NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) The No. 2 official in the Archdiocese of Newark was sacked from his leadership position for mishandling the supervision of a priest who violated a lifetime ban on ministry to children.

Newark Archbishop John J. Myers is facing fierce criticism for his handling of a priest who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors in defiance of a court-ordered lifetime ban on ministry to children. Religion News Service photo by Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.

Newark Archbishop John J. Myers is facing fierce criticism for his handling of a priest who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors in defiance of a court-ordered lifetime ban on ministry to children. Religion News Service photo by Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Archbishop John J. Myers, speaking out for the first time on the scandal that has imperiled his future in Newark, described the removal of Monsignor John E. Doran as one step in a series of reforms meant to “strengthen internal protocols” and “ensure we are doing everything we can to safeguard the children of our community.”

Doran, who served as vicar general and moderator of the curia, is among the highest-ranking Roman Catholic officials in the country to be demoted over the handling of a priest accused of sexual abuse, observers say.

“This is a very significant decision,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior analyst with the National Catholic Reporter and a former editor of America, a Catholic magazine. “Short of being a bishop, vicar general and moderator of the curia is as high as you can get.”

Doran is the archdiocese official who signed an agreement with prosecutors in 2007, pledging to supervise the Rev. Michael Fugee, who had confessed to police that he groped a teenage boy years earlier.

Fugee, 52, was convicted of the groping charges in 2003, but the verdict was later overturned because of judicial error. To avoid retrial, he entered a state rehabilitation program, underwent counseling for sex offenders and, by means of the agreement with prosecutors, promised to stay away from children.

The agreement banned Fugee from ministering to children for as long as he remained a priest. Yet Fugee blatantly disregarded those terms, attending youth retreats and hearing confessions from minors in parishes in and out of the archdiocese.

Rev. Michael Fugee appears in court on charges of violating a court-sanctioned agreement that bars him from working with children. Photo by John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger

Rev. Michael Fugee appears in court on charges of violating a court-sanctioned agreement that bars him from working with children. Photo by John O’Boyle/The Star-Ledger


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Fugee has been criminally charged with contempt of a judicial order for violating the agreement, and is free on bail. Fugee was granted a leave from ministry May 2, though he remains a priest.

Through his spokesman, the archbishop at first defended Fugee’s interactions with children, saying that because he was supervised by other adults, he had not breached the agreement. Days later, he said Fugee had acted without his knowledge.

The case has led to national condemnation and repeated calls for the archbishop’s resignation.

In his announcement about Doran that was read at all weekend Masses, Myers reiterated he did not know about Fugee’s travels and immediately ordered an investigation by an outside law firm when he learned of them.

“The investigation uncovered certain operational vulnerabilities in our own systems,” Myers wrote. “We found that the strong protocols presently in place were not always observed.”

He did not elaborate on the vulnerabilities but seemed to lay responsibility for the failure to monitor Fugee squarely on the shoulders of Doran.

“As a result of operational failures, both Msgr. Doran and I felt that the archdiocese would be best served by his stepping down as vicar general,” Myers wrote, characterizing the removal as a resignation. “This action clears the way for making more effective changes in our monitoring function.”

To some critics, Myers’ actions, including the removal of Doran, did not go far enough. David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, repeated his demand today that Myers resign.

“Myers keeps making grudging, belated public relations moves and calling them ‘reform,’” Clohessy said in a statement. “That won’t cut it.”

(Mark Mueller writes for The Star-Ledger.)

KRE/AMB END MUELLER

7 Comments

  1. David Thompson

    I don’t see why these individuals are not immediate terminated from the Catholic church. In a private run business you would be loathed to keep someone on that has done an act directly or covered an act up. The catholic church should take action and clean house, stop wandering how you are going to keep the money coming in. Let the Vatican sell a few paintings and finance the change over.

      • Scott Elliott

        What? What?? A person suggesting that the church adopt personnel practices which are time-tested and commonplace in for-profit and not-for-profit organizations is a “secularist” who is giving the church over to the devil? WHAT???

  2. Um, Jacob, Not completely given over to the devil? What else would you call preist’s abusing kids then the church itself participating in a coverup of the crimes? I’d call that pretty given over myself!

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