COLTS NECK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Parents and teens at a Monmouth County Roman Catholic church were shocked Monday, after learning that a priest who attended overnight teen retreats was once accused of sexual abuse.
The Rev. Michael Fugee, a Newark Archdiocese priest, was convicted in 2003 of molesting a boy. The conviction was overturned by an appeals court, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported.
But Fugee’s past was not known while he was attending overnight teen retreats, parents and teens at St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck said.
“I’m upset that I wasn’t told, and I’m upset that they’re lying about it,” said youth group member Samara Franklin.
Fugee, 52, entered into an agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to avoid retrial on the abuse conviction after the groping incident six years ago. The agreement required Fugee, 52, never again to have unsupervised contact with children under the age of 18.
Mark Crawford, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Fugee violated the agreement.
“It’s incomprehensible to me, as a Catholic with children, that we would take someone who admitted to groping a child and put him back in the ministry,” Crawford said.
The agreement regarding contact with children in particular raises the issue of confession. During the retreats, Fugee heard confessions from teens.
Fugee’s friend, Monsignor Paul Bochicchio, said he did not see a problem.
“When he’s hearing confessions, you know, if a teenager happens to come to him, he’s not going to turn around and say, ‘I’m sorry, you know, I can’t hear your confession,’” Bochicchio said.
But some have suggested that Fugee should have done just that, or perhaps should not have been on the retreats at all.
“We were told as parents that he had been cleared; everything was fine, it was cleared,” said concerned parent Margaret Franklin. “They actually said the kid had lied and recanted the story.”
The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office simply said the agreement Fugee made remains in effect. Fugee’s friends said he is being treated too harshly by people angry with the church for other incidents.
Bochicchio said the controversy amounted to “sort of a vendetta.”
A spokesman for Newark Archbishop John Myers said his office is continuing to look into the matter.
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