Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Consent Order Requires Priest Charged With Sexual Misconduct To Petition Vatican For Removal From Priesthood

Bergen County, New Jersey prosecutor John L. Molinelli issued a press release last week announcing an unusual resolution in a clergy sex abuse case.  As explained by an RNS report yesterday, in 2007 Catholic priest Michael Fugee, in order to avoid a retrial on improper sexual conduct charges, signed an agreement, embodied in a judicial order and Memorandum of Understanding, banning him from ministering to children.  It was discovered earlier this year that Fugee violated the agreement by attending youth retreats and hearing confessions from teens.  In response, in May he was charged with 5 counts of criminal contempt.  On November 1, those charges were disposed of through a binding agreement and court order under which Fugee has agreed to petition the Vatican to remove him permanently from the priesthood.  Prosecutor Molinelli said that this result could not have been achieved by a contempt conviction because:
it is not believed that the American Justice System has such authority as a condition of probation or upon conviction. This is a requirement that will eliminate the threat of Michael Fugee, ever again, obtaining the trust of people through his clerical position nor using his ordained position as a Priest to exert improper contact with children.... The agreement that has been reached forever bars Michael Fugee from holding himself out as a current or former priest or spiritual advisor. Most importantly, he is prohibited from working with children in any capacity. 
Molinelli also emphasized that this new order will be supervised by the prosecutor's office, and not by the Archdiocese of Newark, in which Molinelli has lost confidence.

UPDATE: Here is the full text of the court's order in State of New Jersey v. Fugee, (NJ Super. Ct., Nov. 1, 2013).