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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.


Commenting Guidelines

It has been brought to my attention that I should have used "Fr." and not "Mr." when addressing Joseph O Leary. No disrespect was intended. Mark Silk at RNS has a piece worth reading: makes many of the same points made here and summarizes the case quite well. I think he may be incorrect when he suggests Archbishop Myers could have sought clarification from the court on the MOU. But he certainly could have gone to the Bergen County Prosecutor for clarification.

Money quote by Mark Silk:Donohue contends that the court agreement expressly allowed Father Fugee to have contact with minors, provided he was supervised. The agreement allows no such thing, expressly or otherwise. The issue of supervision concerns contact with minors alone; contact is the only word the adjective unsupervised modifies. When it comes to ministering or working, theres nothing about supervision; the prohibition is absolute. Thats clear not only from the grammar but also from the list of disallowed activities. How is a priest to preside over a parish under supervision?

"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."The great majority of Irish arent drunks and wife abusers.The great majority of Italians arent members of La Cosa Nostra.The great majority of women arent "near occasions of sin" for men.The great majority of Catholics arent lock-step followers of their clergy.Unfortunately, old stereotypes foster new stereotypes in the minds of willing believers.I think that maybe priests wouldn't be quite to tarred with the same brush if more of them had come public when they knew that pedophilia was happening and church authorites were turning blind eyes thereto. To be honest (and I stand willing to be corrected) I don't ever remember hearing of any priests blowing the public whistle until this all became public knowlege in the early 1990s.

My late pastor, Fr. James Tarantino, blew the whistle in the local newspaper on Fr. Dino Cinel not long after Jason Berry blew open the Gilbert Gauthe case in '85. He's the only priest I've ever heard of who did that. in the case of the hospital chaplaincy... Jim,What ministry could the priest pursue where he could be certain he would never be alone and/or would never run into children? And for that matter, what adult could ever agree to such restrictions?

Norbert Rigali, (whose brother Justin would later play fast and loose with the Dallas Charter,) wrote in 1994 in Theological Studies on "Church Responses to Pedophilia," and described the scene in Canada and the US. He concluded by expressing a need for openness, transparency, and clear engagement with facts. Oh well. Then of course there's Tom Doyle, of the 1985 Peterson-Doyle-Mouton report to the NCCB, The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner. The report suggested a huge estimated financial liability of dioceses, and suggested policies that dioceses might adopt in response to the problem. In 1988, the Conference issued a memorandum with guidelines for dealing with this issue. In 1992, in the wake of the suits against the archdiocese of Santa Fe alleging acts of abuse by priests under treatment there, and the notorious James Porter case in Massachusetts, the conference issued a policy statement reiterating the 1988 memo, naming the 5 Principles for dealing with sex abuse cases:i.Respond promptly to allegationsii.Get the accused out of ministry if the charges are credible, and get him into treatmentiii.Comply with civil lawiv.Reach out to as openly as possible with members of the community.These 5 Principles were not binding on bishops. Only about half of dioceses adopted sex abuse policies then.For bishops, I think 1985 marks a dividing line. Before then, the state of the psychological understanding of sex abuse, the reality of the problem among priests and the need for a comprehensive structural solution were not as clear. After 1985, they should have known better. And after the Dallas Charter, any toleration of known abusers must be intentional, istm.

This just in. It was posted a few minutes ago on the Star-Ledger's website.Priest at center of Newark Archdiocese scandal quits ministryBy Mark Mueller/The Star-Ledger on May 02, 2013 at 8:54 PM, updated May 02, 2013 at 9:09 PM The Roman Catholic priest at the center of a public furor enveloping Newark Archbishop John J. Myers has been removed from ministry, a spokesman for the archdiocese said tonight. The Rev. Michael Fugee, who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors in defiance of a lifetime ban on such behavior, submitted his request to leave ministry [this] afternoon, said the spokesman, Jim Goodness. Myers promptly accepted Fugees request, Goodness said.Fugee, 52, will remain a priest only the Vatican may grant a leave from that role but will no longer have authority to represent himself as a priest, say Mass or perform any Sacramental work, Goodness said. Asked if Myers had requested that Fugee step aside, Goodness said, "I only know that he offered to leave ministry and the archbishop accepted.". . . . Earlier this week, The Star-Ledger reported Fugee had seemingly violated the agreement with law enforcement, openly engaging in youth group activities at St. Marys Parish in Colts Neck. . . . .Since the disclosure, Goodness has argued 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 ahead of time."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.Fugee, the spokesman added, acknowledged to Myers that he violated the agreement, an admission that could lead to more trouble for him down the line.The Bergen County Prosecutors Office launched an investigation into Fugee when The Star-Ledger alerted the agency late last week. The assistant prosecutor who authored the agreement told the newspaper Fugee could face civil penalties, criminal charges or both.

