Late in 2007, members of a secretive review board in the Archdiocese of Newark began the task of determining whether the Rev. Michael Fugee had committed sexual abuse by groping the genitals of a 13-year-old boy during two impromptu wrestling matches.When it subsequently became clear that Fugee was violating the restrictions contained in the agreement, "Myers’ spokesman, Jim Goodness, initially said Fugee’s actions were within the scope of his agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office because he was supervised at all times. Goodness later reversed himself, acknowledging the agreement had been violated but saying Fugee acted alone."
If the allegations were found credible — and if Archbishop John J. Myers concurred — Fugee would be banned from ministry forever in keeping with a landmark zero-tolerance rule adopted by the nation’s bishops in 2002.
The board, composed mainly of lay people appointed by Myers, had at its disposal Fugee’s police confession, documents from his criminal trial and a copy of an agreement he signed with law enforcement pledging he would never again work with children. It also had evidence of Fugee’s entry in a state rehabilitation program, itself an acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
Yet the panel found no sexual abuse occurred, clearing the way for the priest’s eventual return to ministry.
As for Abp. Myers, "[l]ate last week, he returned from a weeklong trip to Poland, where he celebrated Mass with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the top Vatican official in charge of policing sex abuse within the church."
How very nice.
The fact that the internal review panel could ignore the criminal conviction (overturned, it is true, but on a judicial error, not on inocence-related grounds) the plea bargain and the terms of the agreement, and Fr. Fugee's confession, is astonishing. Admittedly not as astonishing as the speed with which Arhbishop Myers' spokesman and Bill Donohue can reverse themselves on the fact while blaming others for their troubles, but pretty astonishing nonetheless.