Statement of James Goodness. Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Newark. on the Conclusion of the Matter of Michael C. Fugee
The Roman Catholic Diocese of New Jersey
November 8, 2013
In response to today’s announcement from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office concerning the conclusion of the matter of Michael C. Fugee, James Goodness issued the following:
The Bergen County Prosecutor and Grand Jury have completed their investigation into the matter of Michael Fugee. The Grand Jury determined that there was no basis for any criminal proceedings against Michael Fugee. The Archdiocese’s position has remained consistent throughout the investigation: the Archdiocese did not violate the terms of the Fugee Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) and never authorized or condoned Fugee’s unauthorized actions that led to the Prosecutor’s investigation.
Throughout the past nine months, the Archdiocese of Newark has cooperated fully with the investigation. The Archdiocese has produced hundreds of documents. The Archbishop and other Archdiocesan staff have answered every question asked of them either by the Prosecutor’s staff or the Grand Jury. At all times, the Archdiocese has complied fully with the investigation process.
When the allegations that gave rise to the Fugee matter first surfaced in early 2001, Archbishop Myers was not Archbishop of Newark. At the time of the Archbishop’s arrival in October 2001, Fugee already was out of ministry and remained so throughout the time of his trial and appeal.
We are quite frankly stunned that the Prosecutor would even suggest, much less state outright, that the Archdiocese “did not nor would ever obtain” laicization of Michael Fugee, since there is direct evidence as well as Grand Jury testimony by the Archbishop that he had begun setting the preliminary groundwork for laicization.
At the conclusion of the first trial in 2003, Archbishop Myers petitioned Rome for permission to begin to laicize Fugee. The Archbishop’s decision to request this severe sanction of removing Fugee from the priesthood was based upon the guilty verdict finding that Fugee had engaged in wrongdoing with a minor. This action was and is consistent with the Archbishop’s commitment to protect the safety of the Archdiocese’s children.
Fugee remained out of ministry as his appeal worked its way through the criminal justice system. In 2006, an Appeals Court decision overturned the original guilty verdict. The BCPO, for reasons of its own, chose not to retry Fugee. As a result of negotiations between the BCPO and Fugee’s attorney, Fugee was allowed to enter into a Pre-Trial Intervention program that resulted in a dismissal of all criminal charges against him.
The Archbishop had no involvement with Fugee’s acceptance into the Pre-Trial Intervention program, or with the dismissal of all criminal charges. These were court processes, managed by the BCPO. In fact, up until the Appeals Court overturned the guilty verdict and the BCPO agreed to dismiss the criminal charges against Fugee, the Archdiocese was continuing to seek permission to begin to laicize Fugee.
In addition to dismissing criminal charges, the BCPO and Fugee’s attorney negotiated the Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) enabling Fugee to return to ministry with certain restrictions. The Archdiocese did not suggest that the MOU be created or executed.
Before agreeing to participate in the MOU and before allowing Fugee to return to a restricted ministry, the Archbishop requested that the BCPO clarify some of the MOU’s language dealing with the issue of supervision. The BCPO never provided that clarification. The Archbishop also demanded additional confirmation that Fugee could and should return to ministry. First, he requested and personally received a report from Fugee’s State-appointed treating psychologist. The State-appointed psychologist concluded that Fugee could return to ministry and posed no threat to anyone in the community.
Second, the Archbishop referred the case to the Archdiocesan Review Board, an
independent group of mostly lay expert volunteers with extensive experience in law enforcement, law, investigative and clinical work. The Review Board conducted its own independent review and, after reviewing and analyzing the Prosecutor’s directives and the State-appointed psychologist’s findings, recommended that Fugee could return to a limited ministry consistent with the Prosecutor’s MOU. The conclusions of the State-appointed psychologist and the Archdiocesan Review Board were consistent with the BCPO’s decision to dismiss Fugee’s criminal charges and allow Fugee return to a limited ministry.
Relying on the actions of the Prosecutor, the findings of the State-appointed psychologist and the conclusions of the Archdiocesan Review Board, the Archbishop assigned Fugee to a restrictive ministry. The restrictive ministry was in full compliance with the MOU and even more restrictive than that which the MOU permitted. The appropriate Archdiocesan documents governing the restricted ministry even included language from the MOU, so that the Archdiocese could assure that its steps would be in accord with the MOU. The Archdiocese never assigned Fugee to any type of ministry upon which the Prosecutor’s investigation centered. Archdiocese policy and procedure required Fugee to seek permission to engage in any ministry outside of his limited duties. Had Fugee followed the required protocols and sought permission to engage in a ministry that could even potentially violate the MOU, the request would have been summarily denied.
The BCPO has investigated the Fugee matter thoroughly, and the case is now concluded. The Prosecutor’s criticism of the Archdiocese is unfairly excessive. The Archdiocese has publicly acknowledged operational failures in the Fugee matter. However, it is hypocritical to single out the Archdiocese as being solely responsible. Responsibility lies with numerous parties, including the BCPO. It was not the Archdiocese that sought to have the criminal charges against Fugee dismissed; it was the BCPO.
Archbishop Myers has stated categorically that the primary responsibilities of the Archdiocese are to protect children and young people, and to promote the healing of, and provide compassion to, victims of abuse.
The Archdiocese of Newark requires all staff and volunteers working with children and youth to undergo background checks and receive sexual abuse awareness training. More than 20,000 Clergy, Religious and Lay people have received this training and undergone background checks. Nearly 95,000 children annually receive safe environment training through our Catholic schools and through opportunities offered to public school students in our Religious Education Programs.
A Licensed Clinical Social Worker offers counseling and other support services to individuals who allege that they were abused even before a determination is made regarding the credibility of an allegation. A full-time Office of Child and Youth Protection dedicated to protecting children works with parishes and schools to ensure that safe environments are in place throughout the Archdiocese.
The Archdiocese of Newark takes very seriously any and all complaints of sexual misconduct by members of the clergy, Religious and lay staff of the Archdiocese. We encourage anyone with knowledge of an act of sexual misconduct to inform the Archdiocese immediately so that we may take appropriate action and provide support to the victim. Although the Archdiocese reports all abuse allegations immediately to the appropriate County Prosecutor, it also encourages victims to report such matters independently to the Prosecutor.
Individuals who want to report an allegation of sexual misconduct to the Archdiocese may do so by calling the Victim's Assistance Coordinator of the Archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection at (201) 407-3256.