Goodness gracious -- Mr. Goodness has done a complete 180 on whether Fugee violated the MOU. With such dexterity in communications in defense of his boss, I'm sure he will be up for a promotion to the next level of the Knighthood. I expect to see at least KCHS (Knight Commander) or maybe even KC*HS (Knight Commander with Star).So in the end -- it is only because of the actions of the confessed abuser himself we have pseudo compliance with the Dallas Charter. I hope Connell in Trenton and Seratelli in Paterson are still sufficiently pissed to press this case with Rome.How long will it take for Bill Donohue to apologize to the Star Ledger?

Sorry -- I meant Bishop O'Connell in Trenton.

"What ministry could the priest pursue where he could be certain he would never be alone and/or would never run into children? And for that matter, what adult could ever agree to such restrictions?"The ministry that the archdiocese had assigned to him, where he was responsible for coordinating continuing education events for the priests of the archdiocese, seems like the least problematic type of arrangement - presumably he'd be working in some sort of diocesan central office where everyone in the office would be adults, there would be archdiocesan employees and supervisors to keep at least half an eye on him, and the work itself wouldn't require coming into contact with children.The problem with these arrangements, as a number of tragic/infuriating cases has demonstrated, is that if the perpetrator is determined to subvert the arrangement, he can usually find a way without too much trouble. I know in my own work, I'd find it pretty much impossible to simultaneously keep close tabs on a co-worker and also do my own job. And then, when the arrangement is violated by a perp who is sneaking around behind everyone's back, the diocese is liable for failing to do something that it was never well-positioned to do in the first place. It's a real problem, even for a diocese that would make a reasonable effort to keep track of the guy.This is why I've advocated that dioceses and the Holy See expedite dismissal of offenders from the clerical state - basically, fire them and shoo them out the door as quickly as possible. I don't think dioceses have the wherewithal to keep track of offenders; they're not able to be responsible for the perps' behavior. Offending clerics need to be put on the same basis as offenders from private employers, school districts and the like: they need to be dismissed, and then our society must determine what restrictions and safeguards to build around them - jail them, put them into treatment, put them on sex offender lists, and whatever else we can come up with.I've read Gene Palumbo's comment above - Fugee apparently has submitted his resignation and it has been accepted. Whether that news changes any of the arrangements in the agreement with prosecutors, I'm not sure. Until he's laicized by Rome, I think the archdiocese may still have some responsibility for him.Regarding your second question - what adult would ever agree to these restrictions: presumably, an adult who already has been convicted once of a sex crime, and faces the choice of agreeing to the restrictions or standing trial again.

"So in the end it is only because of the actions of the confessed abuser himself we have pseudo compliance with the Dallas Charter."I'd rather give the credit to a news organization serving the public trust. And the head of SNAP in New Jersey. And a priest in Milwaukee willing to stick his neck way, way out for what is right. And some pissed-off parishioners. And a couple of bishops who, in effect, publicly rebuked one of their brethren (perhaps even a superior on the food chain).And in addition to sort of getting to compliance, we also have the head of a major diocese whose reputation is completely shredded and, we can be sure, will never be recovered. And the institutional church has suffered another body blow to its credibility - which is like saying that a victim who has been run over by a vehicle 16 times, just got ran over again.It doesn't have to be this way.

May Fugee find himself facing both civil penalties and criminal charges befitting the facts on the ground. As for Myers, how convenient those chancery "clarifications" are in rescuing him from the focus of controversy. Ah, the wonders of bishops' word games, Goodness style.Minus the publicity, Fugee could have gone on for years, just as he has until now. Had his lawyer been successful expunging Fugee's records in 2009, nothing would be on file today. Thank you to the NJ judge who said, no, to Fugee's request. Lisa, Tom Doyle told me years ago that those USCCB Five Principles were simply fictitious when it came to actual cases. I am at a loss to name any from 1988-2002 on where they were honored. The Principles looked good on the USCCB website and their legal counsel liked to trumpet them, but there was little substance. Especially those points of complying with civil law and truly reaching out to victims...Ann, not only were priest reporters rare, but those who did go to the authorities were disgraced and removed from their posts. Three were victims who themselves became priests and found perpetrators were protected while they suffered greatly. The silence from priests was and is deafening. What about the priests who were around Fugee? All totally clueless, and if so, why, Myers? Such negligent supervision by a bishop shows how little value is placed on child protection, still. Finn and Myers - Opus Dei brothers.Let's see if Francis steps up to the plate in any meaningful way.(Jack, Saltarelli died about five years ago; William Malooly is the current bishop.)

