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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Friday, October 16, 2009
Catholic officials quietly put admitted predator in hospital job; SNAP objects
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home)
Shame on Newark's archbishop for quietly moving a once-convicted predator priest to work among sick kids, vulnerable adults and unsuspecting hospital staff. This callousness and recklessness shows, once again, that bishops' lofty pledges of reform made in 2002 are essentially meaningless window dressing.
It's the same self-serving pattern bishops have followed for years: secretly shuffling known child molesters to new posts while warning no one. This is the same irresponsible misconduct that has directly led to tens of thousands of kids being sexually assaulted by thousands of priests, nuns, seminarians and bishops.
In parishes at least, most kids are conscious, healthy, mobile and in familiar surroundings. In hospitals, however, many kids are semi-conscious, drugged, confined and unable to flee, and in unfamiliar surroundings. It's hard to imagine a place where children are more vulnerable to sexual assault than one where they're already hurting and where perhaps dozens of strangers come in and out of their rooms at all hours of the day and night.
The predator claims he felt "pressured" to confess to police. We can't think of one documented case in which police 'coerced' or mistreated a well educated priest. There certainly have been cases of police misconduct involving teenagers, minorities, the mentally disturbed, and other marginalized people. But it's just hard to fathom cops 'coercing.' (In fact, the reverse is often the case: law enforcement showing excessive timidity and deference to those with titles or positions of power, like priests.)
But the issue here is not this child molester. It's Archbishop Myers and every Catholic employee and parishioner who, by their silence, endorses Myers' inexcusable endangering of innocent children.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around since 1988 and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)
Archdiocese removes priest from hospital in Newark after learning of molestation history
By Jeff Diamant/The Star-Ledger
October 16, 2009, 5:00AM
NEWARK -- The Newark Archdiocese removed a priest as chaplain at Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark this week after hospital officials learned of his history in a criminal molestation case involving a minor and requested his removal.
The Rev. Michael Fugee, who began working at the hospital Sept. 8, admitted to Bergen County investigators in 2001 that he had molested a boy in Wyckoff. He later recanted the statement, saying he felt pressured by investigators at the time to make an admission.
A jury convicted him in 2003 of criminal sexual contact, but that conviction was eventually overturned by an Appellate Court in 2006, for reasons unrelated to his admission.
Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, rather than re-try the case after the Appellate ruling, let Fugee enter a "pre-trial intervention" program that ultimately led to the case’s dismissal three months ago. According to terms of a legal agreement with the prosecutor’s office, however, Fugee is forbidden from again ministering to minors or having unsupervised access to them as a priest.
Saint Michael’s officials learned about Fugee’s history earlier this week after The Star-Ledger asked about his appointment, a spokesperson for the hospital said.
"The priest in question was assigned by the Archdiocese of Newark….," hospital officials said in a prepared statement. "Based on new information, Saint Michael’s has asked the archdiocese to remove the priest. The archdiocese has done so, effective immediately."
A spokesman for the Archdiocese, James Goodness, acknowledged that church authorities removed Fugee from the hospital job on Wednesday. He conceded that the Archdiocese had never informed hospital officials about Fugee’s history, because it believed it was sufficient to notify the head of the chaplain’s unit, a priest who works for the Archdiocese.
Goodness said the archdiocese will notify hospital staff about similar situations in the future.
Meanwhile, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers is evaluating where Fugee’s next job will be, Goodness said.
A Seton Hall graduate, Fugee was ordained in 1994 and worked three years as a priest at St. Rose of Lima Church in Millburn before joining St. Elizabeth’s Church in Wyckoff in December 1997.
He was arrested eight years ago following allegations by a 14-year-old boy that he groped the boy’s genitals, through clothes. Fugee had been supporting and counseling the boy’s mother during a marital separation.
At his 2003 trial, which occurred the year after the clergy sex scandal gained national attention, the boy testified that Fugee groped him several times while wrestling, when the boy’s relatives were present; and once when the boy, his mother and Fugee were vacationing in a Virginia hotel.
During the trial, Fugee testified he had merely been wrestling with the boy recreationally. But a detective read a transcript of Fugee’s interview with interrogators from two years earlier, telling jurors the priest had told police he was torn over his sexual identity, and had groped the boy’s crotch to satisfy an urge, according to Bergen Record coverage of the trial.
The jury, while convicting Fugee of aggravated criminal sexual contact, acquitted him of endangering the welfare of a minor.
He successfully appealed the conviction. Appellate judges ruled that part of Fugee’s statement to police, in which he said he was attracted to males, should not have been admitted as testimony because it had a prejudical effect on his case.
"The admission of this statement injected into this case the specter of a jury deciding defendants’ guilt on the unfounded association between homosexuality and pedophilia," the court wrote.
The Appellate Court also ruled that the trial judge’s instructions on the law -- whether Fugee was truly a supervisory figure in the boy’s life, as the statute required for a conviction -- were vague.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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