Sunday, February 3, 2013

Father Michael Fugee: Newark Archdiocese, St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff

Newark, New Jersey - According to the Archdiocese of Newark, not only does he remain a priest, but he gets elevated to a lofty administrative position to boot. An administrative position where he will have no contact with children…which is part of his sentence.

Here’s the deal:

Father Michael Fugee allegedly grabbed the crotch of a 14 year old boy back in 2001 while grappling with him at the teen’s home and while on vacation in Williamsburg.

According to this:

At the time, he had been serving as assistant pastor at the Church of St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff when authorities charged him in 2001 with aggravated criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child. He allegedly grabbed the crotch of a 14-year-old boy while wrestling with him at the teen’s home and on a vacation in Williamsburg, Va.

Under questioning by detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and Wyckoff police, Fugee admitted touching the teen, saying he did it intentionally, that it sexually excited him and that he knew it was a “violation,” according to a transcript of his statement. He later recanted, claiming he lied so he could go home earlier.

In 2003, a jury in Bergen County convicted him of the sexual contact count but acquitted him of the endangering charge. Sentenced to five years’ probation, Fugee appealed. Three years later, an appellate panel overturned the verdict on the grounds that the trial judge gave improper instructions to jurors.

The decision was based, in part, on the judge’s decision to let the jury hear the portion of Fugee’s statement in which he described himself as bisexual or homosexual.

The appellate court said the admission could have led jurors to find Fugee guilty because of the “unfounded association between homosexuality and pedophilia.” The rest of the confession was not called into question.

Rather than retry Fugee, the prosecutor’s office allowed him to enter pre-trial intervention, a rehabilitation program for first offenders. At the same time, the prosecutor’s office secured an agreement that Fugee undergo counseling for sex offenders and have no unsupervised contact with children as long as he is a priest.

As a result, Fugee has been barred from unsupervised contact with children, under an agreement with law enforcement officials. The Archbishop of the Diocese of Newark, Archbishop John J. Myers, went ahead and appointed Rev. Fugee co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests.

The article states:

Fugee’s new role is an influential one, with a responsibility for shaping the education and so-called formation of priests in the archdiocese. That includes researching programs and workshops in New Jersey and elsewhere and alerting priests to them, spokesman Jim Goodness said. Fugee is not likely to engage in one-on-one counseling with priests, the spokesman said.

“That doesn’t appear to be part of what his responsibilities are,” Goodness said.

Fugee continues to celebrate Mass daily at parishes across the archdiocese — which includes Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Union counties — but Goodness declined to identify specific churches.

New Jersey 101.5