Yes, congratulations to Fr. Jim Connell, as Jim P notes. He is a heroic, gifted priest who stands for justice, and openly supports SNAP. A true rarity.Connell has been working for years to have the USCCB audits cover the Essential Norms (which is Church law) as well as the Charter's articles (sets policies and procedures but is not Church law). Years ago we submitted chapter and verse to the USCCB Gavin Group auditors only to be informed that even the Charter preamble does not qualify as audit material.Connell wrote: "...the scope of the audit as established by the bishops is of the charter only, not also of the Essential Norms. In other words, that which is legally binding on each diocese (Essential Norms) is not audited, while that which is not legally binding (charter) is audited. This must change."Remember former FBI agent Bill Gavin's admission in 2011 that "It was an audit in quotes...I think it was more of a program review than anything else." Connell wants to put teeth into the audits as much as possible by improving accountability. I suggest Connell's recommendations on the whole audit process become a thread here. I'd be happy to forward the documentation, which he would as well, I'm sure. Very enlightening material!

Perhaps I should add about Fr. Tarantino's case: his Archbishop (Hannan) didn't hold it against him, apparently. Fr. Tarantino was later appointed to a nice parish, and when Archbishop Hannan retired he went to live in that parish and regularly said Mass in the parish church. But he was an unusual bishop.

Nice to hear good news, Ann.

In the Star-Ledger story, Myers and Goodness come off a lot better than they might have. The lede says,

The Roman Catholic priest at the center of a public furor enveloping Newark Archbishop John J. Myers has been removed from ministry, . . .

Surely that will delight Myers; under the current circumstances, as he tries to cut his losses, it's the best he could have hoped for. You can hear his defenders already: Well, okay, it did take the good ole' archbishop a while to get around to acting on this, but goddammit, when he finally did act, he was decisive -- he removed Fugee from ministry. Except that he didnt. The simple truth is this: Fugee requested to leave the ministry. All Myers did was (grudgingly? reluctantly?) accept the request. Period. So whats the big deal? The lede could just as easily have read this way:.

The Roman Catholic priest at the center of a public furor enveloping Newark Archbishop John J. Myers has requested to leave the ministry.The archbishop has accepted his request.

Has quite a different sound, no?The same is true for Goodness. The article says he was clarifying his earlier statements. Clarifying? No way. He reversed himself, period. So why not come right out and say it, proving the point by using his own words against him. In other words, why not have the article say this:

While, earlier in the week, Goodness insisted that Fugee had not violated the MOU, tonight he admitted that Fugee had done exactly that. He engaged in activities that the archdiocese was not aware of and that were not approved by us, said Goodness, and we would never have approved them because they are all in conflict with the memorandum of understanding.

Sounds quite different from he clarified his earlier statements, no?In any event, this isnt over. At least three questions remain. The first was raised by Mark Silks post:

On March 19, 2001, Fugee was read his Miranda rights and interrogated by a police detective, who proceeded to elicit a confession from the priest that he had the year before groped an adolescent with whom he was wrestling. . . . . Under the Dallas charter, only a determination that such an act had not occurred would allow him to remain in ministry. And so, it seems, Myers called in his review board. How it could have found that no abuse occurred is beyond me. To be sure, the jury verdict was tainted. But the judges finding in open court that Fugees confession had been freely and voluntarily given was as valid as ever. Surely that should have outweighed Fugees self-serving testimony. Nonetheless, the review board went the other way, Rome signed off, and Myers went ahead and returned Fugee to ministry.

The question: How will Archbishop Myers explain the review boards decision that Fr. Fugee didnt do what he had already confessed to doing?The second and third questions were posed to CDF Prefect Muller by Fr. Jim Connell, after Connell was informed by Goodness that Archbishop Myers did send all information surrounding the allegation (against Fugee), 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 Boards 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.Connell asked Muller: Did Myers really send you all of the material, including Fr. Fugees confession? And is it true that the CDF concurred that there was no sexual abuse and that Fr. Fugee could return to ministry?Connell ended by saying, Archbishop Mller, a thorough and prompt explanation of this situation is needed. It sure is.

