Peoria’s former Catholic bishop is now in hot water in New Jersey.
Newark Archbishop John Myers – who headed the Peoria diocese for more than a decade (1990 to 2001) - may face criminal charges of violating an agreement to keep an admitted predator priest away from kids.
He’s essentially behaving in New Jersey the same way he behaved in Illinois – recklessly, callously and deceitfully.
In 2001, Fr. Michael Fugee admitted to police in New Jersey that he molested a boy several times.
In 2003, Fr. Fugee recanted, was tried, and was found guilty of child sex crimes.
In 2006, a higher court reversed the verdict due to improper jury instructions.
In 2006, Myers agreed to keep Fr. Fugee away from kids (in a written deal with prosecutors).
But a Newark newspaper has disclosed that Archbishop Myers put Fr. Fugee in a hospital chaplaincy and a parish. Facebook photos also show that Fr. Fugee heard kids’ confessions, went on retreats with kids and even took kids to Canada.
Now, the Bergen County NJ prosecutor is investigating. Two newspapers are calling for Myers’ resignation.
Myers acted much the same way in Peoria.
A year after he left Peoria, Myers’ successor had to oust seven predator priests who were still on the job.
Consider that while in Peoria, Myers’ reportedly tried to “buy the silence” of a church archivist.
And consider the case of Fr. Francis Engels, who was accused of abusing a child in 1973. A victim complained directly to Bishop Myers in 1992. But Myers did not put Engels on leave until the family went to the new media in 1993.
We hope these latest New Jersey revelations – which show that Myers is still irresponsible about protecting kids – will prod others in Peoria who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes during his tenure to step forward. We hope that every single victim, witness, or whistleblower that knows or suspects wrongdoing by Myers – or his successors – will speak up, expose wrongdoing, protect kids, call police and start healing.