In a continuation of yesterday’s post, this case—these bad news postings about our Church deeply saddens me—reported by the New Jersey Star-Ledger, is an excellent example of why so many people no longer trust the Church with their children.
Acting with uncustomary speed, the Vatican has expelled a New Jersey man from the priesthood for repeatedly defying a lifetime ban on ministry to children.
Michael Fugee, 53, who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors despite signing a court-sanctioned decree forbidding such activities, has been returned to the lay state, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark.
“Very recently all the procedures were completed,” Goodness said Monday night. “He is no longer a priest of the archdiocese.”
The Vatican typically takes a year or longer to expel priests, a process known as laicization. In some cases, the procedure drags on for several years.
Fugee’s removal comes just four months after the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to drop criminal charges against him in exchange for his expulsion. He remains under lifetime supervision by the prosecutor’s office.
Asked about the swift pace of Fugee’s removal, Goodness said the former priest’s petition for laicization was “given a good amount of attention when it was submitted.”
Fugee’s interactions with children, first outlined in a Star-Ledger report last April, led to national criticism of Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, who had repeatedly defended the priest and returned him to ministry after a molestation conviction was overturned on a technicality.
Months later, Pope Francis appointed a co-archbishop for the archdiocese. Myers maintains his handling of Fugee and other priests credibly accused of sexual abuse was unrelated to the pope’s decision.
Fugee’s troubles stretch back to 2001, when he admitted under police questioning that he fondled the genitals of a teenage boy, that it sexually excited him and that he recognized it was a “violation.” Two years later, a jury convicted him of criminal sexual contact, and he was sentenced to five years’ probation.