LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Archdiocese Still Defending Priest Involved in Molestation Case as Officials Call for Archbishop’s Resignation

By David Cruz
NJ Today

More public officials have joined the call for the removal or resignation of Newark Archbishop John Myers. They say he allowed a confessed pedophile priest to have contact with children. Meanwhile, the Archdiocese is doubling down on its defense of Father Mike Fugee, the priest at the center of the controversy. The issue has now become a part of the gubernatorial campaign and Democrat Barbara Buono again called for the ouster Archbishop Myers, a call which Gov. Chris Christie said smacked of grandstanding.

“I don’t know. Maybe his hubris is clouding his judgement, but he’s way off on this one. It’s shocking that the governor is so out of touch on this,” Buono said.

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, who was a party to the agreement that restricted Fugee’s access to children, opened an investigation into charges that Fugee had had contact with children on numerous occasions over the past decade. Today, he had little to say about the status of that probe.

“I will not answer any questions concerning the Archdiocese,” Molinelli said. “When I am ready to release a statement, I will. It’s under investigation and that’s all I’m gonna say about it.”

But Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage added his opinion today. He called the Archdiocese hypocritical for denying communion to public figures for their political beliefs — he singled out former Gov. Jim McGreevey — but at the same time defending an admitted pedophile. He suggested parishioners hit the Archdiocese where it might hurt the most.

“I would advise Catholics in these parishes not to contribute into the collection. There needs to be a message sent to this archbishop,” Bollwage said.

Meanwhile, Father James Connell, the Wisconsin priest who has been pushing this issue with the Vatican, sent another request to the Archdiocese today, asking for clarification on the disposition of Father Fugee’s original case in 2001. He has not gotten a response. Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness told us he hadn’t read his e-mails today and did not expect to respond to Connell yet. But the public — at least lay Catholics — see this pretty clearly. Almost 90 percent of those polled say Archbishop Myers should go.

The Archdiocese didn’t make Father Fugee or Archbishop Myers available to talk to us today. It seems clear now that the louder the cries get for the Archbishop’s ouster, the more entrenched the Archdiocese becomes.