By John Burton
COLTS NECK – Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office investigators have arrested the Roman Catholic priest with a history of child molestation who became a lightening rod for controversy at St. Mary’s Parish last month.
Detectives took the Rev. Michael Fugee, 52, of St. Antonius Parish in Newark, into custody on Monday, May 21, and charged him with seven counts of contempt of a judicial order, categorized as fourth degree crimes, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Fugee, who was assigned to the Newark archdiocese, was charged and indicted more than a decade ago with inappropriately touching a boy when he was with a Bergen County parish. The charge resulted in a conviction, which subsequently was overturned on a procedural matter. Instead of retrying the case, the prosecutor and Fugee reached an agreement that the priest would undergo counseling and be permitted limited ministry work, but would be prohibited from unsupervised contact with minors.
Recently, it was discovered that Fugee participated in a St. Mary’s Parish youth program and accompanied group members to youth retreats that involved him hearing confessions from minors. That caused a public outcry, and ultimately led to the ouster of the parish pastor, the Rev. Thomas J. Triggs and the resignation of two parish youth ministers earlier this month.
Fugee offered his resignation from the Newark Chancery, which was accepted by Archbishop John J. Meyers. With his resignation, Fugee is prohibited from conducting any clergy duties, but technically remains a priest until the resignation is officially accepted by the Vatican, according to an archdiocese spokesman.
Two St. Mary’s retreats, held at Kateri Environmental Center, 160 Conover Road in the Wickatunk section of Marlboro, were two of seven instances of Fugee allegedly participating in parish youth activities, in possible violation of the court order and agreement, authorities said.
The other events were held in Mount Arlington, Rochelle Park and Paramus, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The investigation is continuing, authorities said.
A Superior Court judge set Fugee’s bail on Monday at $25,000, with the option of posting 10 percent, but with the condition of surrendering his passport, law enforcement authorities said. Fugee was remanded to the Bergen County jail in lieu of bail and was expected to appear in court Tuesday.
Foillowing Fugee’s arrest, the Archdiocese of Newark issued a statement that said in part: “We take these allegations seriously and will cooperate fully with law enforcement in its investigation.”
The Diocese of Trenton has announced Triggs would be on sabbatical until next Jan. 1.
Diocese of Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell has named the Rev. Jeffrey E. Lee as the parish’s new pastor, effective immediately. Lee is also pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Trenton, and will continue there as well until June 29.