Wyckoff Priest Faces Sex Charge
Fondlingincidents Alleged by Teenager

By Elise Young
The Record [Bergen County NJ]
March 21, 2001

A Roman Catholic priest who helped lead a youth ministry at his Wyckoff church has been charged with fondling a young parishioner, authorities said Tuesday.

The Rev. Michael C. Fugee, 40, one of three priests assigned to St. Elizabeth's Church, was arrested at township police headquarters Monday by the sex crimes and child abuse squad of the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.

He was charged with one count of criminal sexual contact and released Monday night on $ 10,000 bail, said Assistant Prosecutor Patricia Baglivi. He was ordered to have no contact with the boy, whom Fugee allegedly fondled"on several occasions" in 1999, Baglivi said. The boy was 13 at the time.

"What happened was, the boy confided in a family friend who confided in the Police Department,"said Baglivi, explaining the lag time between the alleged encounters and the investigation.

The incidents 1 allegedly occurred in a Wyckoff residence, although not the Wyckoff Avenue rectory where Fugee lived for four years with his fellow priests.

At St. Elizabeth's, Fugee's duties included counseling couples in the pre-marriage program, working with the seniors group, and representing the church at the Wyckoff Clergy Association, according to his biography, which was posted on the parish Web site.

He also was involved in Gather the Children, a parish youth group geared toward children in Grades 1-5, and was a religious educator, the site said.

Baglivi would not comment on whether the boy belonged to any group that Fugee supervised.

One of Fugee's colleagues at St. Elizabeth's, the Rev. Miroslaw K. Krol, referred inquiries to Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark.

Goodness declined to comment on the allegations and would not say whether church officials intend to address the parish. He would not say what, if any, association Fugee had with the parish-run, K-8 St. Elizabeth's School adjacent to the church.

Asked about Fugee's status in light of the arrest, Goodness said: "He has not been reassigned."

Fugee's whereabouts could not be determined. Baglivi believed he was scheduled for a court appearance in Wyckoff on Tuesday night, but there were no proceedings in the municipal chambers scheduled for that evening.

Fugee holds a psychology degree from Seton Hall University and was ordained in May 1994, according to St. Elizabeth's Web site. He spent three years as a vicar at St. Rose of Lima R.C. Church in Millburn, then joined the Wyckoff parish in December 1997.

Contacted at their homes Tuesday, several church group leaders declined to comment. One of the few willing to talk about the priest was Bob Kratchman, a deacon who called Fugee"a wonderful man."

"He's always been kind to me and the people I see him around. He's always been a fine reflection of the church,"Kratchman said.

Fugee, a native of Union County, is the only child of Charles Fugee, a widower. Reached at his home in the Poconos on Tuesday, Charles Fugee was unaware of the charge against his son.

"He's my whole life,"he said." Everybody loves him."

Charles Fugee said his son took his time entering the priesthood, leaving 1 the seminary for seven years.

"He worked a number of different jobs. He was a paramedic. Then one day he came to me and said, 'Dad, I'd like to finish being a priest. .

.. That was his calling since high school."

Prosecutors said they have no reason to believe Fugee was involved with anyone but the one boy.

"If there are any other victims out there, we encourage them to contact the Police Department or the Prosecutor's Office,"Baglivi said.


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