Mark Mueller at the The Star-Ledger has been following the Fr. Fugee / Archbishop Myers story. This is what the Archbishops’s spokesperson has had to say:
Priest who admitted groping boy appointed to high-profile position in Newark Archdiocese
The Rev. Michael Fugee, who is barred from unsupervised contact with children under a binding agreement with law enforcement officials, has been appointed co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests, the archdiocese recently announced in its newspaper, the Catholic Advocate.
….. Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese, called Fugee’s new role an administrative position based in the chancery office in Newark. Under no circumstances, Goodness said, will Fugee be alone with children.
“We have every confidence in him,” the spokesman said.
Newark archbishop allows priest who admitted groping boy to continue working with children
But Goodness denied the agreement had been breached, saying 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.
“We believe that the archdiocese and Father Fugee have adhered to the stipulations in all of his activities, and will continue to do so,” Goodness said.
Even if Fugee heard private confessions from minors, those supervising Fugee were always nearby, Goodness said. “The fact is, he has done nothing wrong,” the spokesman said. “Nobody has reported any activity that is inappropriate, and I think that’s important to know, especially given that he’s a figure whose name is public and whose past is public.”
Priest at center of Newark Archdiocese scandal quits ministry
Earlier this week, The Star-Ledger reported Fugee had violated that agreement, openly engaging in youth group activities at St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck. Fugee is longtime friends with the church’s youth ministers, Michael and Amy Lenehan.
Since the disclosure, Goodness has argued that Fugee did not violate the agreement because he was under the supervision of the youth ministers or other priests. Tonight, the spokesman sought to clarify his statements, saying that while it was “good” Fugee was under supervision, the priest did not seek permission from the archdiocese before participating in youth activities.
“He engaged in activities that the archdiocese was not aware of and that were not approved by us, and we would never have approved them because they are all in conflict with the memorandum of understanding,” Goodness said.
Priest admits violating ban on ministry to children, says actions are ‘my fault alone’
“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
Insist 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.”
Photo taken on a Pilgrimage in 2010. Fugee was convicted of sexual abuse in 2003. Facing retrial in 2007 because of a technicality regarding his self-description in his confession, he instead signed an agreement with law enforcement barring him from unsupervised contact with children.