Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Newark Archbishop Goes to the Mattresses

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Newark Archbishop Goes to the Mattresses

Article excerpt

NEWARK Archbishop John J. Myers is going to the mattresses. The archdiocese has hired Michael Critchley, a criminal defense lawyer who famously got Michael "Mad Dog" Taccetta, a member of the Lucchese crime family, an acquittal back in the 1980s. Showtime's "The Borgias" should move its shooting location to Newark.

Myers is under fire because the archdiocese allowed the Rev. Michael Fugee to participate in youth events despite both Fugee and the archdiocese entering into an agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office barring Fugee from such contact.

The priest, who resigned last week, had been convicted of groping a minor, but the conviction was overturned on a technicality. Rather than face a new trial, Fugee made a deal with prosecutors and part of that deal was no unsupervised contact with children and no ministering to children.

However, Fugee went on youth retreats and had one-on-one contact with children in the Newark archdiocese, as well as in dioceses outside of Newark, without the consent of those bishops. The Newark archdiocese has continued to claim it has done nothing wrong.

This would be just reprehensible if it occurred in the private sector; it is something baser, something more vile happening in the Roman Catholic Church. This institutional arrogance was at the heart of the national scandal of priests sexually abusing minors for decades while church officials did nothing to stop it, in many cases enabling the abuse. High-ranking clergy closed their ranks around predators, all to save the face of the institution rather than protect children. Actually, it was less about saving face and more about saving money. Predators are costly.

Yes, they are. They cost children their innocence, something that should be more sacred than the millions of dollars of church funds that have been pouring out like foul-scented sweat to compensate for decades of damage.

For an archdiocese that claims no wrongdoing, Newark's hiring of a lawyer who can get a reputed mobster an acquittal says much. It says the archdiocese is nervous it may be criminally culpable. Well, cleaning up the Catholic Church is no different than cleaning up wharves along the waterfront. Unless the bad people go to prison, nothing changes.

That is why state Sen. Barbara Buono's recent call for Myers' resignation is pointless. The likely Democratic nominee for governor has been joined by Senate President Stephen Sweeney in demanding that Myers resign. Lamentations are so Old Testament; these are modern times. Bishops do not care what politicians say about morality. If Buono and Sweeney want to get Myers' attention, they would be better off introducing a bill taxing church property. Myers would respond to that.

Fugee has a right to a good defense lawyer and so does the archdiocese; that is the promise of the American judicial system. …

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