Embattled Catholic priest Fr. Michael Fugee has been arrested in New Jersey after law enforcement officials determined the priest violated a court agreement in which he agreed he would have no contact with children. Fugee was previously arrested and charged with the sexual abuse of children. The agreement was an alternative to a second trial after an appeals court overturned an earlier ruling that Fugee had sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy on separate occasions in 1999 and 2000. As part of the original 2003 trial. Fugee’s deposition revealed he confessed to groping the boy.
In spite of the agreement, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers gave Fugee an assignment that would again put him in contact with children.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, “The prosecutor’s office said that its investigation revealed seven instances where Fugee heard confessions from children in the past three years, as recently as December. Locations included the Claremont Retreat Center in Mt. Arlington* (part of the Paterson diocese), the Kateri Environmental Center in Wickatunk (part of the Trenton diocese), and several parishes in Rochelle Park (part of the Newark archdiocese).”
The media furor over Fugee and the Archbishop led to Fugee’s resignation on May 2, 2013. However, questions remain about the Archdiocesan Review Board that found Fugee suitable for ministry as well as Archdiocesan policy that should have provided peer monitoring for the priest. Though the Archdiocese is blaming Fugee for acting on his own, anyone aware Catholic Church policies knows that priests cannot perform their ministry without express permission from the bishop or, in this case, Archbishop.