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Another Bishop Hits the News

This time in Newark, NJ. The bishop is Archbishop John Myers, and the offending priest is Michael Fugee, who admitted groping a 14 year-old boy 12 years ago. (He later recanted his confession, saying that he'd only confessed so he could go home sooner.) He was tried and convicted, but the conviction overturned on appeal based on inappropriate instructions to the jury. The appellate ruling did not question the validity of the confession. According to the NJ Star-Ledger, rather than re-try the case,

the prosecutors office allowed him to enter pre-trial intervention, a rehabilitation program for first offenders. At the same time, the prosecutors office secured an agreement that Fugee undergo counseling for sex offenders and have no unsupervised contact with children as long as he is a priest.

I infer that Fugee's agreeing to this condition means that he, in effect, recants his recantation. Otherwise, it would be a serious infringement on his ministry. A later effort to have his record expunged was denied on grounds of public safety. Subsequently, Fugee has been assigned to significant posts in the Archdiocese. His latest post is co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests. On the face of it, this is a good resolution. After all, this job would not seem to bring him into contact with children, which is the terms of his deal with legal authorities. Alas, not so. Archbishop John Myers also permits him to say Mass in various parishes around the diocese, and in 2009 he appointed him to a position as a hospital chaplain. At least in the case of one of the parishes and the hospital chaplaincy, no one was told of the terms of Fugee's ministry. Noting other cases in which Myers has shown excessive leniency to sex offending priests, the NJ Star-Ledger has called for Myers to resign. Concerning Fugee, the editorial board states:

Fugee was not to work in any position involving children, or have any affiliation with youth groups. He could not attend youth retreats, or even hear the confessions of children. With the full knowledge and approval of Myers, Fugee did all of those things. Look at the picture of him clowning around with children in todays paper, and it makes you want to scream a warning. The agreement was designed to prevent exactly that.

Details of Myers' handling of other accused priests may be found here.Fugee's is a hard case, and partly done right. His day job does not involve kids. The problem is two-fold:1. the failure to advise parish and hospital authorities of limitations on his ministry.2. More significant, however, is that this seems to be in clear violation of the Dallas Charter, under the terms of its zero tolerance policy, viz:

When even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants (SST, Art. 6; CIC, c. 1395 2; CCEO, c. 1453 1).

The following norm states

At all times, the diocesan bishop/eparch has the executive power of governance, within the parameters of the universal law of the Church, through an administrative act, to remove an offending cleric from office, to remove or restrict his faculties, and to limit his exercise of priestly ministry. Because sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric is a crime in the universal law of the Church (CIC, c. 1395 2; CCEO, c. 1453 1) and is a crime in all civil jurisdictions in the United States, for the sake of the common good and observing the provisions of canon law, the diocesan bishop/eparch shall exercise this power of governance to ensure that any priest or deacon who has committed even one act of sexual abuse of a minor as described above shall not continue in active ministry.

It could be argued that the zero tolerance policy is unjust, in that (among other things,) it does not take adequate account of relevant differences between KINDS of abuse. People who abuse young children (true pedophiles) are persistently dangerous, and arguably the one-strike policy is prudent for them. People like Fugee, abusers of teens, are more amenable to therapy. I do not know whether Fugee has responded to therapy to such a degree that allowing him access to children is safe. Even so, allowing him into ministry with kids violates the charter as well as the agreement with civil authorities.The failure to warn the parish or hospital authorities about him is only implicitly addressed by the Charter. After all, the presumption is that abusers are removed from ministry, so there's nothing about situations in which they are not. However, the Charter does state:

Dioceses/eparchies are to be open and transparent in communicating with the public about sexual abuse of minors by clergy within the confines of respect for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved. This is especially so with regard to informing parish and other church communities directly affected by the sexual abuse of a minor.

I do not know what will ensue from Myers' allowing Fugee to violate the terms of his agreement. It is hard to reconcile his behavior with his own account of how he promised to deal with such cases. This from his 2004 letter to the diocese:

From our initial policies in the mid 1980s, to more formal policies, to our participation in drafting and implementing a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding with the New Jersey Attorney General and county prosecutors, we are committed to obeying all current and future laws dealing with sexual abuse. We are also committed to pursuing all appropriate options available under the law of the Church to assure that those who offend never return to ministry.

Even if he believes Fugee's recantation of his confession, and even if he thinks the legal agreement restricting Fugee's ministry is unnecessary, he has failed to cooperate with law enforcement on this one. And, sadly, I suspect that the fallout from Myers' violation of the Dallas Charter will be pretty much like that of other bishops who have violated it. Nothing much.

