When is a priest not a priest? When he’s molesting a child, diocese says in defense of lawsuit
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on June 02, 2014 at 6:31 AM, updated June 04, 2014 at 5:56 PM
Chris Naples says something snapped inside him that January day.
The Burlington County man sat in the gallery of the Delaware Supreme Court, watching as a lawyer for the Diocese of Trenton told the justices that the Rev. Terence McAlinden was not “on duty” — or serving in his capacity as a priest — when he allegedly molested Naples on trips to Delaware in the 1980s.
McAlinden, who once headed the diocese’s youth group, had introduced himself to Naples at a church-sponsored leadership retreat in Keyport. He’d heard his confession, included him in private Masses and discussed matters of spirituality with him.
Yet McAlinden wasn’t officially a priest when he took a teenage Naples to Delaware, the lawyer argued.
“How do we determine when a priest is and is not on duty?” one of the justices asked, according to a video of the session on the court’s website.
“Well,” replied the diocese lawyer, “you can determine a priest is not on duty when he is molesting a child, for example. … A priest abusing a child is absolutely contrary to the pursuit of his master’s business, to the work of a diocese.”
The statement — one prong of the diocese’s argument that it should not be held responsible for McAlinden’s alleged assaults — left Naples reeling.
“Any hope I had that the church was concerned about me as a victim or about the conduct of its priests was totally gone,” Naples, now 42, said in a recent interview. “They were washing their hands of it. I was shattered. I just couldn’t believe that was one of their arguments.”
Saying church officials must be held accountable for their handling of McAlinden, Naples has now filed suit against the diocese in Superior Court in Mercer County.
The lawsuit comes after the Delaware courts ruled Naples didn’t have jurisdiction to sue the diocese in that state because he couldn’t prove the trips were church-sanctioned. Naples did win a $3 million judgment against McAlinden individually in Delaware, though he has yet to see a penny.
He expects he never will, saying the priest has few assets.
“This has never been about the money,” Naples said. “It’s about exposing him for the monster that he is, and it’s about transparency in the diocese. They knew about McAlinden. They could have done something about it. And they did what every other diocese did. They kept it hush-hush and paid behind-the-scenes settlements.”
Also named as a defendant is St. Theresa’s Parish in Little Egg Harbor, where McAlinden was named pastor in 1988. For two decades leading up to the appointment, he served as director of the Catholic Youth Organization. The suit can be found here.
Naples, who lives with his wife and two children in New Gretna, first came forward to the diocese in 2007, alleging McAlinden sexually abused him for more than a decade, beginning when he was 13. The diocese investigated the claims, found them to be credible and suspended McAlinden from ministry, effectively ending his career as a priest.
Since then, two other men have made similar claims. One of the men, Patrick Newcombe, revealed at a press conference in 2011 that the diocese gave him a settlement in exchange for his silence. Newcombe first came forward in 1989 and reached a settlement in 1992. The other accuser, Bob Markulic, said McAlinden abused him in the 1960s at his first assignment, Our Lady of Victories Church in Sayreville.
Markulic received an undisclosed settlement from the diocese two years ago, said his attorney, Gregory Gianforcaro.
McAlinden, now 73, declined to comment when a reporter knocked on the door of his ranch-style home in Little Egg Harbor. He said he did not have an attorney.
During a December 2012 deposition in the Delaware court case, he acknowledged having an intense sexual relationship with Naples but said it began only after Naples turned 18.
He also admitted sleeping nude with “a number of” teen boys who were active in the diocese’s youth group. The overnights took place at Jeremiah House, the youth group’s headquarters in Keyport, and at the rectory of St. Theresa’s, he said. Other times, McAlinden said, teen boys bathed nude with him in a hot tub at his parents’ home in Toms River.
In the deposition, a copy of which has been obtained by The Star-Ledger, he called nudity in the hot tub “standard practice.” McAlinden said he had no sexual contact with the children.
Rayanne Bennett, a spokeswoman for the diocese, would not discuss the lawsuit or address McAlinden’s status.
Naples said the diocese told him in 2007 that McAlinden would be removed from the priesthood altogether, or laicized. Yet five years later, at the time of the deposition, McAlinden said he remained a priest, albeit a retired one, and drew a pension from the diocese. He augmented that pay by working as a real estate agent, he said.
‘He Knew How to Manipulate’
He called it “The Poor Box.”
McAlinden kept the 28-foot Bayliner cabin cruiser in Toms River, and to 13-year-old Chris Naples, it seemed pretty cool.
McAlinden offered to take him out on the boat when they met at the weekend leadership retreat in the summer of 1985. The teen’s mother, divorced and deeply religious, readily agreed, believing a priest would be a positive influence on her son, Naples said.
Nothing sexual happened on that first boat ride, a day trip, Naples said. An overnight trip followed on the Fourth of July. Naples said that day marked the first of hundreds of sexual assaults.
He contends McAlinden abused him at Jeremiah House, on the boat, in the rectory at St. Theresa’s, at the home of the priest’s parents in Toms River and on trips Delaware, Connecticut, New York, Atlantic City and the Virgin Islands.
In one instance, a housekeeper who was employed by the church walked into a bedroom while the two had sex, the suit states. It’s not clear if she reported what she saw. Other priests knew about Naples’ frequent sleepovers but said nothing, according to the suit.
One of those priests, the Rev. Thomas Triggs, served as assistant director of the diocese’s youth group under McAlinden. He frequently witnessed the teen walking into McAlinden’s room to spend the night, the suit states. Triggs also accompanied them on some of their trips, Naples said.
Triggs would go on to lead his own parish, St. Mary’s in Colts Neck. Last year, Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell removed him after The Star-Ledger reported he allowed the Rev. Michael Fugee to interact with the parish’s youth group.
Fugee had been barred from ministering to children for life following accusations he repeatedly groped a teenage boy. Fugee has since been laicized. Triggs could not be reached for comment.
Naples says his abuse continued into his mid-20s. Asked why he didn’t stop or report it, he said he couldn’t, that McAlinden had emotional and intellectual control over him.
“He knew how to manipulate,” Naples said. “He would say things like, ‘If your mother found out about this special thing we have, she would die,’” Naples said. “He called it our little secret. And I thought I was the only one.”
