On Thursday, May 2, Fr. Michael Fugee, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, wrote the following to The Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark:Ah, well. That story sounds much better. Of course, it's wildly inconsistent with the response of Jim Goodness, the Archbishop's spokesman as quoted in the Star Ledger on April 28:
“For the good of the Church and for my peace, I have requested permission to leave public exercise of my priestly ministry.
“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 am sorry that my actions have caused pain to my Church and to her people.”
Archbishop Myers granted this request on May 2.
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. Fr. Fugee was under continual supervision during the exercise of these ministerial duties.
The Archdiocese only learned about two weeks ago when approached by a reporter that Fr. Fugee had engaged in other activities or ministries. The activities written about in recent news stories were not part of his assigned ministry. Had the Archdiocese known about them at the time, permission to undertake them would not have been granted.
Neither Archbishop Myers nor others in the leadership of the Archdiocese gave Fr. Fugee permission to work in any ministry other than those ministries that were physically located within the Archdiocesan Center. He did not seek, nor would it have been granted, permission to engage in activities involving minors either through the Archdiocese or at any other diocese in the state. He failed to follow established procedures and protocols in place among all of the dioceses in the state designed to prevent unauthorized ministries.
But Goodness denied the agreement had been breached, saying the archdiocese has interpreted the document to mean Fugee could work with minors as long as he is under the supervision of priests or lay ministers who have knowledge of his past and of the conditions in the agreement.So, a week ago, the Archdiocese defended allowing Fugee to act in the manner that it now denies knowing about. Now it denies having given him such permission, and states that Archbishop John Myers would have denied such permission.
"We believe that the archdiocese and Father Fugee have adhered to the stipulations in all of his activities, and will continue to do so," Goodness said. Even if Fugee heard private confessions from minors, those supervising Fugee were always nearby, Goodness said.
"The fact is, he has done nothing wrong," the spokesman said. "Nobody has reported any activity that is inappropriate, and I think that’s important to know, especially given that he’s a figure whose name is public and whose past is public."
Of course, the reliably reprehensible Bill Donohue seizes upon this radical change in story to reassert that this is all the fault of liberals:
Father Fugee now says he violated his agreement with the Newark Archdiocese and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office; thus, his decision to step down. His dishonesty is appalling. Moreover, he has clearly impugned his character.I quote the statement in its entirety because it is a breathtakingly mendacious document. I'm not sure that there is a statement in it that is truthful. Let's look at a couple:
As I said in my report of May 1, “What is really going on here is an attempt to sunder Archbishop Myers—Fugee is not the man they want. They want Myers, and that is because they detest what he stands for.”
Fugee’s resignation does nothing to change my position. Indeed, had there not been calls for Myers to resign over this matter, there would have been no reason to comment on it.
There is a concerted effort on the part of left-wing Catholics and ex-Catholics, aided and abetted by some in the media, to take down a bishop. But not just any bishop: he must be a conservative. To this day, the way these activists have reacted to their hero, the disgraced former archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland, is in stark contrast to their response to conservative bishops who have been embroiled in controversy (e.g., Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Newark Archbishop John Myers).
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: any priest who is guilty of committing a crime, especially sexual abuse, should have the book thrown at him; he will get no defense from the Catholic League. But when we see that the clergy of other religions, as well as public school officials, are being held to a lesser standard than our bishops, that is cause for action. Not until we get a level playing field will we back off.
1. Father Fugee now says he violated his agreement with the Newark Archdiocese and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office: Er, no. He actually doesn't. He contends that his actions were outside his assignment, and that he did not request required permissions. That isn't an admission to violating the plea agreement, although it leaves him only with a narrow technical defense that he did not accept an assignment in violation of the plea agreement (which I covered here.)
2.Fugee’s resignation does nothing to change my position. Actually, it does. And pretty drastically, too. On May 1--three days ago--Donohue issued a "Special Report" in which he claimed that "the court agreement expressly allowed Father Fugee to have contact with minors, provided he was supervised. Nothing in either the news story or the editorial even suggests that Fugee was at any time unsupervised in his contacts with minors. If the Star-Ledger had such evidence, it would have said so....At bottom, the Star-Ledger has unfairly maligned Archbishop Myers, and has treated Father Fugee like a political football." The"Special Report" excoriates the Star-Ledger, demanding its editorial board resign en masse, for accurately reporting the very fact that Donohue now concedes--that Father Fugee's actions violated the Agreement. He does not even have the grace to note the inconsistency with his own prior position that this observation which he now accepts as a given was a mere three days ago compelling proof of the media's left-wing bias and iniquitous plot to "sunder" Archbishop Myers. (By the bye, Bill, get a dictionary, will ya?)
3. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: any priest who is guilty of committing a crime, especially sexual abuse, should have the book thrown at him; he will get no defense from the Catholic League Now that's a whopper. Donohue, two days ago:
Some are saying that Fugee’s legal status is conditioned on a technicality that allowed him to return to ministry. Let me make this clear: If accused Muslim terrorists, who seek to kill as many innocent Americans as they can, are given (free of charge) attorneys prepared to exploit every legal loophole there is, then I want priests to be afforded the same measures.Liar.
I could go on--Donohue assumes without demonstrating a left-wing cadre out to get only conservative bishops, and reasserts they, and the left wing media, and not Father Fugee's actions and the Archdiocese's initial support made this a story; he claims that the decades of ecclesiastical cover-up of sex abuse shouldn't be a story since isolated incidents of sex abuse in other contexts don't get "a level playing field" in the media (Bill, this isn't a game, and it's not a competition. There are no winners here, only losers. "We're less evil than the Methodists" would not be, even if true, a defense in the eyes of the law, let alone God). But the take away from this is Donohue's continued vitriol at those he now must admit were right on the facts is to reaffirm what I wrote yesterday. Donohue and his "Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights" are morally bankrupt, and have no interest in Catholic children, only in the hierarchy.