(RNS) Acting with uncustomary speed, the Vatican expelled a New Jersey man from the priesthood for repeatedly defying a lifetime ban on ministry to children.

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


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Michael Fugee, 53, who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors despite signing a court-sanctioned decree forbidding such activities, is no longer a priest, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark.

The Vatican typically takes a year or longer to expel priests, a process known as laicization. In some cases, the procedure drags on for several years.

Fugee’s removal comes just four months after the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to drop criminal charges against him in exchange for his expulsion. He remains under lifetime supervision by the prosecutor’s office.

Asked about the swift pace of Fugee’s removal, Goodness said the former priest’s petition for laicization was “given a good amount of attention when it was submitted.”

Fugee’s interactions with children, first reported last April, led to national criticism of Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, who had repeatedly defended the priest and returned him to ministry after a molestation conviction was overturned on a technicality.

Months later, Pope Francis appointed a co-archbishop for the archdiocese. Myers maintains his handling of Fugee and other priests credibly accused of sexual abuse was unrelated to the pope’s decision.

Fugee’s troubles stretch back to 2001, when he admitted under police questioning that he fondled the genitals of a teenage boy, that it sexually excited him and that he recognized it was a “violation.” Two years later, a jury convicted him of criminal sexual contact, and he was sentenced to five years’ probation.

The conviction was later reversed by an appellate court, which ruled the trial judge gave improper instructions to jurors.

The ban on ministry to children, enshrined in a 2007 memorandum of understanding signed by the archdiocese’s vicar general, required Fugee to undergo counseling for sex offenders and to stay away from children. The archdiocese agreed to ensure the terms.

Because of the court reversal, Fugee was not required to register as a Megan’s Law offender.

Mark Crawford, the New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy and support group, called Fugee’s expulsion from the priesthood “long overdue.”

“This should have happened years and years ago,” Crawford said. “If the archbishop was truly open and transparent, Fugee would never have been returned to ministry. At least now he will be monitored by professionals, and we will no longer have the archbishop’s empty promise that Fugee will be supervised. It’s crystal clear he was never supervised.”

Fugee, ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark in 1994, was serving at the Church of St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff when he became close with the 14-year-old alleged victim and the boy’s mother. Fugee spent evenings at the teen’s home and traveled with him on vacation.

During several visits, Fugee engaged in wrestling matches with the boy, groping him in the process, prosecutors charged.

After Fugee’s return to the priesthood, Myers named him chaplain at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark without informing hospital officials of the criminal case. When The Star-Ledger informed the officials of the priest’s past, they demanded his removal.

Fugee later served as co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests, a position at the archdiocese’s headquarters in Newark.

At the same time, however, his contact with children continued. He went on youth retreats, attended youth ministry meetings and heard confessions from minors at St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck and at Holy Family Church in Nutley. He also traveled to a Canadian shrine with youth group members from both churches.

The prosecutor’s office criminally charged him in May with seven counts of violating a judicial order. Six months later, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli dropped the charges on the conditions that Fugee agree to laicization and that he submit to lifetime monitoring and a host of other restrictions.

The controversy led to the gravest crisis of Myers’ tenure in Newark, with calls for his resignation from lawmakers, parishioners and advocates for sex abuse victims. The pastor and two youth ministers at the Colts Neck church were removed from their positions, and the vicar general, Msgr. John Doran, was reassigned.

Goodness said he doesn’t know where Fugee is living now.

(Mark Mueller writes for The Star-Ledger.)

YS END MUELLER

37 Comments

  1. Susan Humphreys

    Better late than never. But shouldn’t the Bishop that failed in his duty and was responsible for moving this man from place to place also be expelled? Since he had the higher office, and was supposedly more worthy or held an office in greater trust, isn’t his guilt as bad if not greater?

    • Yes, of course, Absolutely!
      The Knowing Bishop should be thrown into jail as complicit.
      The entire ‘forgiveness system’ of Christianity is rigged against humanity in favor of the sociopaths.

