27 Jan 2011

Investigation finds Newark Archbishop who helped create new child protection policy continued to shield abusive priests

The Star-Ledger - New Jersey December 5, 2010

Newark archbishop shielded at least 4 priests accused of sexual abuse

by Jeff Diamant | The Star-Ledger

Eight years ago, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers stood among the nation’s bishops at a landmark gathering in Dallas and helped craft a policy intended to cleanse the priesthood of pedophiles and restore trust among shaken American Catholics.

Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger
John J. Myers with the Cathedral Basilic of The Sacred Heart outside his office window in Newark.

In ratifying the Dallas Charter, Myers and his colleagues promised a new era of reform and transparency. Allegations of sexual abuse against priests would no longer be hidden from parishioners or police, and any priest believed to have molested a child would be permanently banned from ministry.

In the years since, Myers and his aides say the archdiocese has taken aggressive measures to identify abusive priests.

But a Star-Ledger review of the archbishop’s record since 2002 shows Myers on at least four occasions has shielded priests accused of sexual abuse against minors and one adult. In the four instances, the priests have either admitted improper sexual contact, pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct or been permanently barred from ministry by the archdiocese after allegations of sexual misconduct.

The archdiocese also wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the priests, a week after it learned he was accused of breaking into a woman’s home in Florida and possibly assaulting her.

From one perspective, the newspaper’s findings suggest Myers continues to take a cautious hand in publicly naming priests. The findings, coupled with testimony from a 2009 deposition, show the issue weighs heavily on Myers.

From another view, the archbishop has failed to live up to the guidelines and spirit of what was set forth in Dallas. The most controversial example is the Rev. Michael Fugee, who confessed to police eight years ago that he molested a 13-year-old boy. Fugee was never ousted from the priesthood, and the archdiocese assigned him last year as chaplain to St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark without telling hospital officials of his past.

In other cases:
  • In 2004, the Newark Archdiocese wrote letters to six dioceses in Florida on behalf of the Rev. Wladyslaw Gorak, one week after learning Gorak’s ministry had been terminated in the Orlando Diocese — after he was accused of breaking into a woman’s home.
  • Also in 2004, the archdiocese banned the Rev. Gerald Ruane from public ministry after investigating an allegation he molested a boy, but did not publicly notify lay people or other priests. Ruane continued to say Mass and wear his collar in public.
  • In 2007, the archdiocese failed to inform lay people that it found a molestation claim credible against the Rev. Daniel Medina, who had worked in parishes in Elizabeth and Jersey City. The case wasn’t made public until a victims group uncovered an alert sent by the archdiocese in September 2008 to other bishops saying Medina was on administrative leave and could not be located.


Neither Myers nor the priests identified above would agree to an interview for this story. But Myers’ spokesman, James Goodness, said the archbishop has lived up to his promises of 2002 and that the archdiocese has carefully followed procedures meant to bar abusive priests from ministry. He said it has trained thousands of church employees to spot molestation, published procedures for filing sex accusations against priests and passed annual audits examining whether it keeps its promises. He noted, too, that the archdiocese has an agreement with the state Attorney General’s Office to forward all allegations of sexual misconduct to county prosecutors.

"We do not have priests in ministry without proper supervision, and those who have had credible allegations have been removed from ministry," Goodness said. "We do notify the communities where people (priests) have served of the existence of allegations and the results of all our inquiries.

Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger
Newark Archbishop John J. Myers delivers the Homily during the 18th Annual Blue Mass for Law Enforcement at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.

"We believe we are living both within the letter and the spirit of the charter," he said.

Asked to provide the number of priests accused of or disciplined for sexual misbehavior with a minor since 2002, Goodness declined. In 2004, Myers did announce the results of an internal review prompted by the scandal. From 1950 to 2002, Myers said there were 91 allegations made against the 3,310 clergy who served in the archdiocese, and that 51 were deemed credible.

In the past, Myers has defended his policy of not naming accused priests, citing the need to protect their reputations and noting that accusers themselves often request anonymity.

"This has been difficult for me because of the special role I have as Bishop," he wrote in 2004. "I know full well my responsibilities to investigate any accusation, and to fulfill my promise that we will provide safe environments for all young people. Yet I also feel keenly the pain that my brother priests experience when anyone has been accused."

Longtime critics of the church say Myers’ record shows a continued arrogance.

"Archbishop Myers is not indicating any serious intent to protect kids from the credibly accused sex offenders he knows about," said Anne Doyle, co-director of bishopaccountability.org, a watchdog group that compiles a database of news articles on priests accused of molesting minors. "It’s clear by the pattern that this practice is still one of arrogant secrecy."

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Myers "continues to act slowly, deceptively, callously and irresponsibly."

Though Myers rarely speaks publicly about the sex abuse issue, he did share his thoughts in a wide-ranging deposition for a lawsuit brought by Gorak’s victim. In the Nov. 3, 2009, deposition, he defended his handling of several cases, including that of Fugee, while also expressing sympathy for victims.

"Having met with various victims, they often blame themselves," he said. "They often suffer loss of self-image and can move onto other more serious problems, trying to compensate for the feelings that they don’t want to deal with."

"And what do you mean when you say ‘move onto other serious problems'?" asked the plaintiff’s attorney.

"Drugs," Myers said.


On March 19, 2001, detectives arrived at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Wyckoff and picked up the Rev. Michael Fugee, who was alleged to have molested a 13-year-old boy.

For the first 90 minutes of an interview at the police station, Fugee denied the allegations, Detective John Haviland of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office later testified. Eventually though, Haviland said Fugee admitted to the charges and "then made some unusual comments about his sexuality, being a compulsive masturbator. He also stated he was bisexual, and that he was a virgin. He also said that he was infatuated with crotches or penis size."

