I see Michael Fugee, the priest who was once barred from contact with minors, then “supervised” in doing so, then barred again, has landed in jail for violating the agreement that appears to have been binding and unconditional after all. Will his bishop follow? From the Newark Star-Ledger editorial:
The prosecutor should press forward with this investigation and consider charging Myers with contempt, as well. This, however, would require a finding that Myers knowingly violated the agreement. Has he been questioned? He should be.
So should others in his inner circle. There can be no free pass for the hierarchy here. At the very least, Myers should step down. His behavior has prompted widespread outrage even within the church, because he repeatedly protected Fugee.
There are a lot of questions still in the air in this case. How could the Newark archdiocesan review board sign off on returning Michael Fugee to ministry? In some dioceses, the members of the board are publicly known. In about half of US dioceses, they are not. Newark is in the latter category. It’s also in the category in which the bishop appoints the members. Did they know that one admission of a credible abuse situation bars a priest’s return to ministry? Were they even told?
I see that Archbishop Myers spent some time in Poland with CDF head Gerhard Müller. Wonder if they talked about what’s on the fan blades in northern New Jersey.
The thing is that the cult of secrecy in the Church defeats any attempt to generate confidence or restore credibility. News stories about Newark are filled with testimonies of outrage from parents. Parents of kids who were around Michael Fugee until very recently. The mother of his admitted victim from 2002. The archdiocese says it sent communication pertinent to Fugee’s return to ministry. The mother says she never received it. The terms of the Charter may seem harsh (one strike and out) but that wasn’t applied in a case where the accused admitted deeply inappropriate behavior. Did the board get the whole story? Or were facts hidden?
It seems that when the facts do emerge, chanceries fronting the bishops have a very hard time getting the story straight. Mark Silk chronicles the changing tunes of Jim Goodness. Clearly, a reluctant archdiocese remains under scrutiny. Professor Silk outlines it pretty clearly:
I’m guessing that the relevant protocols, if they exist, run along the lines of the Safe Environment Protocol that applies when parish groups use the Archdiocesan Youth Retreat Center in Kearney. That says, among other things, that 10 days before a retreat the pastor in charge must provide the Director of Youth and Young Adult Services with a “listing all chaperones’ names, certifying that all youth ministry leaders and chaperones/volunteers, both Catholic and non-Catholic, from that parish/school have been screened by a third party and safe environment trained, as required by the procedures of this archdiocese.”
Does Mr Goodness sleep at night after a long day of dodging the legal, moral, and ecclesiastical minefields that come with being a spokesperson for an archbishop? I mean: does he knock on his boss’s door and ask, wtf now?
Is this like Lincoln? Where the vigilance against depravity extends to gay men and where the abuse scandal has never darkened the chancery, nor fattened Nebraska lawyers’ profits? Or do we just not know about the dirty, sinful details? Why don’t the bishops realize that they are in a far more difficult situation? They are not dumb men. Nor are they evil. But they are actively driving sheep away from the fold while they protect the wolves within.