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This is getting more interesting.Yesterday, at 1:19 pm, I posted excerpts from Fr. James Connells letter to CDF Prefect Gerhard Muller. Today, Connell sent Muller this follow-up letter: Dear Archbishop Mller, Yesterday I sent you an email letter regarding Archbishop John Myers of the Archdiocese of Newark (USA) and his handling of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against Fr. Michael Fugee. I also sent a copy of that email letter to Archbishop Myers. Within a few hours yesterday, James Goodness, the Director of Communications and Public Relations of the Archdiocese of Newark, replied to me and his email is below. Please notice that the fourth paragraph of Mr. Goodness email reads: Archbishop Myers did send all information surrounding the allegation, including the court documents and the Review Board materials, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith following the conclusion of the Archdiocesan Review Board's investigation. The Congregation subsequently, after a complete review of the materials, concurred that there was no sexual abuse and that Fr. Fugee could return to ministry. I have two questions. First, is it correct that Archbishop Myers sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) all the information regarding the Fr. Fugee allegation, including all of the court documents that I mentioned in my email to you yesterday (Fr. Fugees confession to the crime and the Memorandum of Understanding that stipulated requirements agreed to by Fr. Fugee and the Archdiocese of Newark in lieu of a court trial)? Second, is it correct as Mr. Goodness states that the CDF concurred that there was no sexual abuse and that Fr. Fugee could return to ministry? Archbishop Mller, a thorough and prompt explanation of this situation is needed. Thank you for your kind attention. Sincerely yours in Christ,Reverend James E. Connell, JCD

Gene, are Fr. Connell's emails/letters posted somewhere? I'd like to see the full text of Goodness' response to his first letter.

So if the answers to those two questions are "yes" and "yes", then Abp Myers appears to have been caught between conflicting assessment from the US Justice on the one hand and from the CDF on the other hand. What's a bishop to do in such a situation?Very interesting indeed.

At the end of his email to CDF Prefect Muller today, James Connell included the email he received yesterday from James Goodness. I held off on posting it until I could reach Goodness and get his permission. I've now spoken with him and he's given the go-ahead. Here is what he wrote: Dear Father Connell: I have forwarded to His Grace, The Most Reverend John J. Myers, the letter you have written to Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as you requested. Although I am sure that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will respond to you directly, I wish to make you aware of the following: Following the acquittal and final vacating of the charges against Fr. Michael Fugee, Archbishop Myers referred the matter to the Archdiocesan Review Board, a group of predominantly lay Catholics within the Archdiocese of Newark that is responsible for investigating all allegations of sexual abuse. Each lay member of the Archdiocesan Review Board has extensive experience in the law enforcement, law, investigation and clinical fields. The Review Board conducted a long and thorough investigation. That investigation included personal interviews, as well as review of all court documents from all sources, not solely the ones made available by the Newark Star Ledger to its online readers. At the conclusion of its investigation, the Archdiocesan Review Board determined that no sexual abuse had taken place. During the time of the Archdiocesan Review Board investigation, Fr. Fugee remained out of ministry. Archbishop Myers did send all information surrounding the allegation, including the court documents and the Review Board materials, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith following the conclusion of the Archdiocesan Review Board's investigation. The Congregation subsequently, after a complete review of the materials, concurred that there was no sexual abuse and that Fr. Fugee could return to ministry. So, to answer the three questions you posed in your letter: 1) Archbishop Myers did present all information to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; 2) In doing so, Archbishop Myers did comply with both the Norms and the Vatican requirements to report the case to the Congregation, and; 3) consequently, your concerns are unnecessary. Had you addressed the matter to us directly, we would have made you aware of the answers immediately, Sincerely, James G. Goodness, KHSDirector of Communications and Public RelationsArchdiocese of Newark

Thanks, Gene. Does Apb. Mller know that Fr. Connell's communication to him has been made public? Does Apb. Mller know that the world is going to see his response? Better yet, does Francis know?

Claire,Isn't the answer to your question pretty straight forward? Allow Fr. Fugee to return to the ministry but do so within the boundaries agreed to in the court documents. In fact, isn't that more or less what the bishop had intended to do when he, or rather his designee signed the agreement?

Gene, thanks for tracking all this down. Here is the part that I'm having difficulty reconciling with Goodness' explanation:From Mark Mueller's 2/3/13 Star-Ledger story, linked to in Lisa's original post:"Under questioning by detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutors 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. "Presumably, this transcript was among "all court records from all sources" which the Review Board considered in its "long and thorough" investigation. And this admission seems sufficient to deem the accusation credible. Yet according to Goodness, the Review Board determined " that no sexual abuse had taken place."That seems to me to be the central difficulty: the priest is on record as confessing to an act that should remove him from ministry. It is no disrespect to Goodness to note that his explanation is not sufficient to allay doubts.