Haviland testified that Fugee then admitted to two separate incidents with the boy, where the priest "intentionally touched his crotch over his clothes. He said both times they were during wrestling, and that there were other people present, but he did not believe that they would have actually seen what he did. He described it as an urge."

M. Kathleen Kelly/For The Star-Ledger
The Rev. Michael Fugee was found guilty in Bergen County Superior Court in April 2003 of sexually fondling a teenage boy. Defense attorney Brian J. Neary pats Fugee, seated, on the shoulder as he proceeds to the judge's bench for a conference after the verdict had been read.

At trial in 2003, Fugee recanted the confession, saying he lied to police so he could go home earlier. The judge ruled the confession was "totally voluntary," and a jury convicted him of aggravated criminal sexual contact while acquitting him of child endangerment. An appeals court later overturned the conviction, ruling the judge improperly instructed jurors. The appellate ruling did not question the validity of the confession.

Prosecutors dismissed the case in 2009 after securing an agreement with Fugee and the archdiocese through pretrial intervention stating that Fugee never again will minister to minors.

"We brought the case against him ... believing that he did it, and believing that we could prove it," Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said. "And notwithstanding the reversal, we still believe that he did it."

In October 2009, The Star-Ledger learned Fugee had been given a job as chaplain at St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark. Approached in the chaplain’s office, Fugee showed a reporter a card that identified him as a "Roman Catholic priest in good standing."

The hospital, upon learning of his past, had him removed.

Goodness said Myers does not view Fugee’s confession as genuine and thus believes he can return to public ministry.

"That’s one of the issues that got challenged in the courtroom," Goodness said. Myers, he said, "says that there may have been problems with it (the confession)."

Goodness also said "a lot of people" in the court system felt Fugee’s confession should not be taken at face value. When asked who those people were, he named only Fugee’s attorney.

During the November 2009 deposition, Myers expressed disappointment that Fugee let detectives interview him without counsel.

"Is it your recollection," the plaintiff’s attorney, Jessica Arbour, asked Myers, "that he (Fugee) admitted that he touched the boy?"

"Unfortunately, without his lawyer present, he did," Myers said.

For its part, the Survivors Network, or SNAP, called Fugee’s assignment to St. Michael’s "particularly egregious" and said it was the most reckless move by any American bishop in 2009.

Last spring, Fugee filed a motion to have his case expunged from public records. A judge ruled against the expungement in October. Fugee’s current job, for the archdiocese’s mission office, involves its overseas missionary efforts.


In 2004, two days before Christmas, the Newark Archdiocese learned the Rev. Wladyslaw Gorak, who had been assigned to work in the Diocese of Orlando, Fla., had been accused of assaulting a female parishioner.

Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski wrote to Myers and explained he had just terminated Gorak’s ministry, citing the priest’s erratic behavior in public and the complaint of a woman who said "that he broke into her house and may have had physical contact with her."

A week later — on Dec. 30, 2004 — Myers’s number two, the Very Rev. Robert Emery, wrote six separate letters on Gorak’s behalf to church officials in other Florida dioceses. The letters — sent to officials in Miami, Palm Beach, St. Petersburg, St. Augustine, Venice and Pensacola-Tallahassee — noted that Gorak’s faculties had been removed in the Orlando Diocese and that the Newark Archdiocese subsequently placed him on six months of medical leave. But they made no mention of the fresh accusation against Gorak in Orlando.

Amanda Brown/The Star-Ledger
Adam Horowitz, an attorney from Florida, speaks in April about the resolution of a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Orlando. His client, Jane Doe, was stalked and assaulted by Rev. Wladyslaw Gorak, a Roman Catholic Priest, in Florida.

"Father has expressed a desire to seek permanent ministry in Florida in the future and currently resides in Lakeland, Florida," each one of the letters reads. "Father continues to enjoy the faculties of the Archdiocese of Newark. Should you be contacted by Father Gorak, I would be happy to provide you with additional information about his status."

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Catholic priest who in the 1980s warned bishops about sex abuse among clergy, said the archdiocese should have mentioned the accusation "rather than try to pawn him off on someone else."

The Rev. Thomas Reese, research fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center, said the letter’s omission of the accusation was disturbing.

"Does he have to describe it in gruesome detail in the letter? No. The letter has to be clear enough that the bishop receiving it knows there’s a red flag here that needs to be investigated before he even considers taking this guy," Reese said. "Saying that he continues to enjoy the faculties of the Newark diocese, he is giving a seal of approval for the guy."

Goodness defended the letter and said "we put them on notice that they need to call us with anything if he does show an interest in working in another diocese."

Asked why the letter did not mention the accusation, Goodness said he did not know.

The archdiocese placed Gorak on leave in May 2005, after Orlando police charged him with assault, false imprisonment, aggravated stalking and battery. A woman told police he broke into her home, pulled a telephone from its jack, removed his clothes and tore some of the woman’s clothes while trying to remove them, according to a police report.

Two months later, Myers wrote Gorak in jail, sending his prayers and best wishes, and promising that the church would follow the advice of the accused priest’s attorney.

In 2006, Gorak pleaded guilty to assault, and the archdiocese earlier this year settled a lawsuit brought by the accuser, the woman in Florida, for an undisclosed amount.

His history with women came into focus in the lawsuit. In 2004, when he asked to be transferred from Newark to Florida, the archdiocese informed the Diocese of Orlando that he was a priest in good standing even though a police report from 2001 and a confidential memo written by the Rev. Ron Marczewski, then of St. Adalbert’s in Elizabeth where Gorak worked in 1998, indicated serious misbehavior with women, court documents show.

The archdiocese contended in the lawsuit that the priest’s confidential memo never found its way to the chancery office. In depositions and court documents, church officials said they never talked to the priest about Gorak, even though on two occasions they formally reviewed Gorak’s record.