  2. Sure, and the current bishop of Newark, NJ, whose job it was to oversee the work of Michael Fugee is the same bishop the people of the diocese are now allowing to rip them off by doubling the accommodations of a superb mansion just for his retirement, half of which he has been using as a weekend retreat when other Catholics in his diocese are expected to be observing Sunday religiously.

    John Myers is every bit as guilty as Michael Fugee!

  3. What is next saddest to the molestation of youth by clergy and its cover-up by the bishops, is the fact that such pedophiles are genuinely sick and need help they are not receiving. If their sickness if not curable, they should not be allowed to function as priests–or bishops–and the general population should be protected against them.

    Such protection is not possible as long as secrecy like that long practiced by the church continues. Pedophilia is a sickness and a crime and it should be lawfully removed from any oversight by the church. The church opposes contraception, but, in action, it approves of pedophilia. And where are the people in the pews in all this? It is their kids who are being molested! Almost as bad, it is their money that is paying for the cover-up and court awards.

  4. Well, that didn’t take long. The only problem is now the Newark Archdiocese church officials can wash their hands of Fugee and not claim responsibility for his actions.
    Something that would protect kids better, would be to defrock/fire Archbishop Myers for his callous and reckless handling of sex abuse of children under his care. But it has come to light that we can not count on the pope to do the right thing to protect kids.

    A couple of weeks ago Pope Francis stated: “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No other has done more. And, the Church is the only one to be attacked”——-

    His defensive words are very hurtful to so many thousands of victims who were hoping that, just maybe, Pope Francis might be different. That maybe he really does care about protecting innocent children.
    Either the pope is badly misinformed about the church officials being responsible and transparent, or he is just following the same old archaic rhetoric that the previous popes have done. Francis words could make a person cry, if we had any hope at all that he might take some decisive actions to get this horrific abuse and cover up stopped.

    Tragically the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy throughout the world is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called “zero tolerance” policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don’t have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their image and the institution rather than protecting children.

    Victims have waited long enough and we can not count on Pope Francis to take any action to get this abuse and cover up stopped within the Catholic church. It is time for legislators and law enforcement to get involved and hold accountable those who commit child sex crimes and those who cover up their crimes. Otherwise nothing changes. Silence is not an option anymore, it only hurts and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511,
    “SNAP” the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,

    • Sandra Chisholm

      Judy Jones, you are wrong and Pope Francis was right in what he said. You know very well that more has been done in the Catholic Church than anywhere else to protect children. You also know that rare is the new case, although any case is atrocious, of priests abusing boys. Your organization fails to state that almost all of these cases were decades old, that Pope Benedict went to great lengths, both as Pope and formerly as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to get what he called ‘the filth’ out of the Church, and that huge changes have taken place in dioceses all across North America and beyond to protect children. In my diocese, NOBODY gets near the kids without a criminal check, and they must be in open, easily viewed areas, with at least one other approved adult, and I know of this practice in multiple dioceses. It would be refreshing to hear your organization speak the truth on these issues.

      Do you consider victims of abuse by other individuals and organizations? Do you care about them? That’s what Pope Francis was talking about. I would be interested in the statistics you would come up with if you investigated other religious organizations, sports groups, youth groups, schools, and relatives and acquaintances of abused kids. Because the stats are out there, and it’s real, and the numbers are huge. That’s what the Pope was talking about. We’re not hearing about it, though. It’s time that all of society was held to the same standard for the protection of children, and if organizations and the media truly cared about children, these revelations would be brought to light. Be honest, be fair.

    • Ms. Jones…in SNAPS rush to condemn the Catholic Church at every turn you have willingly turned a blind eye to the staggering numbers of abuse within the various protestant faiths. Why is that? Now granted your web site has a link to “stopbaptistpredators.org” it is something you and your organization does not publicize. With that being said one is left with the impression that in your eyes as well as our secular media the victims of protestant abuse are not as important as the victims of Catholic abuse. When will you expose the truth within the protestant faiths?

  5. There is something deeply wrong with a philosophy that forgives such horrible behavior and sends these people into society.