One more comment on this:I stated in my previous comment that doubts remain. I am frustrated. Anyone who has hung out on dotCom long enough can see the contours of this story forming: the archdiocese, undoubtedly on the advice of its legal counsel, releases the bare minimum amount of information to the public (including to its own people, the church of Newark), and this minimal amount in a way that cries out "spin" to anyone who can read. And because this is not sufficiently open and transparent, people demand to know more. And more is learned in the ways that American society permits: journalists interview victims, victims' advocacy groups and other stakeholders; journalists obtain publicly-available records and sift through them; and then they piece together stories about it. And victims and victims' advocacy groups sue, and through the legal process obtain the release of records that the archdiocese has declined to release on its own. The picture that is sketched is one of a lawyered-up fat cat with plenty to hide and doing all he can do hide it, vs. a horribly abused kid and crusading journalists. The church never, ever, wins this perception battle, ever.The church needs a new paradigm for handling these situations. I vote for truth-telling, contrition and reconciliation with victims; openness and transparency with its people and the public; and an itchy trigger finger on the ejector button for offending clergy and employees.

Mr. Goodness, KHS (I am assuming KHS stands for Knight of the Holy Sepulchre? Does anyone else find it strange that he uses these initials in his official correspondence?) speaks of an "acquittal" with regard to Fugee's criminal charges. But Fugee was not tried and acquitted. If he was, the prosecutors would not have been able to get the Memorandum of Understanding in this case. His conviction was overturned on appeal -- but Fugee was still subject to re-trial. The prosecutors offered an alternative resolution to the criminal charges, and Fugee accepted that offer -- but that is something quite different than an acquittal.Kudos again to Gene Palumbo. He should have the initials KII after his name -- Knight of Important Information

"Mr. Goodness... speaks of an acquittal with regard to Fugees criminal charges. But Fugee was not tried and acquitted."Jack Marth - right, that bugged me, too - in fact, I was going to comment on it. But in fairness to Goodness and Fugee, here is what seems to be the case:What Goodness actually refers to in his response to Connell is the "acquittal and final vacating of the charges against Fr. Michael Fugee". According to the Star-Ledger story from 2/3/13, "In 2003, a jury in Bergen County convicted him of the sexual contact count but acquitted him of the endangering charge. Sentenced to five years probation, Fugee appealed. Three years later, an appellate panel overturned the verdict on the grounds that the trial judge gave improper instructions to jurors."So to summarize it: Fugee was charged with two crimes; he was acquitted of one, but convicted on the other; the conviction was later vacated on appeal. So it is factual to characterize the outcome, as Goodness did, as the " "acquittal and final vacating of the charges against Fr. Michael Fugee".My issue is the overall thrust of the reply: clearly, it is to put Fugee in the best possible light, and leave the casual reader with the impression that Fugee has been completey exonerated and is free to resume ministry. Yet that doesn't square with certain facts as we know them now: that there is a transcript in which he confesses committing the crime; that he was convicted; that the conviction was overturned on a technicality that doesn't pertain to the essential facts on which the conviction was based; that he entered into a plea deal that bars him from any ministry involving unsupervised contact with children; that the Star-Ledger has documented instances that seem to violate that agreement; and that a number of entities, including a hospital in Newark and Church of the Sacred Heart in Rochelle Park have essentially kicked him out of ministry in their jurisdictions upon learning of his history - which they learned, not from Fugee or the archdiocese, but from the media. He also has been ministering in at least two other dioceses without permission, in ways that seem to violate the terms of his agreement with prosecutors.Among other things, I'd like to understand why, following the conviction, he wasn't retried and instead was sent for treatment and ordered to be supervised - a set of arrangements with a very long and tragic history of failure in the US Catholic church. It's puzzling that prosecutors would agree to these terms. The case against him must have been problematic, above and beyond the reason for the vacating of his conviction - that would be my first guess. Perhaps someone will do the hard work to inform us.

Goodness writes: "The Congregation subsequently, after a complete review of the materials, concurred that there was no sexual abuse..." Really now! (BTW, the KHS is such a giveaway.)Jim P writes: Under questioning by detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutors 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. No matter how parsed and technically accurate the Archdiocese tries to be, it fails the test of what it means to tell the truth, to speak truthfully. Bonhoeffer again: Communicating truthfully means more than factual accuracyThere is a way of speaking which isentirely correct and unexceptionable, but which is, nevertheless, a lieWhen an apparently correct statement contains some deliberate ambiguity, or deliberately omits the essential part of the truthit does not express the real as it exists in God.