Only earlier this year did Myers begin proceedings to have Gorak laicized, that is, formally removed from the clergy, according to Goodness.

In the deposition last year, Myers was asked by the victim’s attorney what he would have done if told, before Gorak’s May 2005 arrest, that he had tried to rape a woman in Orlando. Myers said he would have recalled Gorak to Newark and advised him to return to his native Poland.


On Holy Thursday in 2005, the Rev. Gerald Ruane concelebrated Mass at St. Joseph’s Shrine in Stirling. Weeks later, he appeared in vestments in a TV interview from Rome after Pope John Paul II’s death.

The problem was, Ruane wasn’t supposed to appear in public as a priest. And few people seemed to know of that restriction.

In 2004, the archdiocese permanently barred Ruane from ministry after investigating accusations by at least two minors. One, Michael Iatesta, said Ruane molested him throughout his adolescence. Ruane denied the allegations.

Scott Lituchy/The Star-Ledger
Michael Iatesta at his home in Westfield in 2005. He said that Gerald Ruane, the priest who abused him, was able to do so because his name wasn't published after he was removed from ministry.

Upon learning of Ruane’s subsequent public appearances, Iatesta complained to church officials, who privately reprimanded the priest, according to the archdiocese. But Iatesta and SNAP officials said the archdiocese should have informed the public of the restrictions.

In March 2006, Myers changed his policy on alerting parishioners about investigations, saying he would alert parishioners when a pastor was permanently barred from ministry over sex allegations. At the time, a Star-Ledger review of policies in New Jersey’s four other dioceses showed Myers was the only one not already doing that.

SNAP praised the announcement of the change.

Four months later, the archbishop had to decide whether to alert a different parish about a different priest, the Rev. Daniel Medina.

Medina had pleaded guilty to child endangerment and was sentenced to three months’ probation. He admitted in court that he "inappropriately placed a young boy on (his) lap."

The boy had alleged in 2004 that Medina had oral sex with him, when he was 8, in the sacristy of Blessed Sacrament Church in Elizabeth. The prosecutor, John Esmerado, said he told the archdiocese the plea bargain reflected his desire to avoid making the child testify, rather than from any weakness in the initial charge.

The archdiocese failed to alert parishioners in 2006 when Medina pleaded guilty, in 2007 when its review board deemed the accusation credible, or in 2008 when it alerted Catholic bishops nationwide that it had barred Medina from ministry and couldn’t locate him. SNAP eventually obtained that alert in September 2008 and publicized it.

Asked at the time why Myers hadn’t notified parishioners, Goodness said, "This is being done on our schedule."


In April 2005, Gorak changed his name to Walter Fisher, six months after he assaulted the Florida woman and one month before his arrest. At the deposition in November 2009, Myers said the archdiocese did not know about Gorak’s name change until after the fact.

"It was inappropriate for him to do so without my permission," Myers said. "His bishop in Poland or whichever diocese he had been ordained (in) should have been notified so that the ordination register could be changed to reflect this legal change."

The attorney taking Myers’ deposition then asked if Gorak, by changing his name, had violated his oath of obedience to Myers.

"I don’t know if I would go that far," Myers said, "but it was inappropriate because it introduced a confusion into sacramental record-keeping."

Mia Song/The Star-Ledger
The Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark, speaks during a press conference at Archdiocese of Newark in April 2005.

Gorak isn’t the only former priest from the Newark Archdiocese to have a run-in with the law and then change his name. In 1982, the Rev. Carmine Sita of St. Aloysius Church in Jersey City admitted sexually assaulting a teenage boy. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five months’ probation.

He then legally changed his name.

Within a year of his guilty plea, he was the Rev. Gerald Howard. At that time — still on the rolls as a Newark Archdiocese priest — he went to work at a parish in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., and then as a counselor at a Missouri hospital.

The Newark Archbishop at the time, Peter Gerety, never informed the public about the name change. Neither did his successor, Theodore McCarrick. And neither did Myers — even after the archdiocese conducted a comprehensive review of its case files of abusive priests in 2002, in the wake of the scandal.

Mark McAllister, who says he was molested by Howard in Missouri in the 1980s, said the lack of notification allowed Howard "to continue in his deviant behaviors. ... If you looked him up, you’d have found nothing. But if you looked up Carmine Sita — same person — you’d find a conviction for sexual molestation of a minor."

Goodness said there was no need in 2002 to notify the public about Sita’s name change.

"There was a legal filing of his name change in the paper," he said. "It was a matter of public record."

Last autumn, McAllister settled claims against the Newark Archdiocese, Jefferson City Diocese and the Servants of the Paraclete, a religious order, for $600,000. The Newark Archdiocese gave $225,000 toward the settlement.

In April, officials in Cooper County, Mo., charged Howard, who is now retired, with the forcible sodomy of McAllister. The prosecutor, Doug Abele, said Howard is also facing charges in two other cases.


Overall, it is difficult to assess Myers’ performance or compare him with other bishops because much of the information on these cases is confidential. Clohessy, of SNAP, said he ranks Myers’ handling of the crisis in the bottom third of the 195 diocesan bishops’ in the country, "in large part because of his ongoing secrecy."

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, who frequently testifies as an expert witness in lawsuits involving abusive priests, criticized Myers’ actions and said they are too common among bishops. He said American bishops, as a group, have behaved abysmally since 2002, and still seem to care more about protecting themselves from litigation than about helping victims heal.

John Munson/The Star-Ledger
In the Lady Chapel before the Mass of Ordination of Priests at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in May, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers shows the new priests how they will hold their hands for the anointing of the hands during the mass.