@ Jim Pauwels -- You are absolutely correct that Star Ledger, Fr. Connell and victims' advocacy groups, and others deserve huge credit this outcome. My comment was more meant to point out, even at this late date, the passive role of the Archbishop. If we take Goodness at his word (maybe a mistake), the Archbishop move to comply with the Dallas Charter was merely the acceptance of a resignation. @Carolyn Disco -- rumors of Paterson, NJ Bishop Arthur Serratelli's demise are greatly exaggerated. I think you are confusing him with the former Bishop of Wilmington, DE. Serratelli has expressed publicly his displeasure that Fugee was allowed to spend a weekend with minors at a retreat facility in his diocese. Here's hoping his displeasure is not abated and it helps push for greater accountability out of Newark.@gene palumbo -- you are very correct that Star Ledger has been more than generous in its characterizations of Myers and Goodness. Makes Bill Donohue's ranting about anti-Catholic bias in the media even more ridiculous. By the way, for all the claims of the liberal media out to do harm to the Church -- this story is getting practically no attention outside of the Star Ledger and some local media in NJ. The NYTs has a puff piece on BXVI's return to the Vatican today -- but nothing on this scandal

Ann, and Carolyn, the Chicago Tribune has been running a series of articles on the Joliet Diocese's shortcomings in abiding by the Charter. The circumstances recounted in a couple of the cases have some similarity to that of Fugee and Newark. This particular one concerns a priest, Carroll Howlin, who is supposed to be out of ministry and monitoried by the diocese but in fact it had no clue what he was up to. (I am not certain whether or not this is behind a paywall; it is accessible to me). one concerns a priest, William Virtue, who remained in ministry despite a number of credible accusations against him, and managed to avoid penalties in part by moving from one diocese to another. any rate, I'm calling these out, not only because of the similarities with the Fugee case, but also because in both cases, brother priests did blow the whistle on them. So there is some hope on that score, at least.

"@gene palumbo you are very correct that Star Ledger has been more than generous in its characterizations of Myers and Goodness."I wonder if part of this could be an aspect of beat reporting. To compare this situation to something more trivial: there is a theory floating about that the beat reporters who cover a major league baseball team every day throughout the summer, tend to be somewhat soft on the players and other ballclub personnel on whom they rely for stories, and who they meet every day in the locker room and on the field. The theory would be that reporters need to get the story without completely burning bridges with their subjects. For example, 10-15 years ago, many sports journalists were writing that Barry Bonds was "juiced up" on steroids or HGH, but the SF Giants beat reporters were not making the accusations, allegedly because they needed to cultivate some sort of relationship with Bonds in order to do their jobs. Maybe Gene or other journalists could comment.

@Jack Marth - I appreciate the word about the two Serratelli's. I was indeed confusing Michael with Arthur.@Jim P - Wonderful to have more good news about priests blowing whistles. SNAP maintains information about priests who should not be in ministry. I'll check their list. Their heightened sense of vigilance is so understandable.Fugee, Howlin and Virtue raise questions about how many more situations there are like this. What are bishops thinking??? Is their blindness an acquired or natural trait? Is their sense of exemption and arrogance so ingrained that no one is going to tell them what to do? Stupidity? What? The impact of thinking of oneself as Excellency or Eminence who enjoys absolute power in his diocese?It does speak clearly about their priorities though. I respect your insights, Jim, and if you see what's at play here from your vantage point, let us know. George's record after Dallas was certainly damaging.Our former NH AG and now US senator said her office had to drag our bishop and his aides "kicking and screaming into compliance" with really meaningful independent state audits they accepted as part of a non-prosecution agreement. It was all so unnecessary.

