By David Cruz
Father Mike Fugee’s resignation was not exactly a resignation. In a short statement released to us today, Fugee said, in part:
“In conscience, I feel it necessary to make clear that my actions… were outside of my assigned ministry within the Archdiocese … Archbishop Myers did not know or approve of my actions.”
The Archdiocese was putting distance between itself and the confessed child molester this afternoon.
“Father Fugee has left the public exercise of priestly ministry,” said Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness. “That means he can no longer perform the duties of a priest; he can no longer wear clerical garb. He can’t represent himself as a priest. He is still a priest of the Archdiocese. He is not permitted to function.”
Bob Hoatsman, of the victims advocacy group Road to Recovery, says Fugee may have resigned from functioning as a priest, but his status as an admitted child molester still presents a danger.
“Who’s going to be monitoring him now? Will he now have to register as a sex offender,” he asked.
Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness says Fugee’s resignation was voluntary and not a condition set by the Bergen County Prosecutor, which opened a probe into this matter on Monday. But the Archdiocese contends that at no time were children in danger while Fugee ministered to them in various parishes around the state and on weekend retreats.
“We believe that sex abuse did not occur,” insisted Goodness. “That is something that out Archdicoese review board came to the understanding of.”
It’s that kind of statement that has even fellow member of the Catholic Church calling for Archbishop Myers to step aside. James Connell is a priest in Sheboygan Wisconsin and a Canon Lawyer, who’s been pressing the issue of Archbishop Myers with the Vatican. He says Fugee is not the only one who needs to answer for his actions here.
“The trust is lost,” said Connell. “How do people trust this man to be their spiritual leader when such an important matter as the sexual abuse crisis in the church is not being addressed with complete open honesty, so that there can be justice and healing.”
This is not the first time Archbishop Myers has been accused of being ineffective or cavalier about dealing with sex offending priests in his Archdiocese. As Archbishop in Peoria, Myers was criticized for failing to uncover child sex abuse there, despite consistent allegations from parishioners.
“We have to keep going back to the fact that that information was not available. Had that information been available then certainly they would have been acted on,” said Goodness.
When asked if the Archbishop should have been aggressively trying to stop and investigate the abuse, Goodness said: “You can’t investigate something you don’t know about.”
The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office says this investigation is ongoing. The Archdiocese says its cooperation, likewise, continues, so it appears as if Mike Fugee’s resignation is not the end of this controversy.