"This brings great shame on the church," said Doyle, who co-wrote a report in the 1980s warning bishops about the impending crisis. "I look back on all this and say: Something is drastically, fundamentally wrong with the Catholic hierarchy, if this is their consistent response across the board."

According to the watchdog group bishopaccountability.com, 25 dioceses — including Philadelphia’s, but not Newark’s — have posted a list on their websites naming every priest removed after an accusation deemed credible by the diocese. Victims groups praise these lists, saying they deny abusive priests the cover of confidentiality that could help them abuse again.

Myers also has failed to regularly alert parishioners to investigations. Those alerts are now more common nationwide, Reese said. Among the bishops who notify parishioners is Bishop Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen. In 2003, SNAP singled out Bootkoski for praise, calling him the best American bishop at handling abuse allegations and noting that he alone among bishops had named a SNAP member to the diocesan panel that investigates allegations.

Victims’ advocates view those alerts as a basic tool to promote transparency and say it bolsters investigations by encouraging other victims to come forward. The bishops’ promises of 2002 explicitly included restoring reputations of priests who, after being removed for an investigation, were exonerated. But Myers has short-circuited that process by not being open about investigations early on, Clohessy said.

Indeed, Myers has opposed publicizing allegations since the early days of the scandal — with no apologies to his critics. Writing to lay people in April 2002, he acknowledged that sometimes, while the archdiocese tried to keep investigations quiet, "there have been a few recent instances where privacy has been lost."

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The Star-Ledger New Jersey December 6, 2010

Archdiocese of Newark denounces Star-Ledger report on sex abuse cases

Kelly Heyboer/ The Star-Ledger

NEWARK — The Archdiocese of Newark issued a five-page statement Monday denouncing a Sunday Star-Ledger story as "incomplete" and "deceptive" for concluding that Archbishop John J. Myers shielded priests accused of sexual abuse on at least four occasions.

The Star-Ledger reviewed records dating back to 2002 that showed the archdiocese failed to notify the public about clergy accused of molesting children and wrote letters on behalf of another priest after learning he was accused of assaulting a woman.

James Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese, called the story’s conclusions "misleading or outright wrong" and said Myers is complying with a U.S. bishops charter outlining how the church should deal with sexual abuse claims.

"Complying with the charter means a diocese is doing everything it is supposed to do to protect children, to train clergy, religious and laypeople who work with children, and to be open in communicating with parishioners and authorities," Goodness said in a statement.

"The Archdiocese of Newark has passed every audit that has taken place since audits began in 2003," Goodness added. "These audits have been comprehensive and lengthy, conducted largely by former agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Goodness did not dispute the central facts in The Star-Ledger report. However, he defended the church’s actions in each of the four cases cited in the story.

The church’s response to the story came on the same day the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called on Myers to follow the lead of other bishops and post the names of accused clergy on the archdiocese’s website.

The Star-Ledger used court documents, church correspondence and interviews to document how Myers handled four cases where priests were accused of sexual abuse. The analysis found:

• Rev. Michael Fugee, who confessed to police eight years ago that he molested a 13-year-old boy, was never ousted from the priesthood. The archdiocese assigned him last year as chaplain to St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark without telling hospital officials of his past.
  • In 2004, the Newark Archdiocese wrote letters to six dioceses in Florida on behalf of the Rev. Wladyslaw Gorak, one week after learning he was accused of possibly assaulting a woman after breaking into her home.
  • Also in 2004, the archdiocese banned the Rev. Gerald Ruane from public ministry after investigating an allegation he molested a boy, but did not publicly notify lay people or other priests.
  • In 2007, the archdiocese failed to inform lay people that it found a molestation claim credible against the Rev. Daniel Medina, who had worked in parishes in Elizabeth and Jersey City. The case wasn’t made public until a victims group uncovered an alert sent by the archdiocese.

Myers declined to be interviewed for the Sunday Star-Ledger story. He referred questions to Goodness, his spokesman.

In Monday's statement, Goodness defended letters written in late 2004 on behalf of Gorak, the priest who church officials had previously learned "may have had physical contact with a woman" after allegedly breaking into her house.

Two top administrators in the Orlando Diocese had notified the Newark Archdiocese about allegations against Gorak, according to documents obtained by The Star-Ledger.

Since the charges were not definitive, church officials did not include them in the letter about Gorak, Goodness said.

"The archdiocese had no direct knowledge of possible wrongdoing, and so it would have been wrong to make a claim that wasn’t definitive," Goodness said.

However, Monsignor Robert Emery, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Newark at the time, explicitly told any Florida church official who called him not to assign Gorak to a parish, Goodness said.

In other cases, Myers and the archdiocese did not speak publicly about abuse allegations against priests because court cases were pending or — in Ruane’s case — because the priest was not involved in parish work at the time the allegations were reported, Goodness said.

In the statement, the archdiocese also defended a decision by church officials to allow Fugee to return to a limited ministry in a hospital years after he admitted to police he molested a 13-year-old boy. Fugee later recanted his confession and his conviction was overturned in court because the appellate court said a judge had incorrectly instructed jurors.

"Under our system of laws, such a decision should conclude a matter, regardless of how any individual, even a county prosecutor, may feel," Goodness said.

However, the court never said whether Fugee's alleged confession was valid. The archdiocese's statement did not address criticism that appointing Fugee to a hospital position violated church rules that permanently bar priests who admit to molesting minors from serving in any ministry.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on the Archdiocese of Newark Monday to amend its policies to be more open about clergy accused of sexual abuse.

Myers should follow the lead of two dozen other dioceses around the country and post the names on its website of all local priests credibly accused of sexual misconduct, Clohessy said.

"This is the bare minimum moral obligation of every Catholic prelate," Clohessy said.

Goodness, Myers’ spokesman, dismissed the idea of posting accused priests’ names online.

