Well, half a mo, guv.
Let's have a look at the shifting accounts of Archbishop Myers with respect to Fr. Fugee. From the Archbishop's op-ed, May 25, 2013:
When I first learned several weeks ago that Father Michael Fugee may have violated a lifetime ban on ministry to minors, I immediately ordered an outside law firm to conduct a full and thorough investigation of the matter. I told the firm I wanted to know what happened and why. I said I not only wanted to know if there was any wrongdoing, but that if there was wrongdoing and it rose to the point that authorities should be notified, I wanted them notified as well.In a similar letter to parishioners, also dated tomorrow, Archbishop Myers repeats this account, with a salient difference: "I immediately ordered an outside law firm to conduct a full and thorough investigation of the matter and to cooperate with the Bergen County Prosecutor in all areas." (my italics.)
The investigation uncovered certain operational vulnerabilities in our own systems. We found that the strong protocols presently in place were not always observed.
He immediately ordered a full and thorough investigation, and full cooperation with the prosecutor's office. Got it. So that is, of course, why the Archdiocese initially maintained that Fugee had done nothing wrong, hinting that it was aware of his behavior all the time. But it actially is worse than that. Look at it in context.
On February 7, responding to a story about Fugee's promotion, Archbishop Myers wrote to the clergy under his supervision that:
The Archdiocese followed all of the elements of the Charter and the Memorandum of Understanding in the more-than-a-decade-old case involving Father Michael Fugee. At the end of the entire process, Father Fugee's acquittal and dismissal of all charges, and the [Archdiocese's] Review Board's conclusion that no sexual abuse occurred, , guided me in my decision to allow him to return to ministry. It is also important to note that, in reaching my decision, the recomendations of the County Prosecutor regarding Father Fugee's ability to return to ministry and future assignments in ministry carried great weight. We have followed these recommendations fully.Um, wow. A couple noteworthy aspects to this letter, before we take the next step:
1. Archbishop Myers is clearly claiming that the decision was one he personally made;
2. Likewise, he is clearly claiming personal familiarity and full compliance with (see p. 1 of the Letter) with the terms and conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding;
3. He is also claiming to have fully followed the prosecutor's recommendations.
Now, a few points. First, Father Fugee was convicted, not acquitted. His conviction was reversed on the basis of a faulty jury instruction and an error in the judge's charge to the jury. The Memorandum of Understanding explicitly recites the latter ground, to which the Archdiocese is a signatory, recites that fact, and that the Memorandum of Understanding was entered into in order to resolve the case without a retrial. So--no acquittal, savvy?
Second, the full compliance with the Memorandum of Understanding? Not so much, as the document makes clear:
...[A]s part of his employment/vocation with the Roman Catholic Church, [Fugee] 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.(Emphasis added.)
Article 4 It is agreed and understood that the Archdiocese shall not assign or or otherwise place Michael Fugee in any position within the Archdiocese that allows him to have any unsupervised contact with or to supervise or to minister to any minor child or children under the age of 18 or work in any position in which children are involved. This includes, but is not limited to, presiding over a parish, involvement with a youth group, religious education/parochial school, CCD, confessions of children, youth choir, youth retreats and day care.
It is agreed and understood that Michael Fugee shall not accept any position within the Archdiocese of Newark or any other Archdiocese under which he is assigned or or otherwise placed Michael Fugee that allows him to have any unsupervised contact with or to supervise or to minister to any minor child or children under the age of 18 or work in any position in which children are involved. This includes, but is not limited to, presiding over a parish, involvement with a youth group, religious education/parochial school, CCD, confessions of children, youth choir, youth retreats and day care.
Oh, but wait--the Archbishop just didn't know about the violations in February 2013, right? Not if the April 28, 2013 statement of Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness is anything to go by; far from expressing shock or chagrin, Goodness defended Father Fugee:
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.Several days later, on May 2, Father Fugee issued a statement embedded within one from the Archdiocese, in which he claimed to have performed all the acts in question without permission or knowledge of the Archbishop, which the Archdiocese adds in its portion of the statement would not have been granted, and of which it learned only two weeks ago. But the veracity of that statement is, to put it with the maximum of charity, questionable. Because if you're an Archbishop who's just discovered that a convicted sex offender you have given a second chance to has deceived you and flouted the agreement your Archdiocese has signed alongside him, you don't send out your flack to defend the guy, do you?
"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."
Sorry, I've been a litigator for 20 years, and my detector for the argumentum excrementum taurorem is pinging. Loud.
Several days after Fugee resigned, so too did each of the youth ministers and the pastor who had allowed Fugee to participate in youth retreats and other activities with teens. These activities were quite open, by the way, sometimes being shared in photos on Facebook.
Meanwhile, the faithful, clerical and lay, are up in arms, with New Jersey politicos State Senate president Stephen Sweeney, Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) calling for Myers to step down, the County Prosecutor continues to investigate, possibly weighing charges against the Archdiocese. In sum, the laity and secular society are sending a clear message: We're not accepting the notion that the Church is the sole judge of its own clerics' behavior, even the highest of them.
And it's working. Ever read Flashman at the Charge? The bit where Flashy and Scud East are fleeing their captivity in Russia (carrying Valentina, the daughter of the officer with who they've been billeted, whom East loves and Flashy, well, acts as usual with), only to be pursued? And as East frantically drives, Flashy starts trying to lighten the sled on which they are speeding over the tundra, hurling provisions over the side, and then, with a (rare) pang of regret, tosses the sleeping Valentina tenderly over the side into a snowbank, sincerely hoping her own people get to her before the bloody wolves do--
Yeah, that soft, muffled sound you heard was Doran hitting the snowbank, Valentina-style.
Don't believe for a minute the rhetoric about reform; the fear of a laity and of secular authority at last awakened to their responsibility, and hoping to placate them, lull them back into old patterns of deference and respect, are at operation here.
And that's why I believe, as I wrote Wednesday, that the formation of Catholic Whistleblowers network should be hailed, as conservative Rod Dreher quite properly does. Only so can the Church be healed; the hierarchy are still too committed to their culture of clericalism, for the reasons I hope to explain at greater length in future.