Rock has this piece on his Twitter feed today. It doesn’t look good for Archbishop Myers in New Jersey. A priest of his archdiocese entered into a binding legal agreement to avoid a retrial for criminal sexual contact.
(He) would not work in any position involving children, the agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office states. He would have no affiliation with youth groups. He would not attend youth retreats. He would not hear the confessions of minors.
But (he) has openly done all of those things for the past several years through an unofficial association with a Monmouth County church, St. Mary’s Parish.
And the Newark Star-Ledger has photos with their article that seem to show it.
Youth retreats: check.
Youth pilgrimage: check.
Youth confessions: check.
Even the hospital where he was assigned as a chaplain in 2009 didn’t want him when they found out about the criminal charges.
The archbishop’s spokesperson, Jim Goodness has his own bullet points on the matter. Fr Fugee is a victim. He’s been supervised wherever he’s served Catholic youth. His agreement was not to be around young people without supervision. His position overseeing continuing formation of clergy is a “pencil-pushing job.” Not something serious, it seems.
To a degree I feel a small amount compassion for the priest. He’s about my age, and he can never serve as a parish pastor. The Catholics of his diocese, and presumably his bishop, have invested a lot in his education and formation. What on earth can you do with a guy like this? Let him push pencils for another two decades? Suppose he is a sex addict in recovery. How can he find meaningful work in accord with his gifts that will allow him to escape from the cycles of shame and addiction? The man deserves a crack at that. He got his second chance to remain a priest and to function as such. But he seems to have pushed back against the rules. It’s a common quality of addicts: they will claim they are above the rules. So what kind of guy do we have here?
The archdiocese said he served as a confessor on a youth retreat only as a last-minute replacement. And only for a few hours. A deacon who was present too. The priest spent extended time with young people, including hearing their confessions “behind closed doors.” Deacon Paul Franklin described himself as “flabbergasted.”
If I had known (his full history), I would have objected immediately. The fact that he is apparently violating this agreement makes me wonder if he was going to honor other agreements. It creates a suspicion.
This is on Archbishop Myers, this suspicion. This is the basic definition of scandal. It is a moral matter of grave seriousness. Archbishop Myers has a long-standing rep as one of those “loyal, orthodox” bishops. But like his brother in Kansas City, he seems to have a moral blind spot where his clergy are concerned. Will it come back to bite him? The editorial board of the paper is calling for his resignation. One self-described “devout Catholic, whom (sic) defends the faith at all cost,” wrote:
I can’t disagree, that if all that is alleged is true, Meyers (sic) must resign.
The legal agreement itself states:
The Archdiocese shall not allow him to minister to any minor/child under the age of 18 or work in any position in which children are involved.
That seems pretty clear. No wiggle room for supervision. It sure looks like Archbishop Myers is headed for the hot seat on this one. And Newark is going to get Kansas City-ugly before it’s over.