"The archdiocese believes that it is following the spirit and the letter of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in terms of communications to church communities. We do not expect any change in our practice," Goodness said.

Staff writer Jeff Diamant contributed to this report.

Read the complete 5-page statement by the Archdiocese of Newark

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The Setonian - December 8, 2010

Report: Myers ‘shielded’ sex abuse in Church

Criticized Newark Archbishop also leads Hall’s Boards of Regents, Trustees

By Brian Wisowaty

A Sunday Star-Ledger article reported that Newark Archbishop John Myers has "shielded" priests accused of sexual abuse.

Myers is both the chair of the Board of Trustees and president of the Board of Regents at Seton Hall.

The piece, written by Star-Ledger religion reporter Jeff Diamant, followed a review of Myers' record with handling sexual abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Newark.

It says that four priests involved with misconduct, either after admitting to it or being convicted of related crimes, received treatment from Myers that did not reflect the Dallas Charter.

The charter, a 2002 document, was ratified to keep sexual abuse from priests in the Catholic Church as transparent to parishioners as possible.

Since the article's publication, Jim Goodness, director of communication for the Archdiocese, has submitted to the Star-Ledger, a five-page response to the report claiming it was "misleading" and "outright wrong."

Goodness also addressed the article to The Setonian on Wednesday.

"I'm not releasing much more than the statement (to the Ledger)," Goodness said. "There is a comprehensive approach the Church is taking (to the abuse scandal) that is open and transparent."

Goodness spoke about the University and the Church, too, stating that all seminarian candidates at Seton Hall undergo a background screening and that members of Campus Ministry are trained in regards to the abuse scandal.

Some specifics reported by Diamant in the Star-Ledger include a priest who confessed to molestation of a minor eight years ago, but was then reassigned to be a chaplain at a Newark hospital last year. The article says the hospital – St. Michael's – was never informed of the priest's past.

Goodness said the Archdiocese acted appropriately by informing the local parish of the priest as well as the media when he confessed to the molestation.

Goodness also added that the case had been closed by both court and church officials before the priest's assignment to St. Michael's.

Another claim in the Diamant report involved a priest accused of home invasion and assault in 2004 who the Archdiocese wrote letters of recommendation for.

Goodness said of the recommendation letters that the charges against the priest were not "definitive" and thus were omitted from the letters as they were sent, intended for the priest who was seeking work in Florida.

He also said that an official for the Archdiocese told any Florida church that considered hiring the accused priest to not assign him to a parish, and that he should return to Newark instead.

Anne Barrett-Doyle, co-director of the site bishopaccountability.org, spoke negatively of Myers in the Star-Ledger story.

She told The Setonian that Myers' actions were "appalling…so careless and reckless in his own diocese."

"Once I learned about him (Myers), I was absolutely dismayed in how he handled abuses," Barrett-Doyle said. "Students should invite him (to campus) and urge him to come defend himself…have a terrific debate about the sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Newark."

The Ledger has not released a subsequent article to follow the Goodness statement, where he also said that the Archdiocese of Newark "helped develop and implement a program of sexual abuse awareness training that is in use in dioceses throughout the country."

Myers also served on an Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.

Myers could not be reached for this story, as Goodness has addressed all media inquiries regarding the Star-Ledger article.

This article was found at:



Clergy abuse survivors from Belfast to Boston speak out, while U.S. Bishops quietly reinstate credibly accused priest


  1. Priest at center of Newark Archdiocese scandal quits ministry

    By Mark Mueller, The Star-Ledger May 2, 2013

    The Roman Catholic priest at the center of a public furor enveloping Newark Archbishop John J. Myers has resigned from ministry, a spokesman for the archdiocese said tonight.

    The Rev. Michael Fugee, who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors in defiance of a lifetime ban on such behavior, submitted his request to leave ministry this afternoon, said the spokesman, Jim Goodness. Myers promptly accepted the resignation, Goodness said.

    Fugee, 52, remains a priest but no longer has authority to say Mass, perform sacramental work or represent himself as an active priest, Goodness said. It was not immediately clear if Fugee or Myers would petition the Vatican to remove him from the priesthood altogether, a process known as laicization.

    Asked if Myers had requested that Fugee step aside, Goodness said, “I only know that he offered to leave ministry and the archbishop accepted.”

    Under terms of a 2007 agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Fugee is not permitted to have unsupervised contact with children, minister to children or hold any position in which children are involved.

    The agreement grew out of Fugee’s 2003 conviction on charges he fondled the genitals of a teenage boy on two occasions. Three years later, an appellate panel vacated the verdict, ruling the trial judge should not have allowed jurors to hear the part of Fugee’s confession in which he described himself as homosexual or bisexual.

    The rest of the confession, in which Fugee acknowledged the acts with the teen sexually excited him and that he had committed a “violation,” was not called into question.

    To avoid retrial, Fugee entered a rehabilitation program, underwent counseling for sex offenders and signed the memorandum of understanding with the prosecutor’s office.

    Earlier this week, The Star-Ledger reported Fugee had violated that agreement, openly engaging in youth group activities at St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck. Fugee is longtime friends with the church’s youth ministers, Michael and Amy Lenehan.

    Since the disclosure, Goodness has argued that Fugee did not violate the agreement because he was under the supervision of the youth ministers or other priests.

    Tonight, the spokesman sought to clarify his statements, saying that while it was “good” Fugee was under supervision, the priest did not seek permission from the archdiocese before participating in youth activities.

    “He engaged in activities that the archdiocese was not aware of and that were not approved by us, and we would never have approved them because they are all in conflict with the memorandum of understanding,” Goodness said.

    continued in next comment...

  2. Fugee, the spokesman added, acknowledged to Myers that he violated terms of the document, an admission that could lead to more trouble for him down the line.

