Key diocesan post for priest with child abuse conviction
The diocese has stressed that his new job will not bring him into contact with children, but this has not calmed protesters.
A Roman Catholic priest who confessed to groping a teenage boy 12 years ago has been named to a prestigious post in the Archdiocese of Newark, drawing furious criticism from advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse.
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.
For several years, Fugee also has been director of the Office of the Propagation of the Faith, a fundraising position to support missionary work.
The new appointment, effective late last year, shows “breathtaking arrogance” and “an alarming disdain for common sense” by Archbishop John J. Myers, said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a watchdog group that tracks abuse allegations against priests across the nation.
“On the scale of actions by Catholic officials in the last 10 years, it’s somewhere between alarming and outrageous,” Barrett Doyle said. “No reasonable person would give a prestigious assignment to a priest deemed by law enforcement to be a danger to children. I hope Newark Catholics call him to account.”
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.
Fugee, 52, was serving as assistant pastor at the Church of St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff when authorities charged him in 2001 with aggravated criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child. He allegedly grabbed the crotch of a 14-year-old boy while wrestling with him at the teen’s home and on a vacation in Williamsburg, Va.
Under questioning by detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and Wyckoff police, Fugee admitted touching the teen, saying he did it intentionally, that it sexually excited him and that he knew it was a “violation,” according to a transcript of his statement. He later recanted, claiming he lied so he could go home earlier.
The decision was based, in part, on the judge’s decision to let the jury hear the portion of Fugee’s statement in which he described himself as bisexual or homosexual.
The appellate court said the admission could have led jurors to find Fugee guilty because of the “unfounded association between homosexuality and pedophilia.” The rest of the confession was not called into question.
Source: New Jersey Star-Ledger
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