It was McAlinden who introduced Naples to his wife, Patty, now a teacher. McAlinden presided over their marriage and baptized their two children. He is godfather to one of the kids.
Naples said he didn’t realize how badly the relationship with McAlinden affected him, even after it stopped being sexual in 1997. He felt he was “smothering in Saran wrap,” yet he didn’t know why.
Patty Naples noticed.
In an interview at the couple’s home, she said her husband became increasingly withdrawn and distant. By 2007, she was sure he was having an affair. On July 2 of that year, she confronted him. Chris Naples stormed out.
Hours later, he sat in his driveway, contemplating suicide, he said.
Ultimately, he told her that he’d been harboring a secret throughout their lives together.
“He said, ‘I was abused by Mac,’ and he just crashed,” Patty Naples said. “He was crying, and I was sobbing, and I was like, ‘No.’ I didn’t want to believe it, but Chris was breaking down in front of me, and I knew it was true.”
A month later, Naples brought his allegations to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. He said a detective was sympathetic but told him the alleged crimes were beyond the criminal statute of limitations.
Naples also confronted his alleged abuser during a phone call he taped. McAlinden made no apologies for the sexual contact during the conversation, which The Star-ledger has reviewed.
“At no time did I feel like I was using you or taking advantage of you,” McAlinden says on the tape.
Today, as he prepares for another lengthy legal showdown, Naples says he isn’t motivated by anger. He calls himself the “church’s best victim” because he has refrained from public attacks on the diocese.
But he said he wants an acknowledgment that the diocese could have done more. He said he also hopes his suit sends a message to other alleged victims.
“If it helps others who may be choosing something bad,” he said, referring to his own thoughts of suicide, “then they know they’re not alone.”
Priest admits violating ban on ministry to children, says actions are ‘my fault alone’
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on May 04, 2013 at 6:45 AM, updated May 04, 2013 at 9:30 AM
Asserting his actions were “my fault alone,” the Roman Catholic priest who violated a court-sanctioned agreement to stay away from children wrote in his resignation letter that he attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors without the knowledge of his superiors in the Archdiocese of Newark.
The Rev. Michael Fugee — who was removed from ministry Thursday, four days after The Star-Ledger disclosed his association with a Monmouth County youth group — specifically noted in the letter that Archbishop John J. Myers did not grant him permission to minister to children.
“In conscience, I feel it necessary to make clear to all that my actions described in recent news stories were outside of my assigned ministry within the archdiocese,” Fugee wrote. “… My failure to request the required permissions to engage in those ministry activities is my fault, my fault alone.”
The archdiocese released the full text of Fugee’s letter yesterday in an apparent effort to quell a public uproar over Myers’ handling of the priest, who signed the agreement with law enforcement in 2007 to avoid retrial on charges he fondled a teenage boy.
For days after The Star-Ledger’s report, a spokesman for the archbishop insisted Fugee’s interactions with children were within the scope of the agreement, arguing he was under the supervision of lay ministers and other priests.
But amid mounting public pressure, calls by elected officials for Myers to resign and a criminal investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, the archdiocese reversed course Thursday, acknowledging Fugee violated the agreement and saying he acted alone.
Myers’ spokesman, Jim Goodness, reiterated that stance in a statement yesterday.
“The archdiocese only learned about two weeks ago when approached by a reporter that Fr. Fugee had engaged in other activities or ministries,” Goodness said. “Had the archdiocese known about them at the time, permission to undertake them would not have been granted.”
Myers immediately approved Fugee’s request to leave ministry Thursday. Fugee remains a priest of the archdiocese but may not wear clerical clothing, say Mass or engage in other sacramental activities.
It was unclear if he or Myers will move for laicization, the process through which one is removed from the priesthood altogether. Beyond the statement he issued, Goodness declined to answer questions yesterday.
In his letter to Myers, Fugee requested removal from ministry “for the good of the church and for my peace.” He also offered an apology.
“I am sorry that my actions have caused pain to my church and to her people,” he wrote.
For the past several years, Fugee has openly been involved with the youth group at St. Mary’s Church in Colts Neck, where he is longtime friends with the youth ministers.
Fugee, 52, has attended youth retreats at the Kateri Environmental Center in Marlboro and at a sprawling home owned by an order of nuns along Lake Hopatcong, both in other dioceses. The bishops of Trenton and Paterson have since said Fugee did not request the required permission before working in their dioceses.
Fugee also traveled several times with members of the St. Mary’s youth group on an annual pilgrimage to St. Anne Beaupre, a shrine in Quebec.
Members of St. Mary’s parish have expressed outrage, saying they were not told about the restrictions on Fugee’s ministry or about his 2003 conviction on a charge of aggravated criminal sexual contact. An appeals court overturned the verdict in 2006, ruling jurors should not have been told that Fugee questioned his sexual identity.
The controversy was the subject of a parish-wide meeting at the church last night.
For years, Myers has faced criticism for his handling of Fugee, whom he has characterized as a victim in the criminal case. In correspondence with priests of the archdiocese, he referred to the criminal case as an “acquittal” despite the fact Fugee entered a rehabilitation program and underwent counseling for sex offenders.
Several years ago, he named Fugee director of the Office of the Propagation of the Faith, a fundraising position to support missionary work. Then late last year, the archbishop appointed him co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests, drawing anger from advocates for victims of sexual abuse and Fugee’s alleged victim, who complained the priest’s past had been “swept under the rug.”
Priest charged with violating ban on ministry to children freed on bail
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on May 22, 2013 at 8:04 PM, updated May 24, 2013 at 7:15 PM
The Roman Catholic priest charged with violating a ban on ministry to children was released from jail late Tuesday, less than 12 hours after making his first appearance in a Bergen County courtroom.
The Rev. Michael Fugee, 52, walked out of the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack sometime after 7 p.m. A spokesman for the county sheriff’s department, which oversees the jail, declined to say who posted Fugee’s bail, which had been set at $25,000 with a 10 percent cash option.
