Notorious Predator Priest Defrocked; SNAP Responds
March 18, 2014
Fr. Michael Fugee of the Newark Archdiocese has been defrocked by the Vatican. He's the first predator priest whose defrocking was insisted on by a prosecutor. And Archbishop John Myers' recklessness, and callousness in this case is among the most egregious misconduct by a Catholic official that we've seen in the past decade.
This is a decades-late drop in the bucket. When church officials defrock predator priests it's less about safeguarding kids. It's more about church damage control. Still, we are grateful for insisting that Fugee be ousted from the priesthood. Without that Roman collar and the respect that accompanies it, Fugee will find it a bit harder to win the trust of parents, gain access to kids, and sexually assault them.
It's crucial to remember that basically no Catholic supervisors have been punished, worldwide, for enabling and hiding horrific clergy sex crimes. The Pope must start defrocking clerics who cover up sex crimes (like Myers), not just clerics who commit them (like Fugee). Until that happens, little will change.
So why the alleged increase in defrocked pedophile priests in recent years? It's likely because more victims across the globe are gaining the strength and courage to come forward and are reporting to (and pressuring) church officials because archaic, predator-friendly secular laws prevent most victims from seeking justice in court. And it's likely because more bishops are convincing Vatican officials that defrocking predators is a smart public relations and legal defense strategy. Cutting all ties with the most egregious serial sex offender clerics helps convince Catholics that progress is being made.
Catholic officials pretend that once a child molesting cleric is defrocked, their duty is over. It's not. Bishops' duty to protect others from these dangerous men does not end when they are defrocked.
It's irresponsible for Catholic officials to recruit, educate, ordain, train, transfer and protect predator priests, then defrock them when they're caught and the heat gets too intense. Catholic officials should help make sure child molesting clerics are criminally prosecuted. If that can't happen, then Catholic officials should house them in remote, secure treatment centers. And Catholic officials should lobby for, not against, reforming outdated, secular laws that enable many who commit and conceal child sex crimes to escape punishment.
Myers should go to every parish where Fugee worked and beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police and prosecutors, so that me might be charged with more child sex crimes and kept away from kids and so that other current and former church staff who helped conceal his crimes might be prosecuted. Until that happens, we can take little comfort in the belated defrocking of this predator.
And as we've said before, Myers should post on his archdiocesan website – for the safety of kids and the healing of victims – the names, photos, whereabouts and work histories of every proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting cleric who lives or lived or works or worked in the Newark Archdiocese, whether living or deceased, diocesan or religious order. Until that happens, it's hard to believe there's any real progress.