Jim Pauwels,You note:"Among other things, Id like to understand why, following the conviction, he wasnt retried and instead was sent for treatment and ordered to be supervised a set of arrangements with a very long and tragic history of failure in the US Catholic church. Its puzzling that prosecutors would agree to these terms. The case against him must have been problematic, above and beyond the reason for the vacating of his conviction that would be my first guess. Perhaps someone will do the hard work to inform us."That struck me too, but then I realized that it had been 3 years since his original conviction, during which time presumably he was serving his sentence and reporting to a probation officer as required. Once the conviction was overturned, I would imagine that the prosecutor looked at the case, decided it would be a long and costly process which would end, best case, with Rev. Fugee serving out the remaining 2 years of his term. Under that scenario, he made a judgement to enter into the plea deal which is the subject of the current debate, and which, in his view at the time accomplished the goals of protecting children and insuring long term monitoring of Rev. Fugee. Perfectly logical decision on his part, unless you assume that the archdiocese and a priest will willfully ignore a written agreement.

Jim Dunn =Right. And the DA's office would have another reason to accept the agreement with the Archbishop == it would (supposedly) keep Fugee away from kids permanently, while a jail sentence would keep him away from them for only two years.

Jim Dunn - in my view, at the time the agreement between Fugee and prosecutors was entered into, the 2006-2007 time frame, such an agreement would have been quite problematic. By then, it was extremely well-known both in church and law enforcement circles that the treat-them-and-reinsert-them-into-ministry course was not successful. Nor, in my view, should church officials or prosecutors have been agreeing, by 2006-2007, to any program that relies on a confessed perp abiding by the terms of a written agreement. By way of comparison: when I was ordained in the spring of 2004, a condition for being ordained was that I and my classmates complete the "Protecting God's Children" program, in which it is forcefully taught that abusers cannot be trusted, that lying and rule-breaking is a part of their modus operandi. And in my view, Fugee's apparent violations of the agreement, and his "rogue" / unauthorized ministry in other dioceses since then, are very much in line with this sort of behavior: lying, ignoring rules, breaking rules, secretiveness - the sorts of things that an abuser does. The portrait being painted by these news reports is that he is that kind of a guy. It seems clear that Myers and the archdiocese did not and still do not consider Fugee to be a "confessed perp"; and according to them, neither does the Holy See. How that can be, is something to which the people of the church of Newark deserve an answer, in my opinion.

Get the latest news on all this from the Washington Post.://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/nj-catholics-outraged-over-accu..."Prosecutors have now launched an investigation into Fugees activities; that probe remains underway. If he is found to have violated the agreement, Fugee could face civil penalties, criminal charges or both,..."Bishop Myers is claiming that Fugee didn't violate the agreement because he was being supervised by other priests and two friends. I wonder if the bishop could be prosecuted for enabling Fugee if it is shown that Fugee was obviously meeting with kids with the bishop's approval.

Dear Jim P. ==Your well-known inclination to defend authority has been noticeably slipping lately. Therefore, I feel it is my duty to communicate to you these words of caution from the poet Robert Frost: "I never was a conservative in my youth because I didn't want to be a liberal in my old age".Having seem my dear old friend Don, the ex-staunch-conservative, turn into a raving liberal, I can tell you that these transformations can actually happen! The process is horrifying, like seeing someone become possessed by an evil spirit. So watch out!!! You will be in my prayers.

"A liberal is someone who keeps making the same mistake, while a conservative is someone who prevents a mistake from ever being corrected." (G. K. Chesterton)Be conservative in what you send, and liberal in what you accept. (Unknown)

Bishop Myers is claiming that Fugee didnt violate the agreement because he was being supervised by other priests and two friends. This is going to be one of the key issues - Myers/staff will argue that the MOU did not forbid Fugee from ministering to youth - rather, that the MOU only allowed this if Fugee was being supervised.Sort of like...it all depends upon how you define the word...*IS*Also, on what I posted earlier on the Lynn/Philly/Cipriano analysis - the judge's response to Lynn's appeal defense has now been released. Yes, it is a complex and murky picture but she adds significant details about the convicted priest, Avery (who also now says he never touched the primary witness, Billy Doe). Avery and Lynn started the trial as co-defendants but Avery withdrew with his guilty plea and settlement for three-six years. This Avery information was not allowed by the judge to be used or made public in Lynn's trial (so, not exactly a slam dunk, only pro-DA approach) - moreover, Lynn's attorneys chose to not cross-examine Billy Doe at which time they could have raised some of Cipriano's points; could have injected that Avery now claims that he never touched Billy Doe, etc. But, they chose not to do that - and now they blame/attack the judge!!http://www.bigtrial.net/2013/04/msgr-lynns-crafty-well-paid-defense.html

The take-home message is perhaps: do not trust your priests. Keep watch: they might be looking for opportunities to commit sexual abuse. Since the bishops are not up to the task, it's up to each of us to try to make sure that those opportunities do not arise.

