There was no small amount of consternation yesterday when the Newark Archdiocese announced that Father Michael Fugee has been appointed to co-diretor of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests.
The new appointment, effective late last year, shows “breathtaking arrogance” and “an alarming disdain for common sense” by Archbishop John J. Myers, said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a watchdog group that tracks abuse allegations against priests across the nation.
“On the scale of actions by Catholic officials in the last 10 years, it’s somewhere between alarming and outrageous,” Barrett Doyle said. “No reasonable person would give a prestigious assignment to a priest deemed by law enforcement to be a danger to children. I hope Newark Catholics call him to account.”
This reaction puzzled the archdiocese, considering the position is a desk job in the chancery, amounts to researching programs and sending out emails, perhaps giving the occasional talk to priests pitching said programs, and very explicitly having no unsupervised contact with minors.
Not. Glamorous. At. All. Especially for one who—regardless of whatever deviancy led him to abuse minors—wanted a life of service to others, leading them to Christ.*
All of this is consistent with the directives of the local prosecutor’s office, and approved by them.
“We have not received any complaints from the prosecutor’s office…since Father has been back in ministry,” said Jim Goodness, the archdiocesan communications director.
“We’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing,” he told CNA on Feb. 5.
What do the people of BishopAccountability.org and SNAP want the Church to do? Clearly the priest cannot be returned to active parish ministry, and defrocking him and sending him back into the general populace would *increase* the chance that the man would abuse a minor again. A chancery job keeps him holed up in an office building under the watchful eye of Church officials rather than out in a parish. Cutting him loose would untether him from all supervision and weaken the support structure that would keep him from abusing again.
Sounds like the archdiocese did the right thing here.
*Sincerely wanting to serve others and help them grow closer to the Lord and suffering from a sexual deviancy are not mutually exclusive, though the latter can certainly inhibit the former in practice