    The very same Christians who celebrate the capture of this pedophile
    Are defending a philosophy which tells them he must be freed and forgiven and loved.

    It is desperately immoral – a disaster – to forgive psychopathic, sociopathic people.
    Wake up, Christians. God is nonsense.

    • What is the Church supposed to do with “these” people? There are a whole society filled with “these” people, and they are free, they molest children or destroy their purity or hurt them in some way in body and soul. It is not only a Christian problem; it is a cultural problem. In Christian-speak, it is sin.

      • What is the church to do? Are you kidding?

        Hand them over to the police!
        Assist in the evidence against them!
        Reveal their locations!
        Send out a plea to victims to come forward and reveal what happened!

        INSTEAD what they did….
        Cardinal Bernie Law, of the Boston Pedophile Priest Ring, took a night flight to the Vatican – where he has been hidden and protected for his role in knowingly spreading this evil from parish to parish throughout Massachusetts to afflict THOUSANDS of little boys. The entire enterprise is a criminal disgrace beyond all horror!

        God looks out for God, not people.

        • And are you equally concerned for the victims of the various protesatant faiths or the victims of our secular public school system. I would suggest that you not be so selective as to whom you show your limited compassion!

      • @tanya,

        When pedophilia happens elsewhere in society the perpetrators are not protected. The record already shows that the church hides ‘these people’.
        If someone is a danger to society they must be removed from society – until and unless they are no longer a danger.

        Nobody anywhere debates that – except the ‘forgiving church’. Christianity is such a dangerous philosophy.

        • atheist- Do you think that the problem is widespread? -homosexual problem in society? I’m sorry, but that is the bottom line. “Those people” are getting sentenced and handed over, but what about the society saying it’s okay to have licence when you have “that” problem. It seems like a double standard somehow. I do not advocate homosexuality, paedophilia, or any other type of disorder that our culture is embracing. So blame everything on the Catholic Church if that makes it all better. I believe , lets clean up our society, but maybe that sounds too difficult, and it might step on some toes.

          • Susan Humphreys

            Tanya the problem isn’t with homosexuality. The problem is pedofilia. The two are not related. AND it is very inmportant to recognize the difference between consenting behavior between same sex adults and the abusive sexual behavior of rape (whether of females or males by females or males) and pedofilia (sexual exploitation of children). IF you read the New Testament part of the Bible thoroughly you will see that the behavior it is against is abusive behavior it does not mention loving consensual behavior.

          • So you equate rape of minors to consensual adult relations and blame the latter for the former. That is one of the most bigoted and idiotic things people repeat.

            You are advocating treating people who want to live like loving adults to raise families the same as people who forcibly attack children and damage them irrevocably. You are a vile person.

          • This is an incredibly sad thing to research.

            15% of all child molesters are women.

            This problem has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality. Gay people are not to be feared.

            4% of priests have been charged with sexual abuse – somewhat lower than the general population of men overall.

            6-10% of all men are sexually abusive at some time in their lives.

            Most horrifying:
            As many as 15% of all boys and 25% of girls will be the victims of some level of sexual abuse before the age of consent.

            300,000 children per year are victimized. Many of them will grow up to be sexually abusive also. Sex abuse is sadly not uncommon.

            Christian forgiveness is not what these abusers need.
            They need to be reported and removed from the community as quickly as possible. Most of them were abused as children.

            For more information:

            http://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/child-sexual-abuse.aspx

          • Susan H- hogwash the 2 are definitely related. And yes Larry I agree, I am a vile person. But I will stand by what I have said. I don’t think you understand what it means to be raped. On the otherhand I do understand rape and homosexuals.

          • @Tanya

            Obviously I understand the difference between consensual actions of adults and forcible actions upon minors far better than you could.

            You understand how to express ignorance and bigotry. Not much to be proud of.

        • And are you equally concerned for the victims of the various protesatant faiths or the victims of our secular public school system. I would suggest that you not be so selective as to whom you show your limited compassion!