    The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Fugee when The Star-Ledger alerted the agency late last week. Assistant Prosecutor Demetra Maurice, who authored the agreement, told the newspaper Fugee could face civil penalties, criminal charges or both.

    Goodness said he believed Fugee continued to live within the archdiocese tonight, but the spokesman said it was not clear if he would continue to do so. The archdiocese is comprised of Essex, Union, Hudson and Bergen counties.

    Fugee, who has not been made available for comment, had been named to administrative roles in recent years, first as director of the Office of the Propagation of the Faith, a fundraising position to support missionary work.

    More recently, Myers appointed him co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests, drawing criticism from advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse.

    The latest disclosures — that Fugee had traveled with members of the St. Mary’s youth group to Canada and attended retreats in Marlboro and along Lake Hopatcong — ignited a new firestorm, particularly after the archdiocese strenuously defended his actions as within the scope of the agreement with law enforcement.

    Advocates, joined by several lawmakers, called for Myers to resign, and rank-and-file Catholics inundated the archdiocese with letters and phone calls of protest.

    That criticism didn’t diminish tonight despite Fugee’s resignation.

    “Father Fugee should have been fired and removed from ministry by Archbishop Myers years ago, not simply allowed to resign today,” said Mark Crawford, New Jersey director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national advocacy and support group. “There must be consequences for those that enabled his continued access to children.

    “If the Archbishop went to such great lengths to protect Father Fugee, then it’s likely he may be protecting others,” Crawford said. “He has failed to be transparent, open and honest, and for that Archbishop Myers must step down.”

    Robert Hoatson, a former priest who heads the support group Road to Recovery, joined in that call.

    “We welcome Father Fugee’s resignation. Its long overdue,” Hoatson said. “However, it does not relieve the archdiocese of the absolute mismanagement of this issue, and Archbishop Myers needs to do the same thing Father Fugee did. He needs to resign.”


  3. Archbishop John J. Myers addresses Fugee scandal, demotes his second-in-command

    By Mark Mueller/The Star-Ledger May 24, 2013

    A top official in the Archdiocese of Newark — second only to Archbishop John J. Myers — has been sacked from his leadership position for mishandling the supervision of a priest who violated a lifetime ban on ministry to children.

    Myers, speaking out for the first time on the scandal that has imperiled his future in Newark, described the removal of Monsignor John E. Doran as one step in a series of reforms meant to “strengthen internal protocols” and “ensure we are doing everything we can to safeguard the children of our community.”

    Myers made the announcement in an opinion piece scheduled to run in Saturday's Star-Ledger. An abbreviated version of the letter is to be read aloud at parishes in the archdiocese Saturday and Sunday.

    Doran, who served as vicar general and moderator of the curia, is among the highest-ranking Roman Catholic officials in the country to be demoted over the handling of a priest accused of sexual abuse, observers say.

    “This is a very significant decision,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior analyst with the National Catholic Reporter and a former editor of America, a Catholic magazine. “Short of being a bishop, vicar general and moderator of the curia is as high as you can get.”

    Doran is the archdiocese official who signed an agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office in 2007, pledging to supervise the Rev. Michael Fugee, who had confessed to police that he groped a teenage boy years earlier.

    The agreement banned Fugee from ministering to children for as long as he remained a priest. Yet Fugee blatantly disregarded those terms, attending youth retreats and hearing confessions from minors in parishes in and out of the archdiocese, The Star-Ledger reported late last month.

    Earlier this week, Fugee was criminally charged with contempt of a judicial order for violating the agreement. He has since been freed on bail.

    Through his spokesman, Myers at first defended Fugee’s interactions with children, saying that because he was supervised by other adults, he had not breached the agreement. Days later, he said Fugee had acted without his knowledge.

    The case has led to national condemnation and repeated calls for the archbishop’s resignation.

    In the opinion piece, Myers reiterated he did not know about Fugee’s travels and immediately ordered an investigation by an outside law firm when he learned of them.

    “The investigation uncovered certain operational vulnerabilities in our own systems,” Myers wrote. “We found that the strong protocols presently in place were not always observed.”

    He did not elaborate on the vulnerabilities but seemed to lay responsibility for the failure to monitor Fugee squarely on the shoulders of Doran.

    “As a result of operational failures, both Msgr. Doran and I felt that the archdiocese would be best served by his stepping down as vicar general,” Myers wrote, characterizing the removal as a resignation. “This action clears the way for making more effective changes in our monitoring function.”

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  4. The job of monitoring priests, Myers added, would be shifted to the archdiocese’s judicial vicar, the Rev. Robert G. McBride.

    Doran, a Jersey City native who previously served as pastor at St. Cassian Church in Montclair, is the latest in a string of priests and lay people to lose their jobs as the fallout from the Fugee scandal spreads.

    The Rev. Thomas Triggs, the pastor of the Colts Neck church where Fugee attended youth retreats, resigned under pressure from Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell earlier this month. The church’s two youth ministers, longtime friends of Fugee, also were forced out. The parish, St. Mary’s, is in the Diocese of Trenton.

    Fugee was granted a leave from ministry May 2, though he remains a priest.

    Fugee, 52, was convicted of the groping charges in 2003, but the verdict was later overturned because of judicial error. To avoid retrial, he entered a state rehabilitation program, underwent counseling for sex offenders and, by means of the agreement with prosecutors, promised to stay away from children.

    The Star-Ledger found the archdiocese did little or no monitoring of him since signing the agreement. His attendance at youth retreats was out in the open, with photos publicly displayed on Facebook. In almost all cases, parishioners said they did not know of his background.

    Myers offered no apology for the handling of Fugee, allowing only that “strong” policies and procedures were apparently not strong enough.

    “Regrettably,” he wrote, “Fr. Fugee’s situation has demonstrated that our system was not perfect. Accordingly we must identify the flaws and fix them.”