Jim P,Thank you for your comments. Much appreciated.

"The complainant in the case against the good Monsignor is, according to Mr. Cipriano, a 24 year old male who has suffered from drug addiction for a substantial period and was apparently criminally assaulted on numerous occasions. Christian charity should provide every benefit of doubt to him. To do otherwise would be to treat him as shoddily as the woman caught in adultery by the authorities was when she was brought before Jesus. I assume that all readers of this comment are familiar with the outcome of that encounter. As the law requires, I would leave it to the jurors to determine the credibility of any and all of the witnesses."I am amazed that a legal expert would say that "christian charity should provide every benefit of the doubt" to a complainant in a trial. I don't know what the relevance of the gospel story is here; "neither do I condemn thee" is rarely quoted in the adversarial courts; no one is condemning the witness, just trying to be sure that the witness is reliable, since others are being condemned on the basis of his evidence. Frankly, if a jury is swayed by such emotive appeals I would think a miscarriage of justice quite likely.

"The take-home message is perhaps: do not trust your priests. Keep watch: they might be looking for opportunities to commit sexual abuse. Since the bishops are not up to the task, its up to each of us to try to make sure that those opportunities do not arise."But I wonder if all this fretting about one priest who touched one teenager inappropiately at one time is not disproportionate -- and distracting from more rampant abuse throughout society? The sacred cow of Zero Tolerance somehow reminds me of the law about stoning adulteresses.

"The take-home message is perhaps: do not trust your priests. Keep watch: they might be looking for opportunities to commit sexual abuse."Claire - that is, in fact, not too far from the take-home message of the "Protecting God's Children" / Virtus programs that I mentioned in a previous comment. I'd characterize it this way: all of us have a responsibility for the well-being of children. And so, when we see signs of behavior toward children that crosses the line, all of us have a responsibility to act decisively to put a stop to it. That includes confronting the person crossing the line, and telling him/her that the behavior is inappropriate, and that it needs to stop; going to great lengths to keep an eye on people who have crossed these lines in the past, and not giving them the benefit of the doubt; and reporting legal violations to legal authorities and church authorities, following the correct channels. (A number of classes of persons who work for the church, such as clergy and school teachers, are mandated reporters and so are legally obligated to report misbehavior).The great majority of priests aren't abusers, and it's not fair to those who don't abuse to tar them with the assumption that they are. And for a parish priest or any priest involved in education (as is the case with religious-order priests who run schools), working with children is intrinsic to their ministry, and we do both them and the children a great disservice by keeping all priests separated from all children. But abusers seem to find the priesthood congenial to their sinful and criminal activity for several reasons: it brings them into ready contact with children in socially-approved settings; and we life-long Catholics have had life-long training in deferring to priests. Also, to be candid: not a few priests are odd ducks, and we learn to tolerate a modicum of oddball behavior from them.It is not just priests who abuse: all clergy (certainly including deacons), religious, teachers, other lay employees - abusers can have any number of roles in the church. And beyond the boundaries of the church, abuse happens in many other settings, including schools and family homes.Our job as parents and baptized members of the faithful is to look out for and protect our own children and one another's children.

Claire - one more comment. You state, "the bishops are not up to the task". I wish I could dispute that statement, but their overall track record is such that, to be frank, they're no longer entitled to the benefit of the doubt. This is one of the things that distresses me about this Newark situation: that Myers and Goodness seem to assume that they are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.No doubt I'm painting with too broad a brush here, but I note that Myers is 72 years old. Roughly speaking, he's part of the same generation of bishops as Law, Bevilacqua and Mahony (and, to be sure, my own archbishop, Cardinal George). This generation of shepherds has had some spectacular failures under its watch in protecting its lambs from the wolves. By contrast, Dolan, O'Malley, Chaput and Gomez are in their 60's. Whether these latter four have done better may be subject to question, but my impression is that, on the whole, they haven't been as bad. I'm speculating that there may be a generational thing at work here, such that the bishops who aren't quite as old a dog may be somewhat more adept at learning new tricks. If that is right, then as men born still more recently ascend to bishops' seats, perhaps we will continue to mark incremental improvements from our leaders.Nothing would make me happier than to see bishops and faithful working in concert to protect our children from abuse. Any bishop who shows a readiness to do this, I believe, would be received enthusiastically.