The Archdiocese of Newark, to which Fugee is assigned, did not secure the priest’s release, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for Archbishop John J. Myers. Goodness would not say whether Fugee was returned to a parish or other housing owned by the archdiocese.
Fugee was required to surrender his passport as a condition of the release.
Investigators with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office arrested Fugee at a parish in Newark Monday night, charging him with seven counts of contempt of a judicial order for interacting with children despite the ban.
The restriction grew out of a 2007 agreement Fugee signed with the prosecutor’s office to avoid retrial on charges that he groped a 13-year-old boy.
Following a Star-Ledger report on the priest’s continued contact with children and teens, authorities found he gave confessions to minors at youth retreats and a private home outside the archdiocese and at two parishes inside the archdiocese, which includes Bergen, Hudson, Union and Essex counties.
Fugee’s lawyer, Michael D’Alessio, did not return calls seeking comment.
D’Alessio, who represented Fugee when he signed the agreement, told the Record newspaper the priest did not violate the terms because Fugee was under the supervision of other adults when he was with children, the same defense initially mounted by the archdiocese.
Goodness, Myers’ spokesman, later reversed that position, saying that while Fugee did violate the agreement, he did so without the archbishop’s knowledge.
“Father Fugee is not guilty of this offense,” D’Alessio told the Record.
The lawyer added that prosecutors, to win a conviction, would have to prove in court the priest “knowingly and purposefully” flouted the agreement.
“If there are other adults in the room, other adults in the vicinity, he was never in a position where he could not be observed,” D’Alessio said. “That’s the key to this, and that’s the key to what he thought.”
Newark Archdiocese stirs outrage after allowing accused molester to live in parish
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on July 20, 2013 at 8:00 PM, updated July 20, 2013 at 9:39 PM
Parishioners at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Oradell first noticed the man in November. Each night, he slept in the rectory. Every morning, he attended Mass in the soaring brick church, across the street from the parish’s elementary school.
What parishioners didn’t know — what neither their pastor nor the Archdiocese of Newark told them — was that the man was an accused sexual predator.
The Rev. Robert Chabak, 66, was removed from ministry in 2004, when church officials determined there was evidence to support allegations he molested a teenage boy over a three-year period in the 1970s.
In the years since, Chabak has lived in a home once owned by his mother in the Normandy Beach section of Toms River. When Hurricane Sandy damaged that home, the archdiocese allowed him to take up residence at St. Joseph “out of a sense of compassion,” said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for Archbishop John. J. Myers.
But no one informed parishioners, who now say the archdiocese and the pastor, the Rev. Thomas Iwanowski, knowingly put children at risk.
It would be months before a few members of the parish discovered Chabak’s background. Under pressure from those parishioners, the archdiocese removed Chabak from St. Joseph in February, transferring him to a retirement home for priests in Rutherford.
But even then, parishioners said, Chabak repeatedly came back to St. Joseph to spend the night.
The furor has led to Iwanowski’s ouster as pastor, effective July 31. It also has spawned fierce criticism of the archdiocese, which has come under fire repeatedly for its handling of predator priests.
Most recently, Myers faced calls for his resignation in April and May after it was revealed the Rev. Michael Fugee had extensively interacted with teenagers despite a lifetime ban on ministry to children. Fugee has since been criminally charged with violating a judicial order.
Daniel O’Toole, the parishioner who led the effort to remove Chabak from St. Joseph, called Iwanowski and Myers “spectacularly tone deaf” given revelations about clergy sexual abuse and said the church has repeated its “past sins” by “recycling a problem priest into an unsuspecting community.”
“If these last two painful decades of scandal have taught us anything, it is that those who have engaged in sexual predation of children will continue to do so for as long as they are permitted access to children,” said O’Toole, 46, an attorney whose three children attend St. Joseph School.
“That access, in and of itself, presents a danger,” he said. “By allowing this man to live in the rectory within close proximity to parish children, schoolchildren and CCD students, the church breached its duty to its people.”
Several other parishioners have expressed similar anger and frustration but declined to speak for attribution. O’Toole said he is speaking for them.
Mark Crawford, the New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national advocacy group, called Chabak’s placement at St. Joseph “truly disturbing.”
“It is absolutely reckless to take this chance with a known predator,” Crawford said. “Why are we still taking such risks and not informing parents and parishioners? Clearly, the archbishop is not being on the level or honest with the people in the pews.”
Chabak, who is now back in the Normandy Beach home, declined to comment when a reporter knocked on his door last week.
Voter registration records show he shares the home with Iwanowski, 64, when the pastor is not at St. Joseph.
In a brief interview outside the Oradell rectory, Iwanowski said he didn’t see the harm in Chabak’s stay at the church.
“He lived in the rectory and went to Mass every day. He didn’t do anything else,” Iwanowski said. “I don’t see the problem with that.”
Asked about the propriety of Chabak visiting the parish after his removal, Iwanowski said, “He came for dinner. You have friends, don’t you? He simply came for dinner and visited a friend. Does it matter that he stayed over?”
The pastor called it “interesting” that people were watching the rectory to note Chabak’s comings and goings. He also said the controversy has been largely manufactured.
“There were people who had problems with my administration of the parish, and this gave them something to latch onto,” he said.
Iwanowski announced his resignation in the July 14 edition of the church bulletin. He wrote that he met with the archbishop July 5 “to discuss the situation here” and that he and Myers “reached the conclusion it would be best for me to move ‘forward in faith.’” The message did not name Chabak.
Goodness, the archdiocese spokesman, would not say if Myers personally approved Chabak’s move to St. Joseph, calling it an archdiocese decision.
The spokesman said the placement was the result of an “extraordinary circumstance” given the extensive damage to Chabak’s house.
“When this situation happened, it was logical to see if Chabak could be put up at St. Joseph for a little while with his friend, and there was space available,” Goodness said. “It was somebody answering a call for help in an emergency time.”
He said Chabak was moved to the retirement home in Rutherford when it became clear it would take longer to repair his house than originally thought. Iwanowski, Goodness said, was well aware of Chabak’s restriction on ministry and ensured the suspended priest did not take part in parish life other than attend Mass.