"What are bishops thinking???"Carolyn: I'm sure all those factors you mention - arrogance, blindness, etc. - do factor in, to some extent or another, as they do for me, too. And remnants of the old protect-one-another culture surely is a big part of it. I'd add a few other factors as well: * Lack of excellence (I hesitate to use the term "incompetence"): not every bishop is a gifted administrator. And even in cases in which bishops are ordained and then promoted because they've demonstrated strong management and administrative skills, their chanceries and diocesan management apparatuses are very large, complex and multi-layered organizations that, like all bureaucracies, contain a mixture of people, some of whom are competent and some who aren't; some who operate in good faith and some who don't. Frequently - to be brutally candid - it is the laypersons and religious sisters who are competent administrators, and the bureaucratic clerical types who aren't.* Turnover. I don't know what the average tenure of a bishop is in the US, but I'd guess it's less than 20 years. Any bishop appointed to any diocese or vicariate nowadays is going to inherit a certain number of cases of personnel with Dallas Charter violations that must be dealt with. But it's oh so tempting to not deal with them, or to deal with them ineffectively. If the bishop is not from the diocese, he has no knowledge of the players and the history. Granted, that could be good or bad, depending on his approach - bad if he's not zealous about cleaning up, good if he's willing to hurt the feelings and end the careers (and possibly send to jail) people he hasn't yet befriended. But I'd think that most bishops who come into a new diocese don't want to rock the boat and be the bad guy - they want to enjoy a honeymoon period.* Lack of zeal. I think a lot of these guys truly don't understand, even yet, the amount of effort and resources and vigilance that it takes to root out the rotten apples. As I suggested in a previous comment, there may be a generational aspect to this - the relatively younger guys may catch on to this better than the older guys. But we've learned that being audited by the National Review Board, and convening the diocesan review board from time to time, and reviewing personnel files once in a very great while, all may be necessary, but aren't sufficient to turn things around and stamp out the brush fires of trouble that ignite from time to time. Keeping track of a guy like Fugee, who strikes me as a bad guy who considers himself exempt from normal standards of conduct, requires persistence and zeal. If you're going to keep a guy like him around, you need to make it somebody's full time job to keep tabs on him, and that watcher needs to be a bulldog. Not to sound like a broken record, but if you shake all these things together and look in the shaker to see what policies suggest themselves, I really think the best, most realistic thing to do is to just cut ties with the bad guys as expeditiously as possible. Controlling sex offenders is not something that a church is competent at. Don't even try; just get rid of them.

Thanks, Jim, for taking the time to respond. I would add not being fathers, never having their own flesh and blood at risk. They simply don't register the pain of survivors except in an abstract way. It's still basically about them.Where are the shepherds?

Carolyn - yes, very good point, I do think lack of empathy / lack of imagination is another factor. Such limits, in my opinion, are signs of the Fall. Their best cure, I'd think, is to spend time with victims. Most bishops have spent much more time with priests than with victims, and explains, I think, how it is (which we've seen in this present case of Archbishop Myers and Fugee) that they can actually see the priest as the victim in these situations.

Actually I am against laicization because the priesthood is meant to be forever, because excluding people who do wrong is not the correct way to go about building a better church, and because having among us priests who have a past would help dissipate the idea that priests are better than other people. We've got to find ways to keep them with us and keep our children safe at the same time. (Knowing their past would go a long way for that, I think)

The Newark Archdiocese has released a statement from Fugee: "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. The leadership of the Archdiocese of Newark, especially Archbishop John Myers, did not know or approve of my actions. My failure to request the required permissions to engage in those ministry activities is my fault, my fault alone."I strongly suspect Fugee was pressured to say this and fall on his sword for Myers. It just does not add up -- especially when you consider that the Archbishop's spokesman, Mr. Goodness made it perfectly clear that his office knew of the activities of Fugee at issue and argued they were acceptable under the MOU. Just look at some of Goodness's quotes from the earlier reporting where Goodness defends the parish work and youth retreats as acceptable because Goodness was supervised by other priests and his youth minister friends. He gets indigent when the reporter, correctly, points out that his friends may have a conflict of interest. See here for example It is very sad that Archbishop Myers continues to refuse to take any responsibility here. To me he is throwing Fugee, a man who must be in tremendous turmoil, completely under the bus. I fear the results will not be good.

Claire --There's another reason not to ostracize Fugee -- if he's tossed into the streets the children wherever he is will be even more vulnerable.This, of course, is a problem with all of the laicized priests, and teachers, etc., who are simply tossed out of their institutions. I don't think our culture has faced up to this huge problem. At the moment there doesn't seem to be any solution, since apparently there is no cure for many of the perps.

Ann, the pastor of St Mary's in Colts Neck could have had an announcement in the parish bulletin, such as: "I am pleased to announce that Fr Fugee will join us as a part time associate pastor. (brief bio, then:) Fr Fugee is a registered sexual offender, and is not allowed to minister to children or to youth under 18 years old. For the present, I have assigned him to give communion to the people in our retirement home, and to help organize our famous fish fry. Please join me in welcoming him to our parish community and helping him get a new start in his life as a priest."