Joseph S. O'Leary: "The sacred cow of Zero Tolerance somehow reminds me of the law about stoning adulteresses." If not zero, how many episodes of abuse do you think should be tolerated per abuser?

The sacred cow of Zero Tolerance somehow reminds me of the law about stoning adulteresses.As a general rule, I'm not a fan of zero tolerance policies as they remove all possibility of exercising prudential judgment. But it's really no different than the standard in criminal law, in which a single conviction lands a perpetrator on a public sex offender list for the rest of his life.And to be frank, too many bishops have abused their discretion when given the chance to exercise prudential judgment. They've squandered their moral capital. Zero tolerance provides them a standard that is simple and, arguably, fair.In my view, Fugee's behavior as documented in these news stories, in which he seems to have violated the agreement with the prosecuting attorneys, is a strong argument in favor of zero tolerance (or as I think of it, One Strike And You're Out).

A couple of other Star-Ledger articles on Myers, Goodness and Fugee:An update on the Fugee story, "The furor grows":http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/04/furor_intensifies_over_newark.h... background article of Newark archdiocese's (mis)handling of other accused priests:http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/12/newark_archbishop_shielded_at.html

IMHO, no contact with children is entirely unworkable. Children are everywhere. They even have the impudence to show up where they are not supposed to be. I don't see how any fair-minded individual could ask for such a requirement.

Bruce, you caused me to review the facts.The agreement between the archdiocese, the prosecutor's office, and Fr Fugee was clear: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/528129-fugee-agreement-with-pros..."Additionally, as part of his employment/vocation within the Catholic church, he shall not have any unsupervised contact with or any duties that call for the supervision/ministry of any child or children under the age of 18."The word "unsupervised" applies only to "contact", not to "duties". That's why the word "any" is repeated. If "unsupervised" applied to both, then it ought to read " any unsupervised contact of duties "Instead, the text, as written in the agreement, is formally equivalent to "Additionally, as part of his employment/vocation within the Catholic church, he shall not have any unsupervised contact with any child or children under the age of 18, and he shall not have any duties that call for the supervision/ministry of any child or children under the age of 18."Yet, according to the Star-Ledger, "Fugee continues to celebrate Mass daily at parishes across the archdiocese which includes Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Union counties but Goodness declined to identify specific churches. While children are certainly present in such situations, Fugee will not be alone with them, Goodness said. Hes on the altar, and families go home after Mass, the spokesman said." --- but how does Goodness know that there is no altar server? Who supervises Fr. Fugee to make sure he doesn't use the opportunity of celebrating Mass with children present to create dangerous situations? Also from the Star-Ledger, In 2009, "Myers installed Fugee as a chaplain at St. Michaels Medical Center in Newark without informing the hospital of his involvement in the criminal trial, [a post] which gave him unrestricted access to patients and visitors of all ages."Also from the Star-Ledger, "He has attended weekend youth retreats in Marlboro and on the shores of Lake Hopatcong in Mount Arlington, parishioners say. Fugee also has traveled with members of the St. Marys youth group on an annual pilgrimage to Canada. At all three locations, he has heard confessions from minors behind closed doors."I don't see how anyone can in good faith claim that they believe he has not violated the terms of his agreement. Bruce, it's not a matter of having tried to prevent him from having contact with children, and having failed because "children are everywhere and show up where they're not supposed to be."The most damning quote is perhaps this one, also from the Star-Ledger: "We have every confidence in him," the spokesman [Jim Goodness] said. Is that really supposed to reassure us??

The sacred cow of Zero Tolerance somehow reminds me of the law about stoning adulteresses.Sure, if 21st Century Roman Catholic clergy were as powerless, degraded and marginalized as women in 1st Century Roman-occupied Palestine, then I too might be reminded of the stoning of adulteresses. Since they aren't -- I see no connection.Frankly -- I am much more reminded of the Jesus' zero tolerance of money changers in the temple.

There's also the bit about scandalizing "one of these little ones that believe in me."Millstones, baby.

Ann Olivier:You asked, Does Apb. Mller know that Fr. Connells communication to him has been made public?Yes, he does. At the end of Fr. Connells letters to him, one finds the following: cc: Archbishop John Myers, Archbishop of Newark, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, Archbishop of Milwaukee, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, Chair of the USCCB Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, The Star-Ledger, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The National Catholic Reporter

Thanks, Gene. But I can't help but wonder how much Apb. Muller knows about what is actually going on here. Even though Fr. Connell wrote to him I rather doubt that he he is paying any attention to what a priest in Milwaukee is telling him about events in New Jersey.Sometimes I think that the only thing that would get the Vatican's attention would be massive demonstrations in St. Peter's Square complete with arrests of demonstrators carrying accusatory signs and singing "We Shall Overcome". I doubt that the Vatican pays attention to local American press coverage unless the international press also reports on it, e.g., the Guardian, der Spiegel, Figaro, etc. I don't think Newark has made those papers yet.