Chabak, ordained in 1972, was assigned to St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Elizabeth when he allegedly molested a 15-year-old boy for three years in the 1970s, authorities told The Star-Ledger in 2004, when the allegation was reported.
The statute of limitations had long since expired, and Chabak was not criminally charged.
But an investigation by the archdiocese showed there was “sufficient information to begin a canonical process,” Goodness said.
While the church declined to laicize Chabak, or remove him from the priesthood altogether, it stripped him of his priestly faculties, meaning he may not wear a collar or represent himself as a priest in any way.
The archdiocese has allowed him at least two exceptions to the ban, giving him permission to preside over the funerals of his mother and his aunt, Goodness said. The aunt’s funeral was held at St. Joseph in June of last year.
In recent months, the archdiocese has been made aware of a second allegation against Chabak, Goodness said.
The accuser, an Essex County attorney, told The Star-Ledger he was a 14-year-old altar boy at St. Mary of the Assumption in Elizabeth when Chabak invited him and another teen to Normandy Beach for a weekend in December 1977.
The newspaper has agreed to withhold the man’s name because he is an alleged victim of attempted sexual abuse.
The lawyer said Chabak brought him to see the R-rated movie “Saturday Night Fever” and tried to “initiate” him into the priest’s “club.”
“To be part of the club you had to strip down naked and run around while he photographed it,” the man said.
The accuser said he refused.
Later that night, he said, he was sleeping on Chabak’s living room floor when he awoke to find the priest straddling him and trying to remove his shirt. The other teen, a 15-year-old, was holding his legs, participating in the attack, the man said.
He said he managed to punch Chabak in the face and free himself, then ran and hid in the bushes.
“I never went back to the church,” he said. “In that one incident, he stole my childhood and innocence. I’ve been emotionally detached ever since. That moment was defining to me. He ruined me.”
The man said he kept the attempted assault a secret for decades, eventually telling his mother and brother. By happenstance, he learned about Chabak’s move into St. Joseph parish from a friend.
He has since made contact with O’Toole, the Oradell parishioner, and shared the story with him. O’Toole, in turn, passed the information on to the archdiocese, though he did not provide the accuser’s name.
In June, Goodness referred the case to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. A spokesman for that office, Al Della Fave, said law enforcement is eager to speak to the alleged victim, though it appears a criminal case would be barred by the statute of limitations.
“Ocean County prosecutor’s officials are willing to help him in any way they can,” Della Fave said.
The man has declined to speak to the archdiocese and says he has no intention of filing a lawsuit. What he wants, he said, is for Chabak to be kept as far away from children as possible.
O’Toole called his fight to remove Chabak extremely difficult and disillusioning, saying he cares deeply about the Catholic church and his parish, which he has attended his entire life.
“I’ve had people suggest to me I should just let this go, and I shouldn’t stand up and speak the truth because it’s going to cause potential harm to the church or to the school,” O’Toole said.
“And to those folks, I would suggest looking the other way and not giving voice to these things is what has put us in this position — this position where we’re constantly putting out fires created by church administrators and bad priests,” he said. “Honesty is the only true hope for the future of the Roman Catholic church in the United States of America.”
Sex abuse cases are about children, not religion: Editorial
on May 14, 2013 at 1:36 PM, updated May 14, 2013 at 1:50 PM
The conviction of Yosef Kolko in Ocean County is another painful reminder that the scourge of child sex abuse – and the inexcusable failure of adults to do all they can to protect the victims – is not limited to the Catholic Church.
We saw in the Jerry Sandusky case that Penn State University tolerated the rape of children, keeping it hidden to avoid embarrassing the institution. And with the conviction of Kolko this week, we see the same sickening pattern in the Orthodox community of Lakewood.
This is a scourge wherever it occurs. And while it is gratifying to know that Kolko will likely spend many years in jail, it is disturbing that Orthodox leaders in Lakewood failed to respond when the father, himself a rabbi, sought their help.
Instead, the victim and his family were ostracized in Lakewood when they went to prosecutors in frustration. A flier was circulated in the town’s large Orthodox Jewish community claimed the victim’s father had made a mockery of the Torah and committed a “terrible deed” by going to prosecutors.
The answer in every case of suspected child abuse is to report the facts to the authorities, and allow prosecutors to investigate, no matter how embarrassing that might be. The Catholic Church has failed that test many times over, as did Penn State and the Orthodox leaders in Lakewood.
The result is not just that justice was delayed or denied for victims. It’s worse than that. It also puts other children at risk. Because when an adult is driven to sexually abuse a child, it usually doesn’t stop after one victim. It goes on until someone puts a stop to it.
Newark Archbishop John Myers is facing calls for his resignation, from this paper and from several prominent Catholic politicians in the state. A special wrinkle in his case is that he signed a legally binding agreement to keep an abusive priest, Michael Fugee, away from children. The Star-Ledger’s Mark Mueller documented that the agreement was broken, and that Fugee went on youth retreats, and ministered to children repeatedly, including taking their confessions.
The Jewish faith is not as hierarchical, so responsibility is not quite as clear. But any leaders, religious or civic, who tolerate abuse of children, should step down after apologizing to their followers.
This is not about religion. This is about crimes committed against children. It can’t be tolerated
Newark archbishop shielded at least 4 priests accused of sexual abuse
Published: Sunday, December 05, 2010, 8:30 AM Updated: Sunday, December 05, 2010, 6:40 PM
Eight years ago, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers stood among the nation’s bishops at a landmark gathering in Dallas and helped craft a policy intended to cleanse the priesthood of pedophiles and restore trust among shaken American Catholics.
In ratifying the Dallas Charter, Myers and his colleagues promised a new era of reform and transparency. Allegations of sexual abuse against priests would no longer be hidden from parishioners or police, and any priest believed to have molested a child would be permanently banned from ministry.
In the years since, Myers and his aides say the archdiocese has taken aggressive measures to identify abusive priests.
But a Star-Ledger review of the archbishop’s record since 2002 shows Myers on at least four occasions has shielded priests accused of sexual abuse against minors and one adult. In the four instances, the priests have either admitted improper sexual contact, pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct or been permanently barred from ministry by the archdiocese after allegations of sexual misconduct.
