By David Cruz
Newark Archbishop John Myers’ slow emergence from media silence is doing little to shed light on the church’s role in the Father Michael Fugee case. That’s what critics of Myers are saying today as they repeat their calls for his resignation.
“It’s typical Archbishop John Myers,” said Bob Hoatson of Road to Recovery, a victims’ advocacy group. “Once again he deflects all criticism from himself; he deflects all criticism from the Archdiocese of Newark, from the priest who molested the child, and he talks about things like review boards and protocols and things that are tangential to the essential issue here.”
In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Myers admitted that the church dropped the ball on properly monitoring Fugee, who was arrested in May for allegedly violating a 2003 Memorandum of Understating with the Bergen County Prosecutor to stay away from children. Myers said that in the future, “We would not enter into a memorandum of understanding that places a burden on the Church. The state has more resources.”
Jay Fahey, a former Bergen County Prosecutor now in private practice told us today that the church did indeed violate the agreement but that, barring a smoking gun, he didn’t expect the church as a corporation, or Archbishop Myers as its head, to face any charges.
“At the end of the day I think Fugee’s going to end up pleading guilty to something, probably get probation, maybe an extended period of probation, but I think the message has been sent,” he said. “We’ve had three people that have resigned in the church; there were calls in newspapers and from various legislators around the state to ask for the head of the Archdiocese to resign, so I think the church has finally gotten the message on that.”
But Father James Connell, a retired priest and Canon law expert, doesn’t think the church has gotten the message at all. He said a lot of heads have rolled for what the Archdiocese says was an administrative issue.
“That’s a lot of resignations going on if it was just a matter of policies and procedures,” he said. “I suspect that there’s more substance to these resignations and the monitoring or lack of monitoring in this situation.”
The current Bergen County Prosecutor had no comment today. The investigation into the Fugee matter is technically ongoing. Father Fugee still works at the Archdiocese but cannot function as a priest. The Archdiocese maintains that he has not been convicted of any crime and will wait for a decision from the prosecutor before revisiting his status.
Critics say the Archdiocese — and the Archbishop — left a lot of questions unanswered. An Archdiocese spokesperson said they had no further media interviews scheduled. The Archbishop stands by his statements he said, and would have nothing else to add.