"The great majority of priests arent abusers, and its not fair to those who dont abuse to tar them with the assumption that they are. And for a parish priest or any priest involved in education (as is the case with religious-order priests who run schools), working with children is intrinsic to their ministry, and we do both them and the children a great disservice by keeping all priests separated from all children."In Ireland now, an altar server cannot be alone with the priest at any time. Surely this poisons the atmosphere of altar serving, which used to be a matrix of priestly vocations. In many universities, similarly, the instructors cannot be alone with a student -- the door must be left open etc. This again introduces an aura of suspicion that is alien to warm human relationships.Some of the answers I received above seem to be based on a misunderstanding of what Zero Tolerance means. As I understand it and as I think SNAP understands it, it means that a priest found guilty of any misbehavior with a minor, even once, and even decades ago, must be dismissed from all ministry. Bishops are expected to apply this automatically, with no consideration of the human context. Doesn't this lead to the kind of pressure that led the pharisees, all of whom has their own personal secrets, to follow the letter of the law and gang together against the adulteress, applying the law without any consultation of context or any thought of refraining from condemnation. I don't thing the Gospel's constant polemic against this vamped up moral fanaticism can be overridden by the millstones passage, as if Jesus himself were a fanatic; that passage is not targeting pedophiles but any of us who give scandal to the innocent; like all gospel texts it is addressed to us not them, me not you.

Jack Marth, are you saying that "neither do I condemn thee" applies only to special categories of people, the socially downtrodden and marginalized, preferable in an ancient context? This would be to rob that particular gospel of its meaning as recited on one of the Sundays in Lent. I suggest that the power of that Gospel is best felt when we apply it not to our sentimentalized adulteresses whom we have no difficulty forgiving, but so smelly pedophiles and dirty old men and shifty priests and bishops, whom we love to condemn.

Mr. O'Leary, thank you for the question. Without question we are called to love and forgive all sinners. What we are talking about here is not our mandate to forgive and love priests who have harmed minors (or forgive and love bishops who failed to supervise them properly) -- but policies that need to be in place to protect children. Excluding from the privileges of priestly ministry someone who confessed to touching the genitals of a minor for the purpose of sexual gratification is not condemnation -- it is a prudent and justified policy and one that is fully in line with Gospel values. Anger at bishops who fail to enact policies that protect children is also in line with Gospel values. We can love and forgive and still be angry at their failures and demand accountability.

I think that backs go up about policies regarding children when those policies are strongly interpreted as a slur against adults---in this case priests---rather than as a reflection of the utter vulnerability of children. To reflect on this vulnerability and to grow in willingness to protect it is to enter into a very adult project.

"In Ireland now, an altar server cannot be alone with the priest at any time. Surely this poisons the atmosphere of altar serving, which used to be a matrix of priestly vocations. In many universities, similarly, the instructors cannot be alone with a student the door must be left open etc. This again introduces an aura of suspicion that is alien to warm human relationships."The same practices are (or should be) followed in the US. And it's necessary: the old/traditional practice of having a priest alone with altar servers in the sacristy is now deemed too risky. (FWIW, in the US, the proliferation of permanent deacons has already changed the dynamic in the sacristy, even apart from the sex-abuse scandals. It's very common for priest, deacon - and his wife - and altar server to be together in the sacristry - and from time to time, the deacon also happens to be the parent of one or more of the servers.)But I don't know why the new sacristry precautions must poison the atmosphere nor must be deleterious to priestly vocations. I do see that having another adult present changes the dynamics from the point of view of the child - the child may be less likely to say what is on his mind to a priest if a parent or another adult is also present. We need to find ways in this new arrangement to develop relationships with altar servers that can bear fruit in vocations.

I dont see how anyone can in good faith claim that they believe he has not violated the terms of his agreement.Claire,What value is an agreement which by its terms cannot be kept? Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't your interpretation would produce a violation if the priest walked from the church to rectory alone and happened to bypass a lone child. That would be a ridiculous and entirely unjust outcome. Better just to give the priest a lifetime in prison without possibility of parole.

"But I cant help but wonder how much Apb. Muller knows about what is actually going on here. "There is no possible way he can know as much as is known in-country. His responsibilities are much wider than sex-abuse scandals, and much broader than the US, much less a single diocese. The Holy See depends on accurate and responsible reporting from the diocese - which in turn depends on a full and responsible implementation of the provisions of the Charter. If any of those links in the chain are weak, the process is at risk of being undependable.(And if all those links in the chain are strong, the Holy See itself can still be a point of failure if it fails to discharge its responsibilities faithfully.)

