gmail.com.

      • Alberta Einstein

        James. I am personally involved in this case and really would like to hear more about your statement. I know what you say is true because Fugee himself has told other people. Do you know why Fugee went to rehab for sexual addiction before and if he had any other victims before being assigned to Wyckoff? Please reply anonymously if you prefer to maddcloner@gmail.com. I wish to remain anonymous in this public forum. The AD knows about all these things and continues to cover up.

    • Alberta Einstein

      Did the victim ever ask for money? Not that I know of. His father didn’t even know anything had happened until after the police got involved. Fugee could have walked out of the police station without saying a word if he wanted to. He made his confession before he was arrested. The agreement the prosecutors office have with Fugee was made so there would not be a retrial. The charges were not dropped. He was not acquitted. The verdict was overturned because the charges against fugee in the trial were not correct. The legal language used meant the abuse occurred while fugee was ministering to the victim but the abuse took place when they were on vacation with the boy in a hotel room while the boys mother was taking a shower so the conviction was overturned. He was not acquitted. The prosecutors made a mistake and the AD lawyered up and found the error. If you are going to post comments in the media you should know what you are talking about. The main problem I see is the fugee groupies do not know any of the facts surrounding this situation. They write all kinds of nonsense that is commonly spewed amongst them. Unfortunately much is incorrect if you have been following the case so I have to believe a lot of this bad information is coming from fugee himself. I see the victim being attacked by the fugee groupies all the time like you do here. I find this quite pathetic.

  • Gerry Nolan

    As an open-minded Catholic, I am not quick to defend or quick to condemn. For the fellow commenters, don’t be too quick to condemn the Archbishop based on the incomplete reporting in the Star Ledger and the accusations of a NJ assembly woman who believes the Archbishop has wronged her in her personal life (see her Letter to the Editor in the Star Ledger May 1, 2013 where she confesses to having an ax to grind.) Three questions that have not yet been answered in the media about this case are 1) When did the Archbishop ever appoint Rev Fugee and to what post in the Archdiocese of Newark that involved contact with children? 2) What responsibility or authority does he have to do so outside of his archdiocese? 3) What specific role did the archbishop have in Valerie Vainieri Huttle’s personal drama at her own parish? I don’t believe these headlines are either news or about protecting our children. There’s more to the story that is driving this, and it has nothing to do with our children.

    • Ann

      1) YES Myers assigned Fugee to be a hospital chaplain back in 2009 I believe. This was also a violation of the plea agreement, as he was given full access to the hospital, which also had children’s facilities. The hospital found out and he was removed. One could also argue that placing him in residence in the Rochelle Park parish, which was done by Myers, was also a violation as that parish has CCD classes, youth groups etc. 2) I am not sure about your second question. Myers is saying he did not know about this involvement with the youth group, the pastor of St. Mary’s is saying he didn’t know, the bishop of Trenton is saying he didn’t know, the bishop of Paterson where one of the retreat houses was located said that permission was not asked nor granted for him to be there. The Lenehans aren’t speaking, but it’s hard to believe that Amy Lenehan, who is apparently a close, longtime friend of Fugee didn’t know about the agreement. Are all of these people telling the truth? I don’t know. 3) Vaineiri should shut up.

  • A P O’BEACHA’IN

    The archbishop has a reputation for integrity since his days in Peoria Ill when he was well known for his orthodoxy read his letter to the archdiocesan clergy and try to impugn him. SNAP and the MSM are part of Satan’s agenda to quote Francis of Rome who cites the Old Dragon a lot-last week for GOSSIP.


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