By David Cruz
Father Mike Fugee came into court alone, in cuffs, his clerical garb — like the support of his Archdiocese — now gone. With no lawyer present, a stoic Fugee listened as Assistant Prosecutor Demetra Maurice read the charges against him.
“There are counts to this warrant that charge within the jurisdiction of this court and within the state of New Jersey that Michael Fugee purposely disobeyed a judicial order,” she began. “There are seven counts to the warrant. The first one is that on April 2010, [Fugee] violated the order by attending a youth retreat at the Claremont Retreat Center in Mount Arlington.”
He faces six other violations in Ocean, Monmouth and Bergen counties between 2010 and 2012, all fourth degree offenses, which could land Fugee in jail for up to 18 months. The Archdiocese, which had at first come to Fugee’s defense, claiming his dealings with children were all supervised, changed its tune last week. Today, Spokesperson Jim Goodness issued a terse statement, which read in part:
“When the Archdiocese learned of Father Fugee’s violation … he was informed there would be significant consequences. Nothing is more sacred than the welfare of our children.”
Bob Hoatson, a former Newark Archdiocese priest and founder of the victims’ advocacy group Road to Recovery, has been sounding the alarm about Father Fugee for nearly a decade, he says. Today, he was in the courtroom, and afterwards, he spoke to the media.
“You know, it’s been 10 years that I’ve been fighting this Fugee case,” he said. “Knowing that he was allowed to kind of just run rampant throughout New Jersey and not be disciplined and not be supervised. We’ve got to get this thing under control, and the Archdiocese hasn’t gotten it under control yet.”
Today’s hearing lasted about five minutes. The case will now go before a grand jury, which will consider whether to indict Fugee. Prosecutor Maurice is the chief of the Special Victims Unit who wrote the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding that Fugee is accused of violating. Neither Maurice, nor Prosecutor John Molinelli had any comment today.
For James Connell, the Cannon lawyer who has also been pressuring the Archdiocese to take action on Fugee, today said Archbishop John Myers should be held responsible for how the archdiocese handled the matter.
“Unless there’s someone standing next to Father Fugee 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I’m not sure just how that’s going to happen,” he said. “That’s why I think the word has to be out there with others so there could be a network of people watching. To simply assign one priest or a deacon, or a person to monitor somebody doesn’t work,” Connell said.
With a number of state leaders — including Senate President Steve Sweeney — already calling on Myers to resign, the pressure continues to mount on Myers, whose silence will only add to the frustration surrounding this case.
Father John Bambrick Recounts How Archnbishop Myers Fell Asleep During a Victim’s Brutal Description of Abuse
Father John Bambrick of the Archdiocese of Trenton, a victim of sexual abuse by a priest himself, is hurt by the recent actions of Newark Archbishop John Myers who allowed Father Michael Fugee to work with children despite admitting to molesting a boy and signing an agreement that he would no longer work with children after his conviction was overturned because of a judicial error.
Bambrick said Fugee should never have been in the ministry. “That’s the law of the church. So the civil law was violated and the church law in this case,” he said.
He called the revelation distressing and embarrassing to the church, which has worked hard to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. Bambrick said it also calls into question hundreds of priests who are doing good work throughout the state and the country.
Bambrick and others have asked Pope Francis to remove bishops who have failed to abide by the church law of protecting children. He said he believes Myers should go. “I think that he’s caused irreparable damage to our church, to the archdiocese and he’s placed children at risk. That’s the most important point here,” Bambrick said. “Children were placed at risk. A sex offender was permitted to minister across the state and all the way to Canada around children, to have access to kids.”
According to Bambrick, Myers was “willingly ignorant” about the situation. “His actions show he had a total disregard for the safety of children in this state and he had a total disregard for the laws of the state, the laws of the church and even the integrity of all the priests and bishops who serve in this state,” he said.
Bambrick said there is a loophole in the church charter because bishops don’t face consequences for violating church or state law as do priests and lay people. “There needs to be repercussions and these bishops need to be held responsible for the jeopardy that they have placed children in. That’s what has to happen,” he said.
Bambrick recalled a disturbing interaction with Myers when he was testifying in Dallas. “As one young man described his brutal sodomization, Bishop McCormick wept. Bishop Myers fell asleep,” Bambrick said. “I asked him to wake up.”
Having experienced abuse himself, Bambrick said the situation with Fugee is hurtful. “I know so many victims across the country. I’ve heard so many horrific stories of abuse. At the end of the day, you feel terrible about it. You feel twisted inside that this continues to go on. Myers made a promise that they would change their ways,” he said.
Bambrick said he is hopeful for the future, saying Pope Francis has taken a step in the right direction by announcing a zero tolerance policy worldwide for members of the clergy who abuse children.