    To avoid similar lapses, he said, the archdiocese would review and, where appropriate, strengthen procedures.

    Without going into detail, he said he would be expanding training programs that help clergy and lay people alike recognize signs of abuse and show people how to report suspected abuse.

    He reiterated that priests and deacons who minister elsewhere must first obtain permission from the dioceses they are visiting. Fugee did not.

    Myers also said he would appoint a special adviser to the Archdiocesan Review Board, the body that investigates whether allegations of sexual abuse are credible. Such panels are composed mainly of lay volunteers.

    Newark’s board has come under sharp criticism in recent weeks for its recommendation six years ago that Fugee be returned to ministry despite his police confession, in which he admitted he experienced a sexual thrill by touching the teenage boy’s genitals during wrestling matches. Myers made the final decision on Fugee’s reinstatement.

    Asked if the appointment of a new adviser to the board suggested a reassessment of the decision to return Fugee to ministry, Myers’ spokesman, Jim Goodness, said it did not.
    The board, whose members are not made public, once had a retired New Jersey judge as an adviser, Goodness said. That official has since died, he said. The spokesman did not say who will fill the position.

    “We’re looking for someone who can be a sounding board on particular issues,” Goodness said. “We’re not looking for someone to take control of the board.”

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  5. Myers said he additionally would devote more resources to the review board. He did not elaborate.

    Throughout his 12 years in Newark and in his previous post as Bishop of Peoria, Myers has faced periodic criticism for his handling of priests accused of abuse.

    He sought to counter that view in his opinion piece, saying the archdiocese has an “exemplary record” of addressing allegations against clergy. He said he had personally removed from ministry 19 priests after allegations of abuse were substantiated.

    But he would not name those priests, some of whom have been identified in press reports over the years. Goodness, the spokesman, said individual parishes are notified when priests are removed amid allegations of sexual abuse.

    To some critics, Myers’ actions, including the removal of Doran, did not go far enough.

    David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national advocacy group, repeated his demand today that Myers resign.

    “Myers keeps making grudging, belated public relations moves and calling them ‘reform,’” Clohessy said in a statement. “That won’t cut it.”



    • Priest charged with violating ban on ministry to children freed on bail

    • N.J priest charged with violating ban on working with kids appears in court

    • N.J. priest arrested, charged with violating ban on ministering to children

    • Priest's return to ministry after sex-abuse confession draws new scrutiny, criticism

    • As criminal probe continues, senate president urges Newark archbishop to 'step down now'

    • Three more resign after priest was allowed to work with kids despite lifetime ban

    • New revelations in priest scandal highlight lax supervision by Newark Archdiocese

    • Priest admits violating ban on ministry to children, says actions are 'my fault alone'

    • Priest at center of Newark Archdiocese scandal quits ministry

    • Newark archbishop allows priest who admitted groping boy to continue working with children

  6. Archbishop Myers: The Facts of the Father Fugee Case Aren’t Fully Known

    Newark’s archbishop discusses the disturbing violation of a court agreement by an archdiocesan priest who is barred from ministering to minors.

    by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND, National Catholic Register June 25, 2013

    Over the past three months, the Archdiocese of Newark has been at the center of the latest clergy abuse scandal, after local media reported that a troubled diocesan priest, Father Michael Fugee, participated in numerous youth retreats in direct violation of a court agreement that allowed him to return to ministry under restricted conditions that barred him ministering to minors.

    In 2003, Father Fugee was convicted of sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy, but that decision was overturned on appeal in 2006 because of a judicial error.

    The subsequent court agreement, a “Memorandum of Understanding,” required the Newark Archdiocese to oversee the priest’s compliance with the directive.

    Archbishop John Myers of Newark acknowledged that Church administrators learned of the priest’s activities after they were reported in the New Jersey Star Ledger in April, and in the wake of the revelations, Msgr. John Doran, the vicar general of the Newark Archdiocese resigned. So did a pastor and youth minister in a Trenton, N.J., parish where Father Fugee had been invited to minister during youth retreats, without formally requesting permission from the Diocese of Trenton.

    Archbishop Myers has acknowledged in a variety of public forums, including a video on the archdiocese’s website, that an independent investigation by a law firm hired by the diocese had concluded that “the strong protocols presently in place were not always observed.”

    During a June 20 interview with Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond, Archbishop Myers explained the context for his decision to allow Father Fugee to remain in restricted ministry, outlined the changes he had made to tighten oversight of the 16-17 priests currently supervised by the diocese because of sexual abuse, and raised questions about whether individual dioceses always could effectively supervise priests who were placed in restricted ministry.

    Critics of your decision to allow a restricted role for Father Fugee as co-director of the Newark Archdiocese’s Office of Clergy Formation charge that you violated the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children’s “zero tolerance” policy for all priests with credible accusations of clergy abuse. According to the public record, Father Fugee admitted to groping a young man, entered a rehabilitation program and underwent counseling for sex offenders. Would you describe the decision-making process that allowed him to return to ministry?

    Many of the facts regarding Father Fugee’s case have not been fully reported or have not been presented in a balanced way.

    We worked with the prosecutor’s office and our lay review board, and we were professional throughout. The memorandum of understanding worked out with the prosecutor’s office said he could function as a priest, but not with minors in an unsupervised capacity.

    The assignments I gave him were intended to increase supervision. He was in the chancery eight hours a day, and he was working with another priest to identify places where priests could participate in retreats. In that role, he had no contact with children.

    Would you address the charges against Father Fugee and how his case was decided?

    There were two charges against Father Fugee. He was found innocent of one involving endangerment and guilty of the other involving contact.

