By David Cruz
Archbishop John Myers was stoic as he read a statement intended to reassure an increasingly skeptical public that the institution he leads is doing everything it can to protect the children to which it ministers.
“The Archdiocese has an exemplary record of addressing allegations against our clergy,” he said. “We, along with all the diocese in the state of New Jersey, report all allegations of misconduct to the appropriate prosecutor’s office. I have personally removed 19 priests for substantiated allegations.”
It’s not clear if Myers includes Father Mike Fugee among those 19 priests. As you may know by now, Fugee is the former Archdiocese priest who was arrested last week for violating the terms of a 2007 agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor to avoid unsupervised contact with children. The revelations that Fugee had taken confession from, and had ministered to, children at a number of parishes across the state has resulted in calls for Myers himself to be take responsibility and resign. Instead this week, Myers said his chief Lieutenant, Monsignor John Doran, who as vicar general signed the agreement with Fugee and the prosecutor’s office, would step down, one of several measures intended, he said, to restore confidence in the church.
But advocates for victims of priest sex abuse say that statements like the one read by Archbishop Myers this weekend serve only to discourage current and future complaints by simply stalling.
“A lot of these priests will even admit that they have abused children and they cannot be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations,” noted Theresa Padovano, an affiliate facilitator with Voice of the Faithful New Jersey, a victims’ advocacy group. “Many times the Bishops intentionally postpone and deny and obfuscate in order to allow the statute of limitations to run out. That’s why we need to change that all over the country.”
Padovano’s group has expressed outrage about the lack of oversight of priests like Fugee, who was supposed to be under the supervision of Monsignor Doran, and by extension, Archbishop Myers.
“The way it is now,” she says, “anybody can, just like these pedophile priests can move from one diocese to the other, one parish to the other; a bishop can be moved from one diocese to the other and the people are ignorant of who they are.”
For almost two weeks now, we have not been able to get much comment from the Archdiocese. Spokesperson James Goodness told us today that the Archbishop’s statement was all we were going to get. “We have nothing more to say on this,” he said, and hung up, leaving our questions for specifics on the archbishop’s plan for further reforms unanswered.