The archdiocese also wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the priests, a week after it learned he was accused of breaking into a woman’s home in Florida and possibly assaulting her.
From one perspective, the newspaper’s findings suggest Myers continues to take a cautious hand in publicly naming priests. The findings, coupled with testimony from a 2009 deposition, show the issue weighs heavily on Myers.
From another view, the archbishop has failed to live up to the guidelines and spirit of what was set forth in Dallas. The most controversial example is the Rev. Michael Fugee, who confessed to police eight years ago that he molested a 13-year-old boy. Fugee was never ousted from the priesthood, and the archdiocese assigned him last year as chaplain to St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark without telling hospital officials of his past.
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.
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.
Asked to provide the number of priests accused of or disciplined for sexual misbehavior with a minor since 2002, Goodness declined. In 2004, Myers did announce the results of an internal review prompted by the scandal. From 1950 to 2002, Myers said there were 91 allegations made against the 3,310 clergy who served in the archdiocese, and that 51 were deemed credible.
In the past, Myers has defended his policy of not naming accused priests, citing the need to protect their reputations and noting that accusers themselves often request anonymity.
“This has been difficult for me because of the special role I have as Bishop,” he wrote in 2004. “I know full well my responsibilities to investigate any accusation, and to fulfill my promise that we will provide safe environments for all young people. Yet I also feel keenly the pain that my brother priests experience when anyone has been accused.”
Longtime critics of the church say Myers’ record shows a continued arrogance.
“Archbishop Myers is not indicating any serious intent to protect kids from the credibly accused sex offenders he knows about,” said Anne Doyle, co-director of bishopaccountability.org, a watchdog group that compiles a database of news articles on priests accused of molesting minors. “It’s clear by the pattern that this practice is still one of arrogant secrecy.”
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Myers “continues to act slowly, deceptively, callously and irresponsibly.”
Though Myers rarely speaks publicly about the sex abuse issue, he did share his thoughts in a wide-ranging deposition for a lawsuit brought by Gorak’s victim. In the Nov. 3, 2009, deposition, he defended his handling of several cases, including that of Fugee, while also expressing sympathy for victims.
“Having met with various victims, they often blame themselves,” he said. “They often suffer loss of self-image and can move onto other more serious problems, trying to compensate for the feelings that they don’t want to deal with.”
“And what do you mean when you say ‘move onto other serious problems’?” asked the plaintiff’s attorney.
“Drugs,” Myers said.
On March 19, 2001, detectives arrived at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Wyckoff and picked up the Rev. Michael Fugee, who was alleged to have molested a 13-year-old boy.
For the first 90 minutes of an interview at the police station, Fugee denied the allegations, Detective John Haviland of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office later testified. Eventually though, Haviland said Fugee admitted to the charges and “then made some unusual comments about his sexuality, being a compulsive masturbator. He also stated he was bisexual, and that he was a virgin. He also said that he was infatuated with crotches or penis size.”
Haviland testified that Fugee then admitted to two separate incidents with the boy, where the priest “intentionally touched his crotch over his clothes. He said both times they were during wrestling, and that there were other people present, but he did not believe that they would have actually seen what he did. He described it as an urge.”
At trial in 2003, Fugee recanted the confession, saying he lied to police so he could go home earlier. The judge ruled the confession was “totally voluntary,” and a jury convicted him of aggravated criminal sexual contact while acquitting him of child endangerment. An appeals court later overturned the conviction, ruling the judge improperly instructed jurors. The appellate ruling did not question the validity of the confession.
Prosecutors dismissed the case in 2009 after securing an agreement with Fugee and the archdiocese through pretrial intervention stating that Fugee never again will minister to minors.
“We brought the case against him … believing that he did it, and believing that we could prove it,” Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said. “And notwithstanding the reversal, we still believe that he did it.”
In October 2009, The Star-Ledger learned Fugee had been given a job as chaplain at St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark. Approached in the chaplain’s office, Fugee showed a reporter a card that identified him as a “Roman Catholic priest in good standing.”
The hospital, upon learning of his past, had him removed.
Goodness said Myers does not view Fugee’s confession as genuine and thus believes he can return to public ministry.
“That’s one of the issues that got challenged in the courtroom,” Goodness said. Myers, he said, “says that there may have been problems with it (the confession).”
Goodness also said “a lot of people” in the court system felt Fugee’s confession should not be taken at face value. When asked who those people were, he named only Fugee’s attorney.
During the November 2009 deposition, Myers expressed disappointment that Fugee let detectives interview him without counsel.
“Is it your recollection,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Jessica Arbour, asked Myers, “that he (Fugee) admitted that he touched the boy?”
“Unfortunately, without his lawyer present, he did,” Myers said.
For its part, the Survivors Network, or SNAP, called Fugee’s assignment to St. Michael’s “particularly egregious” and said it was the most reckless move by any American bishop in 2009.
Last spring, Fugee filed a motion to have his case expunged from public records. A judge ruled against the expungement in October. Fugee’s current job, for the archdiocese’s mission office, involves its overseas missionary efforts.
‘A SEAL OF APPROVAL’
In 2004, two days before Christmas, the Newark Archdiocese learned the Rev. Wladyslaw Gorak, who had been assigned to work in the Diocese of Orlando, Fla., had been accused of assaulting a female parishioner.
Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski wrote to Myers and explained he had just terminated Gorak’s ministry, citing the priest’s erratic behavior in public and the complaint of a woman who said “that he broke into her house and may have had physical contact with her.”
A week later — on Dec. 30, 2004 — Myers’s number two, the Very Rev. Robert Emery, wrote six separate letters on Gorak’s behalf to church officials in other Florida dioceses. The letters — sent to officials in Miami, Palm Beach, St. Petersburg, St. Augustine, Venice and Pensacola-Tallahassee — noted that Gorak’s faculties had been removed in the Orlando Diocese and that the Newark Archdiocese subsequently placed him on six months of medical leave. But they made no mention of the fresh accusation against Gorak in Orlando.
“Father has expressed a desire to seek permanent ministry in Florida in the future and currently resides in Lakeland, Florida,” each one of the letters reads. “Father continues to enjoy the faculties of the Archdiocese of Newark. Should you be contacted by Father Gorak, I would be happy to provide you with additional information about his status.”