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  7. However, a three-judge appellate court threw out the guilty verdict. The panel of judges determined that the judge’s instructions to the jury lacked guidance on how to deal with whether Father Fugee was acting in a supervisory way with the young man, such as a coach or a teacher. The court said the lack of guidance resulted in the jury’s inability to consider critical elements of the matter.

    In addition, a juror reported to the judge that she felt the priest was innocent and that jurors seeking a conviction had apparently misled other jurors about what the judge and attorneys said. The judge did not look into the matter.

    Whatever the details of the case and its outcome, Father Fugee acknowledged in his March 19, 2001, statement to the police that he had “grabbed” the privates of the 14-year-old boy while he and the boy were wrestling, fully clothed.

    The statement out there is part of a larger period of questioning over some three hours that was not taken down. During that larger period, he denied any wrongdoing several times. When the case went to court, Father Fugee testified that he said what he did in the written statement by mistake at the end of the three hours because he was tired.

    The average person is looking for a black-and-white answer, but there are cases where there are more grays than black and white. That is what the court and the review board were dealing with.

    A psychiatrist’s evaluation undertaken at the direction of the court after Father Fugee won the appeal concluded that he was not a danger. After the evaluation, the Bergen Country prosecutor said he could go back to ministry.

    Our lay review board looked into the allegation as if they were cops looking into the matter. They conducted a series of confidential interviews, read through the documents and had a lot of discussion.

    The review board did not give Father Fugee a clean bill of health: He engaged in activity that was ill advised but did not rise to the level of sexual abuse. They said the limitations stated in the memorandum were appropriate safeguards.

    There would be no unsupervised ministry with minors and youth. He could say Mass when young people were present. He could do baptisms and funerals.

    The case went to the review board in late 2006 and was not completed until 2009. We incorporated the terms of the memorandum into a precept. So the directive did not just come from civil authorities; it was also approved under canon law for the diocese.

    If he were to go outside the diocese to minister to young people, he still needed permission to do that, and he knew we would have told him, “No.”

    Did the memorandum imply direct supervision during every time he was engaged in ministry with minors? If it was a check-in, how often was that scheduled? And is there a record of that supervision?

    There is a record of supervision, but he was not supposed to be in ministry with minors.

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  8. Father Fugee was placed in a parish with other priests who all knew his situation. If they had any problems or suspicions, I am confident that they would have expressed their concerns.

    He was also in another parish with other priests. We have learned that, on a couple of occasions in the last year or so, when they had a last-minute need of a priest to hear confessions for a youth retreat, they asked him to help. The confession services were all out in the open area of the church, and other adults were present. There were activities that he was not permitted to do; unfortunately, the pastor permitted this.

    As I said in the May 26 video, I have since transferred the supervisory role for overseeing these priests to the judicial vicar, because there are a good number of canon lawyers familiar with the charter in that office.

    At the U.S. bishops’ meeting in San Diego this June, we discussed the fact that supervision is a problem under the charter. What if a priest moves to Florida? How do we supervise them [those who move]? My suggestion is that the bishops work to address these issues soon.

    Is Father Fugee the only Newark diocesan priest under such supervision?

    Since I was named archbishop of Newark in 2001, I have removed 19 priests from ministry. Five have died; 14 are “chartered” priests whom the Church has determined can no longer be in ministry under the charter’s provisions. They have quarterly personal contact with a minister for priests to make sure they are not functioning as a priest in any way or having contact with young people in any way. If they go on vacation, we still contact them.

    Two or three other priests are also out of ministry but have no criminal or canonical actions against them, possibly because people have not come forward. But to make sure young people are safe, they have been taken out of ministry. So about 16 or 17 priests are under supervision.

    I have been archbishop of Newark for almost 12 years, and I am not aware of any current case involving prosecution.

    Everything that has come to us has been decades old, and we have reported that to the appropriate county prosecutors.

    Critics have raised questions about the decision to appoint Father Fugee to a post dealing with priestly formation. What is your response?

    The assignment to the priestly-formation post did not involve actually conducting seminars or training sessions. It was a desk job, sending out emails to priests informing them of programs currently available to priests. He wasn’t developing curricula or programs himself.

    Does Father Fugee still have his priestly faculties? Was his record forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and is he the subject of any canonical investigation?

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  9. Father Fugee is back in the rectory but is no longer able to function as a priest. He is in a charismatic-movement parish with people coming in for Mass and then going back to their own towns. The parish does not have a school, youth group or CCD.

    Regarding any further canonical action, our practice has always been that we wait until civil issues are settled. The prosecutor is still investigating this.

    The Dallas Charter states that any priest who wants to engage in ministry in another diocese must prove he is in good standing with his bishop, but Bishop David O’Connell of Trenton was not informed about Father Fugee’s presence in his diocese.

    All the bishops of New Jersey and the country comply with this practice. Recently, every priest in this diocese received a letter in the mail that restated the need to comply with this process. There is no exception.

    We did not know of Father Fugee’s activities in the Trenton Diocese until we learned about them from the media. Had he informed us of his intentions, we would have told him he couldn’t do that work.

    New Jersey state legislators have debated legislation to lift the statute of limitations for civil suits dealing with child sexual abuse. Are you concerned that this case will revive that effort?

    The statue of limitations is always a concern. There are discussions in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania about this issue. We are working very hard to help people understand that we will back any legislation that will protect children, but if it is retaliatory — seeking simply to punish the Church for actions that it did not condone and wasn’t aware of at the time — then we do not support it.

    In hindsight, would you have still approved the decision to allow Father Fugee to return to restricted ministry?

    Basically, our decision was appropriate at the time. But what I don’t think we will do again is enter into an agreement with a civil authority that gives the supervisory function to the archdiocese. We would not enter into a memorandum of understanding that places a burden on the Church. The state has more resources. Our advice would be to tell the priest, “Go back for a second trial and clear your name.”