NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Investigators have been questioning whether New Jersey priest once accused of child sexual abuse may have violated an order never again to work with children.
The Rev. Michael Fugee has had an unofficial association with a Monmouth County church for several years, the Star-Ledger of Newark reported. Parishioners said he has attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors behind closed doors.
Newark Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness said Fugee was unavailable for comment.
But Goodness said the archdiocese believes Fugee, 52, can work with minors if he is supervised by priests or lay ministers aware of his past and the agreement’s conditions.
“The fact is, he has done nothing wrong,” Goodness told the newspaper. “Nobody has reported any activity that is inappropriate, and I think that’s important to know, especially given that he’s a figure whose name is public and whose past is public.”
Fugee was convicted in 2003 of criminal sexual contact involving a boy. It was overturned by an appeals court and the priest eventually entered a pretrial intervention program.
Authorities told the newspaper that Fugee could face civil penalties, criminal charges or both if he is found to have violated the agreement with prosecutors. But it is not clear whether Newark Archbishop John Myers, who is New Jersey’s highest-ranking Catholic official, or the archdiocese in general could face consequences.
Advocates for victims of sexual abuse were displeased to hear about Fugee working with children.
“This shows a terrible lack of responsibility on the part of the archbishop,” Theresa Padovano, New Jersey coordinator for the lay reform group Voice of the Faithful, told the newspaper. “You just want to throw your hands up. What are they thinking?”
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