Father Fugee has a desk job. Would you rather he be free to roam?

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.

Archbishop John Myers

Newark's Archbishop John Myers

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.

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*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

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16 thoughts on “Father Fugee has a desk job. Would you rather he be free to roam?

  1. abadilla says:

    This is one of those cases where everything seems to be just but it does not look good, it only fuels the fire of those who accused the Church of not caring about the victims of sexual abuse. That ugly accusation has even been thrown at us here in this forum.
    Frankly, if I were the Archbishop, I would not know what to do. The priest needs justice, but the victims can not be allowed to think the Church does not care about their suffering. This is a tough one.

      1. abadilla says:

        Indeed it is a tough case. It’s also different from a priest who has been accused unjustly, because by the time the truth is found out, the priest’s reputation has been damaged beyond repair.

  2. Chris says:

    This raises a good point. This is a situation of damned if you do, damned if you don’t: If the archdiocese dismissed him or otherwise cut ties with him and something happened, they would be blamed- by the same people lamenting this situation- for cutting him loose and not keeping tabs on him. So, they keep tabs on him but then they are blamed for harboring him. One can certainly question whether he should have been given a post in the chancery, however, but as Tom says, this is a good way for him to be supervised in a significant way.

    It must otherwise be asked, what are we supposed to do with him, especially keeping in mind that it was the civil authorities who assigned the particular course of action? Should the Church refuse to comply with the state’s admonition? We also forget or are ignorant of the fact that a primary purpose of the penal process is the reformation of the offender. The unfortunate tendency over the past 10 years has been for the Church to distance itself from clerics, innocent or guilty, at the first site of any wrongdoing. The rights and well being of all must be respected, even with such a henious crime. We also can’t let the pressure of the media, dissident groups like SNAP, and the like, dictate things. Again, people will complain and point fingers no matter what is done with him, and the Church will never “win” in such situations.

    1. Tom Crowe says:

      I agree. And, from my experience and knowing the priests whom I know, being stuck in the chancery for the rest of your priesthood isn’t exactly a promotion most priests seek out.

  3. Grisha357 says:

    It may be that there is no position in the AD where Fr. Fugee is a good fit. In his present position he’s not a role model for seminarians or new priests. Propagation of the Faith? What the first representative of the Church is him. If we have to hang on to him, how about making him a janitor on the night shift in the AD offices. ~ Greg Smith

  4. Michael Jarman says:

    Tom….seriously? The clergy OWE it to the faithful to support, not undermine, their work of evangelization. Can anyone [ANYONE?] doubt that retaining a man in the clerical state who admits in open court to acting on a sexual urge that even MODERNISTS view as repugnant completely undermines that laity’s work in reforming the culture consistently with the teachings of the Church on sexuality and human personhood? Priesthood is an honor, not a right. A Bishop’s job is to save souls, not to run a rehab facility or an adult day care for the morally incompetent. Tom, you’re killin’ me here!

    1. Tom Crowe says:

      Michael— The priesthood is not an honor, it is a vocation and an office. The Church does not “honor” men with the title “priest,” she ordains them. The moment we start viewing priesthood primarily as an honor we lose sight of what the priesthood is and what it is there for. They are there primarily to bring the grace of God through the sacraments. Secondarily they are there to teach. This priest has been removed from contact with minors; he’s hardly been *rewarded* by being stuck in the chancery. Pushing him into the general public as a laicized priest would not protect any more children than doing this. I fail to see how punishing Father Fugee in a manner consistent with what the secular authorities think appropriate undermines the work of evangelization—he’s being *punished* for his deeds. Rather, his case can be used as instructive: The Church does not condone this sort of behavior and punishes those who violate these rules. What am I missing?

    2. Mark Polo says:

      If the Vatican has not removed someone from the priesthood, the diocese is responsible before God and the law for the upkeep of a disgraced priest. That means that they have to pay him a (modest) salary that will enable him to live. Would you rather have them pay him to be idle, where he would likely get into trouble with the Internet and who knows what else, or pay him to do something where he might help souls in some small way, while providing every assurance that minors are protected?

  5. FatherTim says:

    It is unclear that defrocking him would put more children in harms way as you claim. There are laws that protect children from sexual predators like Father Fugee. I think most people expect some penance to be done, and a cushy desk job doesn’t really seem to be appropriate.

    1. naturgesetz says:

      The trial was in 2003. The appeals court overturned the verdict in 2006. How long do you want him to be doing penance and nothing else?

      1. FatherTim says:

        How long will the children affected by Father Fugee’s actions suffer?

        1. naturgesetz says:

          That is not a reasonable standard, or nobody who ever harms anybody can ever be allowed to do anything but sit in sackcloth and ashes as long as there is a suffering victim somewhere. Criminals must remain in prison without parole until their victims are all dead. Fortunately, our society, in its civil law, is more reasonable (and loving) than you, and sets limits to how long one must remain in the penitentiary.

          BTW, wasn’t it one child he groped, not indeterminate children.

          “There are laws that protect children from sexual predators like Father Fugee.” The laws try to protect children. If they were effective, there would have been no abuse since they were enacted. At any rate, this particular case isn’t about protecting children, since Fr. Fugee’s position does not put children at risk. So what is it about? It’s about an unchristian lynch mob mentality.

  6. [...] year, shows “breathtaking arrogance” and “an alarming disdain for common sense” Source: Catholic Vote   Category: Blogs and [...]

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