Joseph O Leary,Doesn't this discussion get to your earlier comment that people want blood not justice. But isn't it really a case where people simply want protection from child sexual predators. It was clear that their bishops failed to provide that in Boston, in Ireland and in a number of other places. After Dallas there was a hope that the bishops would begin taking those steps, and some have. But too many have continued to put protection of the institutional church over the protection of its most vulnerable members. I suspect that people, having seen the bishops fail time and again to provide the protection, and in many instances not even make the attempt, are now looking for someone who will finally take their concerns seriously. Zero tolerance, criminal cases and all the rest of it are not so much the result of a desire for "blood" as they are a desire for someone to finally take these concerns seriously and do something about them.

"What value is an agreement which by its terms cannot be kept? Correct me if Im wrong, but wouldnt your interpretation would produce a violation if the priest walked from the church to rectory alone and happened to bypass a lone child. That would be a ridiculous and entirely unjust outcome. Better just to give the priest a lifetime in prison without possibility of parole."Bruce - your question can be asked cynically, and probably should be asked of the prosecutors: why enter into this sort of agreement, given that there are many instances of such arrangements not being worth the paper they're printed on?Note that the documented violations that Claire wrote about are not chance encounters with a child on the way to the church - they're one of two categories: willful violations on the part of Fugee (the youth retreats in other dioceses) that circumvent the church's safeguards for such things; or, what may be even worse, *formal assignments by the archdiocese*, as in the case of the hospital chaplaincy. The possibility of Fugee visiting the bedside of a child patient in a private room doesn't seem far-fetched at all to me. It's difficult to conclude anything except that the archdiocese took no account at all of the agreement in formulating Fugee's assignments. And as I noted earlier, Fugee's own willful disregard for the terms of the agreement is a huge red flag.He shouldn't be in ministry. He shouldn't be a priest in good standing. That's my view.

Bruce: "I dont see how anyone can in good faith claim that they believe he has not violated the terms of his agreement."Bruce -- meet Bill Donohue:http://www.catholicleague.org/star-ledgers-war-on-archbishop-myers/

The furor continues to grow in NJ, and Myers is stonewalling. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/05/newark_archbishop_monmouth_cou....

Dear Archbishop Myers: it appears you are following the Cardinal Law playbook in managing this crisis. Please stop.

Jim PauwelsI agree with you. I am of the opinion that if the Archbishop believes that Fr. Fugee is in fact innocent, he should be willing to come forward and state his position and why he holds it. It is possible that he, and perhaps the Advisory board, had access to additional information which clears the matter up. But even if that is so, and I admit to being skeptical, his handling of the situation has made matters worse.

Jim Dunn - I agree.

In my comment from 04/30/2013 - 10:26 pm, I meant: "do not trust anyone, not even your priests."

A prohibition of one-adult-alone-with-one-child is coming to be standard procedure within organizations that serve minors. It is prudent for the organizations themselves, which usually don't have the Church's ability to pay huge damage assessments. It helps to protect children from a very real danger. And it poisons only that which cannot proceed with the doors open.Most people today are able to draw a moral distinction between adultery and child molestation. One important difference is consent. If you are seeking an equivalent in adult behavior, it is rape, not adultery. And since child abusers depend so much on ingratiating themselves with their victims and gaining their confidence, a more precise comparison is date rape.Bruce drags a month-old herring across the thread by opining that no agreement restricting an abuser's contact with children can be effective, because "children are everywhere" and a priest might pass one in the street. It's the old "let's do nothing, because we can't do everything" solution to problems. Anyway, snatching kids off the street is not how abusers tend to work. That's a different kind of crime, with its own laws."Millstone" wasn't my word, it was Christ's, so generalize it into meaninglessness if you want to. What remains is Christ's paramount concern for the welfare of children. I don't advocate drowning pedophiles in the bottom of the sea with a millstone around their necks. (Neither did Christ; he said it would be something worse.) But I do favor reasonable measures to keep confirmed abusers from having a second opportunity, and anyone from having a first.

Well, the chicken went to roost in NJ. Meyers was Bshp of Peoria (IL) befor being "elevated" to Achbshp of NWK. Many good CTHLICs were glad to see him go and take one of his worst MNSGNRS with him. Here Catholic school teachers who attended Sat eve Mass regularly were summarily discharged as setting abad ex. His replacement D. Jenky is an Obama hating religious libritarian so we are not much better now. Why must these Romans keep scourging the Body of Christ?

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About the Author

Lisa Fullam is associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).