    • I hope that you are also of the “opinion” that atheism is more dangerous that the Christian religion. All one has to do is look at the history of atheist run countries. Mao, an atheist, killed over 65 million of his own people. Stalin, an atheist, killed over 35 million of his people. History obviously shows that in the long run the philosophy of atheism is far more dangerous than religion.

    • @TDJ,

      “bishops…are not fired….Punishments take the form of fixing the messes they create”

      So gentle, meek and mild. More self-policing? How’d it work last time?
      Religious people apparently do have some spoiled privilege issues, indeed.
      “Justice” is the correct answer – not that milquetoast nonsense.

      Any human being who knowingly moves a pedophile from one group of children to another group of children should go to jail for the rest of his life!….At least.

      • Sandra Chisholm

        What almost of these priests were guilty of was not pedophilia, but ephibophilia (sp?). That is sexual attraction of men to post-pubescent boys. Pedophiles want young children, either gender. These men were not after women or girls, they wanted, for the most part, adolescent males. They had access to females. It doesn’t change the past, but it is important for us to be informed and to get the facts right.

        • Having sexual relations with a minor is a criminal act in of itself. (Statutory rape) As a “per se crime”, there is no need to establish motive. As long as there is evidence that the act was done, its prosecutable.

  6. THE SOLUTION
    Minors at church should not have contact with adult males. Women want more roles so… All minors should be taught/supervised etc. by women ONLY. Alter servers should be adults ONLY. During confession there should always be a female chaperone present.

    Or just keep letting pedephiles destroy young lives and the church.

    • @Solutionfinder,

      Too sexist. Women have been known to grope children too, you know.
      You know men aren’t generally out to hurt kids, right?

      Here’s a better idea. Close the churches.

    • solution- you are kidding right? Those are not solutions- they are your dream of what it is to be Anglican or Episcopalian or any other denomination that includes all the stuff you have suggested. Why does the Catholic Church need to be told by the world what it should be? forget it. PS- they are altar servers, not “alter”, but in the church you want they can be called that.

  7. And when will the Vatican investigate and shutter St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville Minnesota? Those monks have sexually abused over 200 people, mostly children, and there remain many monks on so-called restrictions. Most every single year there are more lawsuits, as there was this spring.

  8. larry,”Obviously I understand the difference between consensual actions of adults and forcible actions upon minors far better than you could.

    You understand how to express ignorance and bigotry. Not much to be proud of.”
    I guess you are the brilliant one here for sure. I understand rape and just to be clear, as a child. (how much do you want me to say?). I also have been hit on by a lesbian as a very young teenager-13. I think the whole gambit of homosexuality and lesbianism and sexual crap by any person is what is ruining our society. The priesthood has been tainted with quite a few cases of homosexuals acting out on male children. It is deplorable. Furthermore, pushing the agenda for pro homo marriage and consensual sex is deplorable. Sin is ugly, and I’m not saying those who have the cross of being attracted to the same sex are sinners, but when the inclination it is acted upon it become sinful, and that’s what I’m talking about. So go ahead and call me what you will. I know where my heart stands and my mind. I do not hate anyone, not even you for referring to me as vile, bigoted and ignorant. I don’t think you are ignorant or vile, just bitter. I will pray for your soul and I hope you have the charity to pray for mine. pax

  9. A full return to the true teachings of the church and doing away with the horrors of Vatican II and the desire for a more “liberal” priesthood is to blame. Before 1962 seminarians who were found to have homosexual tendancies were not allowed to be ordained and if found out later after receiving Holy Orders were defrocked, now the church is run by homosexuals and seminaries are pink palaces. Pray for a true traditional pope, catechism, Latin mass, and code of canon law, this 50 plus year experiment has indeed let the smoke of satan into the sacristy

  10. In everyone’s mad rush to condemn the Catholic Church you seem to have forgotten that there is also a very big problem with this exact same thing in the various protestant churches. And yes the protestant churches do shuffle their ministers around and they do hide the crime. Also, you seem to have forgotten the outrageous numbers of abuse within our secular public school systems. Should not all victims be offered the same degree of justice or are we more concerned for the victims of the Catholic Church?

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