MyersA week after John J. Myers was installed as archbishop of Newark in October of 2001, a priest of the archdiocese named Michael Fugee was indicted for groping a 14-year-old boy the previous year. In April of 2003, Fugee, who had admitted abusing the boy, was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual contact and sentenced to five years’ probation, community service, and psychological counseling. He was also required to register as a sex offender and to receive community supervision for the rest of his life.

In the meantime, Myers, possessor of a doctorate in canon law, was appointed to serve on the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which drafted the bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, first approved in 2002. The document provides that “for even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor whenever it occurred which is admitted or established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon is to be permanently removed from ministry.”

In 2006, Fugee’s conviction was overturned on a technicality. Rather than retry the case, the district attorney entered into an agreement with the archdiocese stipulating that the archdiocese

shall not assign or otherwise place Michael Fugee in any position within the Archdiocese that allows him to have any unsupervised contact with or to minister to any minor/child under the age of 18 or work in any position in which children are involved. This includes, but is not limited to, presiding over a parish, involvement with a youth group, religious education/parochial school, CCD, confessions with children, youth choir, youth retreats and day care.

In an interview with the Star Ledger in 2007, Myers stated: “At this time there is no person, whether priest, religious or layperson, on assignment in the archdiocese against whom there have been substantiated accusations of sexual abuse. As per our agreement with state officials, all accusations are referred to county prosecutors and we cooperate with them as they judge best.”

Then, in 2009, Myers appointed Fugee chaplain of St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, where he had access to patients and visitors, including children, without informing the hospital of the legal restrictions on the priest. Fugee was let go only after a Star Ledger reporter started asking questions.

Myers also appointed Fugee director of the archdiocesan Office for the Propagation of the Faith and, earlier this year, co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests. When that appointment created a stir, Myers wrote a letter to his priests informing them that he had decided to return Fugee to ministry after the archdiocesan review board had determined that no abuse had occurred.

It now turns out that Fugee has also, with Myers’ permission, been doing what the 2006 agreement said he could not. Investigative reporting by the Star Ledger‘s Mark Mueller reveals that Fugee has gone on youth retreats and trips, and heard children’s confessions.

This has not been denied by the archdiocese. To the contrary, Myers’ spokesman told Mueller that “the archdiocese has interpreted the document to mean Fugee could work with minors as long as he is under the supervision of priests or lay ministers who have knowledge of his past and of the conditions in the agreement.” He also told Mueller that the review board’s finding that no abuse took place had been forwarded to, and received the concurrence of, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

There is no doubt that Myers has violated the 2006 agreement, which is nothing other than an acknowledgment that Fugee is a sex offender. It is appalling that the archbishop should have engaged his review board to come to a different conclusion, as if the agreement did not exist, and then got the sign-off from Rome to return Fugee to ministry in order to wiggle out of the mandate of the Charter he helped write.

The agreement states that Fugee not be allowed to minister to children, period. As part of the agreement, Fugee himself agreed not to minister to children. That Myers should have allowed him to do just that hardly squares with his assertion that “we cooperate with [county prosecutors] as they judge best.”

Fugee is one of four priests shielded by Myers who have either admitted to or been found guilty of sexual abuse, or who have been permanently barred from ministry, according to the Star Ledger. On Sunday, the newspaper called for his resignation. Yesterday, Rev. James Connell, a former vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and an advocate for abuse victims, formally asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to look into whether Myers had violated canon law in his handling of the Fugee case.

The new revelation about Fugee presents Pope Francis with his first case of a bishop providing an abusive priest with continued opportunities to abuse minors. How Rome handles it, whether by action or inaction, will send a signal around the world. In the long night of the Church abuse scandal will this papacy be a new day, or a false dawn?

23 Comments

  1. The way the RCC uses words to weasel out of and evade responsibility is appalling. “we didn’t know” “we said we’re sorry” “we believed him when he said he’d stop” Even, when a few in Australia have said that they were wrong, then the next sentence never comes, “and since we were wrong, we’ll….”

  2. more of the same old story, cover-up, and talk your way around it. Mahoney,
    Dolan, now Myers.
    Waiting to see what Francis will do., if anything.

    • Mark Crawford

      I believe the “agreement” to which Mark Silk is referring is the MOU or Memorandum of Understanding, the Bergen County prosecutors had both Father Fugee and the Archdiocese sign. He was not referring to the Charter at that point. Archbishop Meyers did help craft the Charter earlier as you have pointed out.
      Mark Silk is absolutely on point, Archbishop Meyers must be removed. Until there is true accountability from civil authorities it simply will not change. Church officials have had countless opportunities to be transparent and honest in this case, instead Archbishop Meyers has once again chosen to protect the institution instead of the children from sexual predators.