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Catholic priest who in the 1980s warned bishops about sex abuse among clergy, said the archdiocese should have mentioned the accusation “rather than try to pawn him off on someone else.”
The Rev. Thomas Reese, research fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, said the letter’s omission of the accusation was disturbing.
“Does he have to describe it in gruesome detail in the letter? No. The letter has to be clear enough that the bishop receiving it knows there’s a red flag here that needs to be investigated before he even considers taking this guy,” Reese said. “Saying that he continues to enjoy the faculties of the Newark diocese, he is giving a seal of approval for the guy.”
Goodness defended the letter and said “we put them on notice that they need to call us with anything if he does show an interest in working in another diocese.”
Asked why the letter did not mention the accusation, Goodness said he did not know.
The archdiocese placed Gorak on leave in May 2005, after Orlando police charged him with assault, false imprisonment, aggravated stalking and battery. A woman told police he broke into her home, pulled a telephone from its jack, removed his clothes and tore some of the woman’s clothes while trying to remove them, according to a police report.
Two months later, Myers wrote Gorak in jail, sending his prayers and best wishes, and promising that the church would follow the advice of the accused priest’s attorney.
In 2006, Gorak pleaded guilty to assault, and the archdiocese earlier this year settled a lawsuit brought by the accuser, the woman in Florida, for an undisclosed amount.
His history with women came into focus in the lawsuit. In 2004, when he asked to be transferred from Newark to Florida, the archdiocese informed the Diocese of Orlando that he was a priest in good standing even though a police report from 2001 and a confidential memo written by the Rev. Ron Marczewski, then of St. Adalbert’s in Elizabeth where Gorak worked in 1998, indicated serious misbehavior with women, court documents show.
The archdiocese contended in the lawsuit that the priest’s confidential memo never found its way to the chancery office. In depositions and court documents, church officials said they never talked to the priest about Gorak, even though on two occasions they formally reviewed Gorak’s record.
Only earlier this year did Myers begin proceedings to have Gorak laicized, that is, formally removed from the clergy, according to Goodness.
In the deposition last year, Myers was asked by the victim’s attorney what he would have done if told, before Gorak’s May 2005 arrest, that he had tried to rape a woman in Orlando. Myers said he would have recalled Gorak to Newark and advised him to return to his native Poland.
NO ALERTS ISSUED
On Holy Thursday in 2005, the Rev. Gerald Ruane concelebrated Mass at St. Joseph’s Shrine in Stirling. Weeks later, he appeared in vestments in a TV interview from Rome after Pope John Paul II’s death.
The problem was, Ruane wasn’t supposed to appear in public as a priest. And few people seemed to know of that restriction.
In 2004, the archdiocese permanently barred Ruane from ministry after investigating accusations by at least two minors. One, Michael Iatesta, said Ruane molested him throughout his adolescence. Ruane denied the allegations.
Upon learning of Ruane’s subsequent public appearances, Iatesta complained to church officials, who privately reprimanded the priest, according to the archdiocese. But Iatesta and SNAP officials said the archdiocese should have informed the public of the restrictions.
In March 2006, Myers changed his policy on alerting parishioners about investigations, saying he would alert parishioners when a pastor was permanently barred from ministry over sex allegations. At the time, a Star-Ledger review of policies in New Jersey’s four other dioceses showed Myers was the only one not already doing that.
SNAP praised the announcement of the change.
Four months later, the archbishop had to decide whether to alert a different parish about a different priest, the Rev. Daniel Medina.
Medina had pleaded guilty to child endangerment and was sentenced to three months’ probation. He admitted in court that he “inappropriately placed a young boy on (his) lap.”
The boy had alleged in 2004 that Medina had oral sex with him, when he was 8, in the sacristy of Blessed Sacrament Church in Elizabeth. The prosecutor, John Esmerado, said he told the archdiocese the plea bargain reflected his desire to avoid making the child testify, rather than from any weakness in the initial charge.
The archdiocese failed to alert parishioners in 2006 when Medina pleaded guilty, in 2007 when its review board deemed the accusation credible, or in 2008 when it alerted Catholic bishops nationwide that it had barred Medina from ministry and couldn’t locate him. SNAP eventually obtained that alert in September 2008 and publicized it.
Asked at the time why Myers hadn’t notified parishioners, Goodness said, “This is being done on our schedule.”
In April 2005, Gorak changed his name to Walter Fisher, six months after he assaulted the Florida woman and one month before his arrest. At the deposition in November 2009, Myers said the archdiocese did not know about Gorak’s name change until after the fact.
“It was inappropriate for him to do so without my permission,” Myers said. “His bishop in Poland or whichever diocese he had been ordained (in) should have been notified so that the ordination register could be changed to reflect this legal change.”
The attorney taking Myers’ deposition then asked if Gorak, by changing his name, had violated his oath of obedience to Myers.
“I don’t know if I would go that far,” Myers said, “but it was inappropriate because it introduced a confusion into sacramental record-keeping.”
Gorak isn’t the only former priest from the Newark Archdiocese to have a run-in with the law and then change his name. In 1982, the Rev. Carmine Sita of St. Aloysius Church in Jersey City admitted sexually assaulting a teenage boy. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five months’ probation.
He then legally changed his name.
Within a year of his guilty plea, he was the Rev. Gerald Howard. At that time — still on the rolls as a Newark Archdiocese priest — he went to work at a parish in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., and then as a counselor at a Missouri hospital.
The Newark Archbishop at the time, Peter Gerety, never informed the public about the name change. Neither did his successor, Theodore McCarrick. And neither did Myers — even after the archdiocese conducted a comprehensive review of its case files of abusive priests in 2002, in the wake of the scandal.
Mark McAllister, who says he was molested by Howard in Missouri in the 1980s, said the lack of notification allowed Howard “to continue in his deviant behaviors. … If you looked him up, you’d have found nothing. But if you looked up Carmine Sita — same person — you’d find a conviction for sexual molestation of a minor.”
Goodness said there was no need in 2002 to notify the public about Sita’s name change.
