NJ Priest Michael Fugee, once convicted of sex crime, permitted to work with kids

It seems stories of sexual abuse by Catholic priests continue to surface from time to time. And accusations of bishops shielding priests won’t go away either.

I wrote last year about Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who went on to become the first and only U.S. bishop convicted of misdemeanor failure to report a priest suspected of child sex abuse.

The latest cover-up allegation comes from New Jersey, where Newark Archbishop John J. Myers is under fire for allowing a priest to attend youth retreats and hear confessions from minors in defiance of a court-ordered lifetime ban on ministry to children.

Fugee was convicted in 2003 of criminal sexual contact for allegedly fondling a 14-year-old boy’s genitals on two occasions. Three years later, an appellate court vacated the verdict, ruling the trial judge should not have allowed jurors to hear the part of Fugee’s confession in which he described himself as homosexual or bisexual.

The rest of the confession was not called into question.

Rather than retry Fugee, prosecutors allowed him to enter a rehabilitation program for first-time offenders, on the condition that he undergo counseling for sex offenders and sign an agreement barring him from any work in which children are involved. The archdiocese’s vicar general, on behalf of Myers, signed the agreement as well.

“It’s complete craziness that the church can let this happen,” John Santulli, 38, a father of two at St. Mary’s, told the Religion News Service. “I’m a softball coach, and I need a background check just to get on the field.”

The Newark Star-Ledger called for Myers to step down in an editorial, saying the archbishop “has shown a pattern of leniency toward pedophiles, indifference to potential victims, and a haughty disdain for those who dare to question his judgment.”

Enough is enough, isn’t it? Of course, once is enough and that passed a long time ago for the Catholic Church. This is a pattern of behavior that must be highlighted every time it happens.

Do you think penalties should be harsher for church officials convicted of shielding pedophiles?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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