"Theres another reason not to ostracize Fugee if hes tossed into the streets the children wherever he is will be even more vulnerable."Ann - while it is true that if he's tossed into the streets, children will be vulnerable, it seems to me to also be true that if he is not tossed into the streets, children will be vulnerable. And inasmuch as many church ministries bring ministers into contact with children, it seems quite possible that keeping him in church ministry actually *increases* the danger to children. To the extent that is true, it actually serves the interest of children to get him out of ministry. It also protects the good name and the assets of the church, which in my view also are legitimate goals.You're quite right, in your second paragraph, that society has to determine what to do with offenders. Surely vigilance on all our parts on behalf of all children is important in that regard.

"Mr. Goodness made it perfectly clear that his office knew of the activities of Fugee at issue and argued they were acceptable under the MOU."I have to say, based on some of those Joliet Diocese articles to which I linked in a previous comment, that this is the part that doesn't have the ring of truth: that Newark Archdiocese was aware of of what Fugee was up to.

"But I dont 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."A young boy or girl who makes her way early to church on weekday winter mornings to serve mass becomes a problematic case when his or her being alone with the priest in the sacristy is regarded as a no-no.Having to keep doors open when students come to one's room seems to me to place over the whole encounter a warning sign: beware of your prof, he may want to harass you sexually, and more acutely, beware of your student, he or she might report you for sexual harassment. The doors open policy is much more about the latter issue. The damage to warm communication and effective pedagogy is real.

Bishop O'Connell's email to priests of Trenton: pastor and youth ministers in Colt's Neck parish are fired. Somewhat annoying that the pastor who welcomed Fugee gets a sabbatical (paid, I assume) -- but the lay youth ministers are simply terminated. Regardless, I think the email reveals O'Connell's continued anger. He appears to be acting decisively, with the safety and welfare of children paramount. Kudos to him. Hopefully he is also directing some of his decisive anger at Myers as well.Latest from the Star Ledger: revelations that Fugee was knee deep in youth ministry work, in this story at a parish in Nutley, NJ, part of the Newark Archdiocese. The quotes from the Nutley pastor, Bochiccho, are astoundingly clueless and reveal how little Myers has done to educate his priests on the importance of protecting children. From the story:"One thing I can tell you is that his (Fugee's) greatest fans are teenagers," said Bochicchio, a monsignor and Holy Familys pastor.Bochicchio makes no secret of Fugees interactions with young people. Indeed, there was nothing furtive about it. Photos on Facebook show the two priests celebrating Mass together and joining in a prayer circle with teens on an annual pilgrimage to a Canadian shrine... Bochicchio offered a spirited defense of the priest, calling him "one of the gentlest and most compassionate men I know.""I feel hes been maligned, because if anyone knew him, they would know he is not the monster or predator that he is made out to be," the monsignor said.The entire criminal case against Fugee, he said, has been a misunderstanding from the start.While calling it "imprudent" of Fugee to wrestle with a 13-year-old boy, Bochicchio said any contact with the teens genitals was accidental."When youre wrestling, that could happen," he said.Bochicchio said the teen waited more than six months to report the incident, calling the delay significant."It seems kind of strange to me that if this was an immediate concern to someone, it would have been reported immediately," he said.The monsignor also said Fugee has told him he confessed to police only after hours of interrogation without a lawyer. Fugee ultimately recanted."I know someone who went through an experience like that, and after that, youre almost ready to say anything," Bochicchio said.The balance of the confession, in which Fugee told authorities he was sexually excited by touching the teen, was never called into question by the appeals court.Asked why Fugee agreed to pretrial intervention, essentially admitting wrongdoing, if he believed he was innocent, Bochicchio said, "People get to a point where they dont want to fight anymore.""The real proof is that he was allowed back into ministry," Bochicchio said, referring to the archdiocese review board finding that no abuse took place. "I know several cases of priests who were allowed to return to ministry because there wasnt any real substance to the charges against them."The monsignor said he last spoke with Fugee just before he asked to be removed from ministry Thursday afternoon. Though Goodness, Myers spokesman, maintains the archbishop did not push Fugee out, Bochicchio said he suspects the decision was mutual."I know he values this priesthood, and I know this certainly was devastating to him," the friend said.Bochicchio added that Fugee did not intend to leave the priesthood and was hoping to return to ministry, albeit with tight restrictions. He said Fugee was in no way a danger to children.

