A letter to Bishop O’Connell and Bishop Serratelli

May 7, 2013

Most Reverend David O’Connell

701 Lawrenceville Rd

Trenton, NJ  08648

Dear Bishop O’Connell,

It has recently surfaced that Fr. Michael Fugee has violated his signed agreement with prosecutors to have no contact with children. He spent time in your diocese.

Fr. Fugee admitted child sex crimes, was charged in 2001, and convicted in 2003. He was sentenced to lifetime probation and to register as a sex offender. His conviction was later overturned on a technicality. To avoid a retrial, Fr. Fugee signed an agreement with prosecutors to enter a treatment facility, attend therapy, and stay away from children. That agreement was also signed by Fr. Fugee’s Catholic supervisors in the Newark Archdiocese.

We strongly urge you, as head of a diocese where Fr. Fugee ministered, to aggressively appeal for victims and witnesses to come forward and report any abuse. Announcements should be made not only in the diocesan newspaper, but in parish bulletins and from the pulpit during Sunday Masses throughout your diocese. The announcements should encourage anyone who witnessed, suspected or experienced abuse or cover ups or misdeeds to contact law enforcement, not church officials.

It’s possible that Fr. Fugee has harmed members of your flock. It’s possible that members of your flock have information that might help put Fr. Fugee behind bars, where he could hurt no other kids or information that might help prosecutors pursue Archbishop Myers for his irresponsible behavior. But your flock needs to be encouraged to step forward to law enforcement and share what they may know or suspect.

Centuries of secrecy around child sex crimes in the church won’t be reversed in a few months or years or with a terse public relations statement. If kids are to be protected, predators are to be removed and enablers are to be punished and deterred, it will take considerable effort. The “bare minimum” won’t cut it.

We also believe you must do more to discipline those who enabled Fr. Fugee to be around kids.

On one hand, we are glad that there have been some consequences for the priest and youth ministers who are responsible for this reckless move. On the other hand, however, those consequences are light and were not publicly disclosed.

A priest lets an admitted child molesting cleric – whose case has repeatedly attracted considerable publicity – near kids in your diocese and he gets a sabbatical? That sends a very clear signal – that putting kids in harm’s way is no serious matter.

Finally, it’s clear from your letter to your priests that the negative publicity, not the risk to children, is most disturbing to you. This alarms and troubles us.

The real issue here is not the allegedly “unrelenting media scrutiny” or “the anger within the parish and beyond.” It’s callous, reckless and hurtful action by Catholic employees and volunteers who continue - despite hundreds of thousands of child sex crimes by tens of thousands of priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians and church staff worldwide – to endanger innocent and vulnerable children.

We hope you’ll launch an aggressive outreach effort immediately and institute more severe consequences for enablers soon.

We look forward to hearing from you

David Clohessy, Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 314 566 9790 cell (SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

Mark Crawford, NJ State Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 732 632 7687 cell (mecrawford@comcast.net)

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 7, 2013

Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli

Diocese of Paterson

777 Valley Rd 

Clifton, NJ 07013

Dear Bishop Serratelli,

It has recently surfaced that Fr. Michael Fugee has violated his signed agreement with prosecutors to have no contact with children. He spent time in your diocese. As best we can tell, you have been silent about this alarming situation.

Fr. Fugee admitted child sex crimes, was charged in 2001, and convicted in 2003. He was sentenced to lifetime probation and to register as a sex offender. His conviction was later overturned on a technicality. To avoid a retrial, Fr. Fugee signed an agreement with prosecutors to enter a treatment facility, attend therapy, and stay away from children. That agreement was also signed by Fr. Fugee’s Catholic supervisors in the Newark Archdiocese.

We strongly urge you, as head of a diocese where Fr. Fugee ministered, to aggressively appeal for victims and witnesses to come forward and report any abuse. Announcements should be made not only in the diocesan newspaper, but in parish bulletins and from the pulpit during Sunday Masses throughout your diocese. The announcements should encourage anyone who witnessed, suspected or experienced abuse or cover ups or misdeeds to contact law enforcement, not church officials.

It’s possible that Fr. Fugee has harmed members of your flock. It’s possible that members of your flock have information that might help put Fr. Fugee behind bars, where he could hurt no other kids or information that might help prosecutors pursue Archbishop Myers for his irresponsible behavior. But your flock needs to be encouraged to step forward to law enforcement and share what they may know or suspect.

Centuries of secrecy around child sex crimes in the church won’t be reversed in a few months or years or with a terse public relations statement. If kids are to be protected, predators are to be removed and enablers are to be punished and deterred, it will take considerable effort. The “bare minimum” won’t cut it.

We also believe you must also discipline those who enabled Fr. Fugee to be around kids. Ignoring wrongdoing only encourages more wrongdoing. And harsh punishment for those who endanger kids will deter others from endangering kids.

We hope you’ll launch an aggressive outreach effort immediately and institute severe and public consequences for anyone in your diocese – volunteer or employee - who enabled Fugee’s dangerous access to kids soon.

We look forward to hearing from you

David Clohessy, Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 314 566 9790 cell (SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

Mark Crawford, NJ State Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 732 632 7687 cell (mecrawford@comcast.net)

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