  3. SNAP blasts Newark Archbishop

    For immediate release: Tuesday, April 30

    Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

    Archbishop Myers continues to show his contempt for New Jersey’s kids and laws. Now, the burden falls to his bosses, his peers and his flock.

    His bosses – from Pope Francis (the head of the church) to Cardinal Timothy Dolan (the head of America’s bishops) – must, at the very least, strongly and publicly denounce Myers. He’s deliberately endangering children. And he’s making a total mockery of every pledge and promise the Catholic hierarchy has made for decades about allegedly “reforming” their approach to clergy sex crimes and cover ups.

    Myers’ peers – America’s bishops (not just those in New Jersey) – must similarly denounce him. Ignoring wrongdoing encourages wrongdoing. And in November 2002, America’s bishops committed themselves to “fraternally correct” their colleagues who violate church abuse policy, as Myers has clearly and repeatedly done. America’s bishops must, if they are to have any credibility on abuse, speak up loudly and clearly now.

    Myers’ flock must also take action. They must stop donating to any institution even remotely connected with the archdiocese. We urge them to contribute more generously than ever before, but to contribute to organizations that protect kids, not endanger kids.

    Eleven years ago, the US church hierarchy pledged to change how it deals with clergy sex abuse and cover up cases. Since then, this promise has often been honored in the breach.

    This case, however, is the single most egregious one we’ve seen since 2002. Myers is knowingly endangering kids and betraying Catholics. He’s intentionally rubbing even more salt into the wounds of Fr. Fugee’s victim. And like Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, he’s thumbing his nose at the secular justice system.

    We hope every single person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Newark is outraged and emboldened by Myers’ recklessness, callousness, selfishness and arrogance. We hope they will find the strength to step forward, get help, call police, expose misdeeds, protect kids, deter wrongdoing and start healing.

    (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), Mark Crawford (732 632 7687)

  4. Well, it would appear that Archbishop John J. Myers may have blatantly broken the law.

    Something to keep in mind-
    Child predators are very cunning and manipulative. They know every trick on how to groom, threaten, lie, and put the fear of god into their victims, yet they can also be charming and generous, While they are grooming the child, they devote lots of time and energy, building trust with them by giving them money and gifts. They tend to make the child feel that they are special and loved.

    They appear to do a lot of goods things, they can be very charismatic and you may think they would never harm a child. They have to be this way, in order to not get caught and to continue to abuse

    It is extremely rare that a child predator has only one victim. Some have many. Child predators need to be kept far away from kids forever, and the church officials know this.
    So let’s hope that every person who saw, suspects or may has been harmed by Michael Fugee, will find the courage and strength to speak up and contact police, no matter how long ago the abuse happened.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511. snapjudy@gmail.com,
    “SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

  5. James T. Fisher

    The only important detail you omitted, Mark, is that Myers’ passion–indeed his genuine vocation-is writing science-fantasy novels. He’s even co-written one with the guy who wrote ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit.’ Myers is currently working on one about a guy who runs an Archdiocese of well over a million souls yet is never seen in public. Kinda hard to discipline someone who lives in another dimension. Peoria and Newark of course have provided him the ideal cover stories, since nobody would ever have wanted to go looking for him in those places. While in the church of history he’s just another pedophile-enabling capo, his real significance lies in creation of a space colony beyond earthling’s legal jurisdictions. I’m told Opus Dei is bankrolling the project

  6. Nanabedokw'môlsem

    I am Catholic, a retired Pastoral Associate. It is abundantly clear to me that a number of Bishops are either scornful of the law and the Charter, or are willfully blind to the facts, prone to manipulation by abusers who are themselves manipulators par excellence.

    Notwithstanding the shortage of clergy which locally involves merging three churches into one under construction, the Vatican needs to make it abundantly clear that abusers will be consigned to monasteries forever, which monasteries have no associated or nearby Churches or Catholic schools, there to ponder their sins for the rest of their natural lives in isolation from children in all ways forever amen.

    A Bishop who will not enforce such a regime in spirit as well as in fact, should himself be obliged to retreat to a like monastery.

    If the Vatican is concerned itself about problems with the number of priests, they should first strongly enforce the Charter until the public is satisfied that the Church is being ‘right and just.’ If that does not miraculously inspire celibate vocations, then the Church must decide whether it wishes to shrink to irrelevance, or to welcome the married and the female to the priesthood, secure in the knowledge that the situation suggests that God intends thus.

