Rod Dreher from the American Conservative posted an opinion piece this morning about Archbishop John Myers’ decision to appoint Rev. Michael Fugee to head the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests for the Archdiocese of Newark. Fugee was criminally charged in 2001 of aggravated criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child. He was convicted on the charges but an appellate court overturned the conviction. According to Dreher, “Actually, Fugee’s conviction was overturned by an appeals court on a technicality: The decision was based, in part, on the judge’s decision to let the jury hear the portion of Fugee’s statement in which he described himself as bisexual or homosexual. The appellate court said the admission could have led jurors to find Fugee guilty because of the ‘unfounded association between homosexuality and pedophilia.’ The rest of the confession was not called into question.
Rather than retry Fugee, prosecutors reached an agreement to put him in a rehab program for first-time sex offenders, and to bar him from being alone with kids for the rest of his life. But as far as the Archdiocese of Newark is concerned, Fugee is not only clean, but he is, in fact, a victim too:
Goodness, the spokesman, characterized Fugee as a victim in the case, saying the priest had been through a ‘terrible ordeal.'”
Dreher, a former Catholic who left the Church after reporting on the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, blames the culture of clericalism for this new assignment. Dreher believes the Catholic bishops favor supporting their priests rather than protecting children. Here’s another excerpt:
“Because, you know, for many bishops and other church leaders, the welfare of the clergy is always and everywhere more important than the welfare of the laity and their children, or even basic moral integrity.
These guys never learn.
UPDATE: Let me clarify what I’m interested in here. I take it for granted that some bishops and church leaders make these kinds of calls because they are bad men with something to hide. But I think many others make this kind of call out of a malformed sense of charity, abetted by a sense, likely unconscious, that the clergy are “real” to them in a way the laity are not. I would love to hear from priests and laypeople who have knowledge of this mentality. Help me understand how it works. It is not, please note, a liberal thing or a conservative thing. That is a canard. Nor, I should say, is it an exclusively Catholic thing.”
Rod Dreher has worked with Jason Berry the author of Lead Us Not Into Temptation and Fr. Tom Doyle in investigating priest sex abuse.