Awww, geee!People by the millions are passing through metal detectors, enduring full-body scans, and being harassed and humiliated daily because of the actions of a tiny minority of people bent on inflicting violence. And likewise, the easy and unexamined trust that Catholics used to feel toward their priests has been severely undermined by the actions of a few of them. Who knew until recently that the sacristy and the rectory could be two of the most dangerous places in the parish? A fallen world indeed!Danger to warm communication and effective pedagogy my eye! All that is really lost or at least limited in open meetings is opportunities for predatory adults and malicious children to act with impunity. Why would anyone argue against that? Seriously, why?We used to be urged to avoid occasions of sin. Are we now to be told to leave our doubts in the hallway, walk right in, shut the door, and sit down?

From the Star-Ledger story:

The balance of the confession, in which Fugee told authorities he was sexually excited by touching the teen, was never called into question by the appeals court.Asked why Fugee agreed to pretrial intervention, essentially admitting wrongdoing, if he believed he was innocent, Bochicchio said, People get to a point where they dont want to fight anymore.

But theres another possible explanation, and this one is very different. From Mark Silks blog:

Its important to recognize that something critical happened between Fugees confession and his recantation: the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, passed at the June 2002 meeting in Dallas of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The charter, which Myers helped draft, stipulated that 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, the offending priest or deacon is to be permanently removed from ministry. In other words, after Dallas, Fugees confession was sufficient to guarantee his permanent removal from priestly ministry.

The good thing about Fr. Bochicchio is that, unlike some other people in this affair, he's consistent in his words and in his actions. He may be foolish and blind, but he sounds like a real man*: he's loyal to his friend and courageous to stick his neck out in his defense even in the middle of this mess.*I can't think of a p.c. analog for this term

Linked below is a good summary of how Myers and Goodness have utterly failed at communications. Matthew 5:37 comes to mind: Let your Yes mean Yes, and your No mean No. Anything more is from the evil one."The business of the church is to communicate in a clear and unambiguous fashion. In this case, it has done anything but that. Instead, the official position of the Archdiocese is to parse language and play communication games.Real leadership is not about playing games. It is about taking responsibility and accountability for the actions of those in your flock or on your team. Thats what we expect from leaders in business and clearly from leaders in the church. Either the intent is to protect children or it isnt, and the fact that the Archbishop of Newark chooses not to communicate is disappointing and sends all the wrong messages."

Jack Marth - your comment from 5/5 8:56 pm is outstanding. And the Adubato column is on point. The purpose of the church is to proclaim the Good News. The New Evangelization (or even traditional old evangelization) rises or falls on the church's ability to proclaim the Good News clearly and courageously. A church that earns a reputation for parsing and prevaricating and covering its *ss in its public statements is failing in its most essential mission. Truth-telling should be the minimum acceptable criterion for any minister of the Gospel.

"The good thing about Fr. Bochicchio is that, unlike some other people in this affair, hes consistent in his words and in his actions. He may be foolish and blind, but he sounds like a real man*: hes loyal to his friend and courageous to stick his neck out in his defense even in the middle of this mess."Claire - don't you think, though, that Fr. Bochicchio should be loyal to adolescent victims, and should be courageous to stick his neck out on their behalf? My own view is that Bochicchio is exhibiting the worst aspects of clericalism here, the sort of misplaced loyalty that values friendship with the wolf over the well-being of the vulnerable lambs. (I am sorry if my words are strong here, but it is how I am looking at this).

Mark Silk continues with his excellent analysis of this case: points out a very important contradiction contained in the the most recent communication from the Archdiocese:In last Thursdays self-exculpatory announcement of the departure of Fr. Michael Fugee from the public exercise of priestly ministry, they (the Archdiocese) assert: Following the Memorandum of Understanding, the Archdiocese did not assign Fr. Fugee to any post involving ministry with minors. His assignments were supervised administrative positions located at the Archdiocesan Center in Newark.Thats not true. As was reported four years ago, and recalled in the Star-Ledgers stories about Fugees recent employment with parish youth groups, after his term of probation was over in 2009, Fugee was assigned as a chaplain to St. Michaels Medical Center, over a mile away from the Center.I predicted earlier in this thread that Jim Goodness will move up in his rank in the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre -- that may well happen -- for unquestioning loyalty to Myers. But looking at how Myers has acted so far --I predict Goodness will be the next to get thrown under the bus by Myers. It may well be deserved, but it will just be another way for Myers not to take responsibility. He will claim he was ill-served by his Director of Communications and Public Relations.

Jim: he is confused. He doesn't believe that there are adolescents at risk, so for him there is no issue of loyalty to them. Blind but still brave, or if you prefer, brave but blind. What does that have to do with clericalism?