    • The authority of the church has proved over and over again that they are incapable of policing themselves. What all of them need, predators and their enablers, is to spend time in jail instead of at a monastery. Victim survivors should be compensated for having their right to life without abuse changed dramatically. I am a survivor.

  7. I have a few questions. First, did Myers commit a crime that he can still be prosecuted for? Second, can Fugee be retried? Third, is there a DA that has the brass to go after these people if there is case?

    Forget about the Pope taking any action. Cardinal Law is still living the “good life” in Rome.

  8. Mark Silk

    Dr. Who,
    Good questions all. The agreement, called a memorandum of understanding, envisages a violation only Fugee, specifying that he would bear any costs associated with dealing with violations. The agreement indicates that the its terms will be incorporated into a consent order from Superior Court. My non-lawyer’s guess is that Fugee could be prosecuted for violating the terms of the consent order rather than on the original charges. As to brass, after prosecution of high diocesan officials in Philadelphia and Kansas City, it has become easier for DAs to undertake such legal action. What we’ve been told is the the Bergen County prosecutor’s office is investigating. I expect they’re pretty annoyed.

  9. Joseph Jaglowicz

    Apropos of something, AB Myers is a full-fledged member of Opus Dei, and Bishop Robert Finn of the KC-St Joe diocese, convicted of not reporting possession of child porn by one of his clerics, is an affiliate member of Opus Dei.

    Hmm………………

  10. It is a violation of journalistic ethics for the writer to ignore the words “unsupervised” in the agreement and act as if the agreement was a ban on all contact with youth. What a disgrace for a writer to do this.

  11. Mark Silk

    bartholomew,
    I suggest you read the language more closely. Fugee was forbidden to have “any unsupervised contact” with minors. The term “unsupervised” in that phrase is grammatically unconnected to the phrases prohibiting him from ministering to minors or working with them in any capacity. The text is clear: The Archdiocese agreed not to permit him any ministerial or work-related contact with children, period.

  12. I just want to say that as a faithful Catholic I am furious with the excuses and misrepresentation of this agreement made by the archdiocese and others.

    • Donna Gaspar

      I hear you Carol, I found a non-roman Catholic Community that I now enjoy, free of the Criminals that run the RCC. It was painful, because I wanted them to change, but I only have one lifetime to be Catholic- so now I am a member of the Eucumenical Catholic Communion and love it so much.

      • Donna,

        I’m sorry you left the one true Church Christ established on the rock of Peter. “And the gates of hell shall not pprevail against it” It is the only place where you can find the actual Eucharist. Our Lord warned us about wolves in sheep’s clothing but He wants us to stay within His Body, the Church, and suffer with Him when it is persecuted. Please come back so as not to jeopardize your salvation.

        In Christ’s Love,

        Carol

        • Carol stated, “I’m sorry you left the one true Church Christ established…”

          So, there are people who still believe that. Do you also believe that there is no salvation outside of the RCC?

          “And the gates of hell shall not pprevail [sic] against it” Does that mean that bishops can do anything they want, and everything is OK? Why should anyone look to RC bishops for their moral compass?

          “It is the only place where you can find the actual Eucharist.” If you believe the teachings of the RCC, that’s not true. Even what you refer to as “one true Church” teaches that the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches have true ordination, thus the “Real Presence” as well.

          I was a RC seminarian at two major seminaries. My experience was a revelation. I was not impressed with that was going on in the RCC. Carol, there’s A LOT of corruption in “the one true Church!”

          • You are absolutely right, dr who. There is a lot of corruption in the Church. There always has been and we should speak out against it every chance we get. Bishops and priests should not do whatever they want! The gates of hell quote only refers to the fact that the Church’s teachings and sacraments will always be preserved. That is why I think bishops who show gross negligence should resign. Also thank you for the clarification on the real presence. I was thinking of Protestant communities.

  13. Consider, if you will, the fact that brainwashing (under the guise of spiritual training or spiritual formation) begins every time a child is both to RC parents. To many of us, that training governs our everyday actions. When a respected individual betrays our trust and that betrayal becomes common knowledge, a conflict begins as to what is right and what is wrong. For parents, especially females, the abuse of a child is contra to our natural instincts. A chink in the chain of what we were brought up to believe (that a priest is next to God and can do no wrong) appears. More abuse cases become common knowledge. The final blow occurs when the authority of the church enables the sexual predator to remain in place, resulting in more victims. Jesus Christ made his feelings known about children several times in the scriptures. Jesus Christ railed against hypocrisy. I do not believe that He would abandon any of us who believe in truth and justice. Please do not worry about my spirituality, or whether or not I am ‘saved.’ That’s my responsibility, and God’s.

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