Wikipedia

Wikipedia

Under cover of the Memorial Day holiday, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers tried to put the Fugee scandal behind him by throwing his vicar general under the bus and blaming “operational failures” and/or “vulnerabilities” for the fact that the “strong protocols” of the archdiocese were not always observed. Right.

Myers’ first direct statement on the matter, delivered in different forms on the Star-Ledger op-ed page Saturday, by priests in his parishes Sunday, and by himself on video, begins, “When I first learned several weeks ago that Father Michael Fugee may have violated a lifetime ban on ministry to minors…”) Given that his spokesman initially claimed that the court order permitted the priest to minister to minors “under supervision,” that’s a telling, if backhanded, admission.

What Myers does not acknowledge is that if he had followed the protocols of the USCCB, which he helped write, he wouldn’t be in the position he is today. Under the USCCB’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a priest is to be permanently removed from ministry “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.”

After Fugee’s conviction for child molestation was dismissed on a technicality, the archdiocese signed a Memorandum of Understanding banning the priest from ministering to minors. You’d have thought that was an acknowledgement that sexual abuse of a minor had in fact occurred. But what Myers did next was to convene his anonymous review committee to look into the case, and lo and behold, the committee found that there had been no abuse. Whereupon he returned Fugee to ministry, giving him desk jobs in charge of doctrine and priest formation and appointing him as a chaplain at the local Catholic hospital (without letting the hospital administration know of Fugee’s past).

According to the Charter, “If the allegation is deemed not substantiated, every step possible is to be taken to restore his good name, should it have been harmed.” Myers, of course, did nothing of the sort. Imagine the archdiocese putting out a statement saying that notwithstanding the agreement permanently barring Fugee from ministry to minors, he had done nothing wrong and was being returned to an honorable place in ministry.

In his statement, Myers neither admits responsibility nor apologizes for what happened. That he failed to honor “both the letter and the spirit” of the Memorandum of Understanding cannot be doubted, though whether that failure rises to the level of, say, contempt of court, is hard to say. What the Fugee case points up, once again, is the absence of a procedure for church authorities to discipline bishops who fail to follow their own rules for handling abuse cases. And until such a procedure is put is put in place, and bishops are actually disciplined, the abuse scandal will not come to an end.

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Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

8 Comments

  1. “What the Fugee case points up, once again, is the absence of a procedure for church authorities to discipline bishops who fail to follow their own rules for handling abuse cases” (Silk).

    Those rules are published by the bishops for public consumption. The rules that are actually followed are internal to the Bishop’s Club (Frat House). You’re right John M, “adolescent boys.”

  2. Sex abuse thrives in secrecy and secret systems that allow it to continue to this day.

    The sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still covering up sex crimes against kids, they are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they still are not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called “zero tolerance” policy is not being followed by all 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 innocent kids. There are many of these bishops who need to be held accountable. Until that happens nothing will change.

    Silence is not an options 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. snapjudy@gmail.com,
    “SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

  3. Michael Skiendzielewski

    “operational failures” and/or “vulnerabilities”
    What the hell are these items?

    One item everyone can agree on, its meaning, definition, purpose and function.

    The word is VERTEBRAE………..and we haven’t see them for quite along time in Church leadership here in the USA.

  4. Michael Skiendzielewski

    http://www.njtvonline.org/njtoday/video/mother-of-alleged-abuse-victim-says-archbishop-myers-threatened-her-family/

    Very informative and shocking story re Archbishop Myers when he was leading a diocese in Illinois and sexual abuse victims came forward.

  5. Yes, it is very right to call John Myers on the lies about his plain negligence of his responsibility to oversee the work of Michael Fugee. Both were wrong, very wrong, and displayed total church contempt for Fugee’s signed agreement to have no further unsupervised connection with minors. Fugee violated the law, and Myers knew it. The lay friends of Fugee and the priests and bishop of the other diocese were equally wrong. They proved they care nothing about children. Their religion is a sham when children are used as the sacrifice.

    But Myers, Fugee, and the others were not the only ones who showed contempt for the USCCB Charter for the Protecion of Children and Young People. That charter has been held in public contempt by many bishops across the United States as they attempted non-stop to cover up the sex crimes. One of the bishops in Nebraska boldly announced that he would pay no attention to the Dallas charter. Then there was McIntyre of Los Angeles who lied over and over and over in his efforts to protect the criminal, pedophile priests of his diocese.

    When we can have no respect for the clergy in this country and around the world–and we cannot–that is a headline notice that the lay people must take control of their church and demand a screeching halt to the dominating abuse of sacramental power by the clergy, their rank clericalism. The lay people must insist on playing a full part in cleaning up the church, reforming it as it has never been reformed since Constantine dirtied it at Nicaea in 325. Then the lay people must maintain a full voice in all church practices in an effort to keep the People of God clean.

  6. Carolyn Disco

    Again, an excellent analysis.

    Myers is Opus Dei, like his criminally convicted colleague Robert Finn, who remains bishop in Kansas City. There is no accountability for bishops who are complicit in endangering children, period.

    Myers is apparently incapable of seeing the disconnect between his archdiocese signing an agreement with a prosecutor to keep Fugee from ministering to minors and his review board saying no abuse occurred — so Fugee is eligible for return to ministry.

    The agreement specifically forbade Fugee to hear confessions, work with youth groups or go on retreats with minors — supervised or unsupervised. Fugee violated all three restrictions.

    As Mark Silk noted, the prohibition was absolute. Supervision related only to incidental “contact” with a minor child, not to any form of ministry.

    Myers throws his vicar under the bus to deflect from his own negligence. Perhaps he forgets or never understood that a vicar is barred by canon law from acting “contrary to the intention and mind of the diocesan bishop.” (Canon 480)

    “A vicar general…must report to the diocesan bishop concerning the more important affairs which are to be handled or have been handled…” Sexual abuse matters are certainly “important affairs.” For an archbishop to be so clueless as Myers is highly suspect. But the imperative to protect the boss at all costs is the prime concern.

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