Claire, yes, he is blind - culpably so.

Yet another must-read story from the Star-Ledger, this time on the Trenton diocese parish where Fugee was doing ministry without the permission of the Trenton bishop. The bishop, O'Connell, is coming across as a bishop who "gets it".

"Real leadership is not about playing games. It is about taking responsibility and accountability for the actions of those in your flock or on your team. Thats what we expect from leaders in business and clearly from leaders in the church." Jack Marth @5/05 8:56 pmThat's not at all what I expect. I hope for it wanly, but if expectation should be based on experience, I see no reason to expect better from business or church leaders than what we habitually get. Their interests are not our interests, and they care not a fig for what we think, since they have seen to it that we have no real influence with them. A spectacular failure in business will occasionally bring about a shakeup in leadership if other leaders are threatened with loss. But Church leaders simply wait out their critics if they can't burn them, and they flush their failures away in a spate of mellifluous holytalk that's kept them reliably in power and luxury for centuries. If they can survive their nonchalant response to the sexual abuse of children, nothing will ever touch them.On the up side, I have a pretty dismal record in foretelling the future.

Aside: I love it that the term "stonewalling" has entered into normal discourse.I hope that most people know its derivation.

But what does that have to do with clericalism?

More information in an NCR story today:

In his letter (of resignation), Triggs expressed thanks to his parish community of six years. He also announced he had accepted the resignations of the two youth ministers -- Amy and Mike Lenehan -- who had asked Fugee, a close friend, to occasionally assist with retreats and other activities. While acknowledging the controversy, the pastor offered no apology in his letter."The controversy that has arisen during the past week, discussed at the parish forum on Friday night, has made it clear to me that the good of our parish can only be served if I step down as pastor," Triggs wrote.The Friday meeting had Triggs, the Lenehans and several parish deacons answering questions from a concerned St. Mary's Parish community.Although the meeting was closed to the press, a parishioner who attended told NCR that each gave a brief statement before opening the floor to questions . . . . Triggs and the Lenehans reiterated the position that they had no knowledge of ministerial restrictions regarding Fugee. The Lenehans described him as "cleared of charges" and said they felt betrayed when they saw news reports, first in the Newark Star-Ledger, last week.In his brief comments, Triggs stated he first learned of Fugee's restrictions from the recent media coverage and said the parish was reviewing procedures. Deacon Vincent Renaldi told parishioners he would lead the parish in those efforts as its child safety coordinator, and he and a committee will implement new safeguards to its child protection procedures, including requiring fingerprinting, background checks and nametags to be worn when around children.When it came their turn to talk, the parish community appeared divided in their opinion, one parishioner told NCR. Some voiced their support of the Lenehans, including members of the parish's youth group, and called the Fugee fallout a "witch hunt"; others questioned why a letter of suitability -- a requirement since 1995 -- was never sought for Fugee and called for the resignations that came the following day.

As the story points out, in his letter of resignation, the pastor didnt apologize. One wonders: why? Heres the letter:

@John Prior 05/06/2013 - 3:02 pmWhile I endorse the sentiment, those words are not mine. That's a quote from the article linked by Steve Adubato .

Quite right, Jack Marth. I misread the quotation marks. I'm sorry I attributed those words to you.

And so, in Colt's Neck, three careers in ministry gravely wounded, perhaps fatally, and a faith community divided. The evil of sexual abuse of children, and the failure of those in authority to act decisively on behalf of the victims and for the good of the community, just continues to cascade. It's like ripples in a pond.

Claire - if we think of clericalism as the tendency of clergy to protect and increase their power and prerogatives at the expense of the people they should be ministering to, then in my view, the ways that clericalism manifests itself in the instance of a sex abuse scandal are on display in this Fr. Fugee scandal. Fr. Bochicchio's reaction was to defend the reputation of his brother priest, in the face of all evidence, and to give him further access to potential victims. Archbishop Myers' reaction was to circle the wagons, stand mute, and remain passive in the face of a situation that cries out for decisive action, all in the name of ... what? Certainly, not in the name of justice for victims and the church he shepherds.The priest, Bochicchio, no doubt, was speaking from his heart, which was not being suitably informed by his head. Perhaps he is entitled to take a mulligan on his public statements, but only one, and only if his subsequent drive is straight down the middle of the fairway. The archbishop - well, I have a difficult time conjuring sympathy for him. Between him and his advisers, all of them should know better.