“There was a legal filing of his name change in the paper,” he said. “It was a matter of public record.”
Last autumn, McAllister settled claims against the Newark Archdiocese, Jefferson City Diocese and the Servants of the Paraclete, a religious order, for $600,000. The Newark Archdiocese gave $225,000 toward the settlement.
In April, officials in Cooper County, Mo., charged Howard, who is now retired, with the forcible sodomy of McAllister. The prosecutor, Doug Abele, said Howard is also facing charges in two other cases.
Overall, it is difficult to assess Myers’ performance or compare him with other bishops because much of the information on these cases is confidential. Clohessy, of SNAP, said he ranks Myers’ handling of the crisis in the bottom third of the 195 diocesan bishops’ in the country, “in large part because of his ongoing secrecy.”
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, who frequently testifies as an expert witness in lawsuits involving abusive priests, criticized Myers’ actions and said they are too common among bishops. He said American bishops, as a group, have behaved abysmally since 2002, and still seem to care more about protecting themselves from litigation than about helping victims heal.
“This brings great shame on the church,” said Doyle, who co-wrote a report in the 1980s warning bishops about the impending crisis. “I look back on all this and say: Something is drastically, fundamentally wrong with the Catholic hierarchy, if this is their consistent response across the board.”
According to the watchdog group bishopaccountability.com, 25 dioceses — including Philadelphia’s, but not Newark’s — have posted a list on their websites naming every priest removed after an accusation deemed credible by the diocese. Victims groups praise these lists, saying they deny abusive priests the cover of confidentiality that could help them abuse again.
Myers also has failed to regularly alert parishioners to investigations. Those alerts are now more common nationwide, Reese said. Among the bishops who notify parishioners is Bishop Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen. In 2003, SNAP singled out Bootkoski for praise, calling him the best American bishop at handling abuse allegations and noting that he alone among bishops had named a SNAP member to the diocesan panel that investigates allegations.
Victims’ advocates view those alerts as a basic tool to promote transparency and say it bolsters investigations by encouraging other victims to come forward. The bishops’ promises of 2002 explicitly included restoring reputations of priests who, after being removed for an investigation, were exonerated. But Myers has short-circuited that process by not being open about investigations early on, Clohessy said.
Indeed, Myers has opposed publicizing allegations since the early days of the scandal — with no apologies to his critics. Writing to lay people in April 2002, he acknowledged that sometimes, while the archdiocese tried to keep investigations quiet, “there have been a few recent instances where privacy has been lost.”
CA- LA archbishop reneges on Mahony ‘discipline’
Posted by Joelle Casteix on May 10, 2013
LA’s archbishop claimed disgraced predecessor wouldn’t engage in “public ministry.” Now, he’s apparently – and quietly – reversed himself, further betraying thousands of abuse victims and hundreds of thousands of parishioners.
Today’s LA Times reports that Archbishop José Horacio Gomez is violating his pledge to forbid Cardinal Roger Mahony from performing confirmations. And Gomez is giving no explanations.
In the midst of a scandal, under the glare of klieg lights and the outrage of parishioners, bishops will promise anything and everything to everybody. Later, when public attention wanes, they’ll go straight – but quietly – back to “business as usual.” This is the sad, simple truth that most of us foolishly and repeatedly ignore and that enables bishops to keep right on endangering the flock, concealing the truth, and recycling the molesters.
This is the “same old, same old.” Bishops say they’ll oust credibly accused clerics at the first allegation, and they don’t. They say they’ll be “transparent” about clergy sex abuse cases, and they aren’t. They say they’ll monitor predator priests, and they don’t. They’ll pledge to treat victims with compassion, then they don’t.
Why can bishops get by with this? Because they’re monarchs. Because their flocks tolerate it. Because the public has a short attention span. Because we want to believe the best about others. Because we let ourselves be convinced that deliberate cover ups are actually just “mistakes” and that bishops are “learning” and “reforming” when they’re not.
Recent examples include:
–Newark Archbishop John Myers promises to keep admitted and convicted child predator Fr. Michael Fugee away from kids, but let’s and/or enables him to be a hospital chaplain, hear kids’ confessions, go to kids’ retreats, go on trips to Canada with kids, and work in parishes.
–Joliet Bishop Peter Sartain says serial child predator Fr. Carroll Howlin is suspended and the Vatican orders that he be kept away from kids, but the Chicago Tribune discovers that’s not happening:
–Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn said he kept Fr. Shawn Ratigan away from kids but evidence has surfaced showing that he did not.
We could go on and on. We rarely expect dictators to keep their promises, especially when they’ve long been shown to be corrupt. Why are our expectations different when dictators wrap themselves spiritual armor rather than secular armor?
Finally, on this Mother’s Day weekend, we feel sorry for the Los Angeles Catholic moms who approach their children’s confirmation with joy only to be dismayed and betrayed because Cardinal Mahony is on the altar still being held out as an honorable, trustworthy spiritual figure.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact – David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, email@example.com), Joelle Casteix (949-322-7434, firstname.lastname@example.org), Judy Jones 636-433-2511, email@example.com)
Doblin: Newark archbishop goes to the mattresses
By ALFRED P. DOBLIN
RECORD EDITORIAL COLUMNIST
Alfred P. Doblin is the editorial page editor of The Record. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow AlfredPDoblin on Twitter.
NEWARK Archbishop John J. Myers is going to the mattresses. The archdiocese has hired Michael Critchley, a criminal defense lawyer who famously got Michael “Mad Dog” Taccetta, a member of the Lucchese crime family, an acquittal back in the 1980s. Showtime’s “The Borgias” should move its shooting location to Newark.
Myers is under fire because the archdiocese allowed the Rev. Michael Fugee to participate in youth events despite both Fugee and the archdiocese entering into an agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office barring Fugee from such contact.
The priest, who resigned last week, had been convicted of groping a minor, but the conviction was overturned on a technicality. Rather than face a new trial, Fugee made a deal with prosecutors and part of that deal was no unsupervised contact with children and no ministering to children.
However, Fugee went on youth retreats and had one-on-one contact with children in the Newark archdiocese, as well as in dioceses outside of Newark, without the consent of those bishops. The Newark archdiocese has continued to claim it has done nothing wrong.
This would be just reprehensible if it occurred in the private sector; it is something baser, something more vile happening in the Roman Catholic Church. This institutional arrogance was at the heart of the national scandal of priests sexually abusing minors for decades while church officials did nothing to stop it, in many cases enabling the abuse. High-ranking clergy closed their ranks around predators, all to save the face of the institution rather than protect children. Actually, it was less about saving face and more about saving money. Predators are costly.
Yes, they are. They cost children their innocence, something that should be more sacred than the millions of dollars of church funds that have been pouring out like foul-scented sweat to compensate for decades of damage.
For an archdiocese that claims no wrongdoing, Newark’s hiring of a lawyer who can get a reputed mobster an acquittal says much. It says the archdiocese is nervous it may be criminally culpable. Well, cleaning up the Catholic Church is no different than cleaning up wharves along the waterfront. Unless the bad people go to prison, nothing changes.
That is why state Sen. Barbara Buono’s recent call for Myers’ resignation is pointless. The likely Democratic nominee for governor has been joined by Senate President Stephen Sweeney in demanding that Myers resign. Lamentations are so Old Testament; these are modern times. Bishops do not care what politicians say about morality. If Buono and Sweeney want to get Myers’ attention, they would be better off introducing a bill taxing church property. Myers would respond to that.
Fugee has a right to a good defense lawyer and so does the archdiocese; that is the promise of the American judicial system. The money to pay for that defense comes from the pews – indirectly, perhaps, but money used to pay for legal fees could have paid for charity work, for education, for ministering to the disenfranchised. Instead that money goes to pay for a legal defense of actions that are morally not defendable. In 2012, U.S. dioceses paid out $35,341,740 just in attorneys fees for sexual abuse cases.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is reportedly following the doings in the Newark archdiocese. That sounds good, but inside the Church it means little. Dolan, while prominent, has no authority over a New Jersey archbishop. The only way Myers will be removed is by action from Rome.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, of which Dolan is the current president, has been mum on Myers and Fugee. In the wake of the clerical sex scandal, the U.S. bishops created the so-called Dallas Charter that calls for zero tolerance in any credible case of sexual abuse. The annual compliance audit of the charter was released Wednesday. It cites great successes in educating dioceses on how to prevent future abuse. It also notes a critical limitation with the auditing process: the unwillingness of most dioceses to allow these independent observers to conduct onsite parish audits. Instead, they must rely solely on information provided by the diocese. The foxes are not only still guarding the hen house, they are writing the monthly newsletter as well.
Myers clearly ignored the intent of the charter, but there is no statement of condemnation by the conference, even though the conference is not silent when it matters to the conference. On Tuesday, Delaware legalized same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, a subcommittee of the bishops’ conference issued a release decrying a “serious injustice in Delaware.” It took less than 24 hours for a reaction.
The bishop who heads this particular subcommittee wrote, “Our society either preserves laws that respect the fundamental right of children to be raised by their moms and dads together in marriage, or it does not.”
What about: Our society either preserves laws that respect the fundamental right of children not to be put at risk by potential sexual predators, or it does not.
U.S. bishops are not shy criticizing public and government policy it views as wrong, but when it comes to admonishing their own, the men are as silent as a convent of cloistered Carmelite nuns. There should be universal outrage.
Instead of calling for forgiveness for failing to put children’s safety above a priest’s assignment, Myers called a lawyer. By all accounts, Critchley is the attorney to hire if you want an acquittal, but even someone as skilled as he cannot get Myers absolution.
Sweeney joins calls for resignation of Newark Archbishop John J. Myers
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on May 08, 2013 at 10:33 AM, updated May 08, 2013 at 12:47 PM
NEWARK — State Senate President Stephen Sweeney this morning joined in calls for the resignation of Newark Archbishop John J. Myers over his supervision of a priest who violated a lifetime ban on working with children.
Sweeney (D-Gloucester), joins Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) in seeking Myers’ ouster. Advocates for victims of sexual abuse also have demanded Myers step down.
While politicians rarely venture into the affairs of the Roman Catholic church, let alone demand the resignation of an archbishop, Myers’ handling of the Rev. Michael Fugee has drawn sharp criticism from across the country.
“As the days go on, it becomes clearer and clearer that Archbishop Myers cannot remain in his position,” Sweeney said in a statement.
Fugee, who admitted fondling a 13-year-boy in a confession to police 12 years ago, attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors behind closed doors through his association with St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck, The Star-Ledger reported late last month. On Saturday, the pastor and two youth ministers resigned.
The newspaper later found Fugee had attended youth group events at Holy Family Church in Nutley, where he is friends with the pastor, Monsignor Paul Bochicchio.
Fugee, 52, was granted a leave from ministry late last week. While he remains a priest, he may not say Mass, wear clerical garb or perform other priestly duties.
Sweeney called the allegations “deeply disturbing” and said the resignations in Colts Neck only make the case “more troubling.”
The Senate president also was critical of Myers’ silence on the issue and of the shifting accounts offered by his spokesman, James Goodness.
Goodness initially told The Star-Ledger Fugee was within the scope of a court-sanctioned agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office because he was under the supervision of other priests or lay ministers at the time. Later in the week, after prosecutors began an investigation, Goodness said Fugee had clearly violated the agreement but that he did so without the knowledge of the archbishop or other officials in the archdiocese.
Citing the potential danger to children, Sweeney said Myers must be held accountable for the lapses.
“Those who are put in a position of trust, whether it be through elected office, as a coach, or as a person of faith, must be held to a higher standard.,” he said. “And when we are talking about children, that need to trust those in charge leaves absolutely no margin for error. Archbishop Myers must step down now.”
Fugee was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual contact at trial in 2003. The verdict was overturned three years later. An appellate panel ruled jurors should not have been told Fugee questioned his sexual identity. The panel did not dispute the validity of the confession.
Rather that retry Fugee, the prosecutor’s office allowed him to enter pre-trial intervention on the condition that he undergo counseling for sex offenders and sign the binding agreement. The archdiocese’s vicar general also signed the document, essentially pledging to keep Fugee away from children.