By Valerie Vainieri Huttle - NJ.com
Newark Archbishop John J. Myers must go. I agree wholeheartedly with The Star-Ledger editorial calling for his immediate resignation. If he does not resign, the Roman Catholic Church should swiftly investigate his support and protection of the Rev. Michael Fugee, a priest who admitted to sexual contact with a minor.
The archbishop placed Fugee in various positions throughout the archdiocese, from chaplain at St. Michael’s Medical Center to co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests, to a parish in Rochelle Park. Myers shuffled Fugee into each new post after his history came to light.
There seems to be a blatant breach of the agreement reached with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and the Archdiocese of Newark to keep Fugee away from minors by Myers.
As a lifelong Catholic and a public official, I was outraged to learn of the archbishop’s efforts to promote Fugee and to continually expose children to him knowing his past behavior. Myers may have confused turning the other cheek with turning a blind eye, but lay Catholics have not.
As horrified as I am by Myers’ latest disregard for his parishioners, I am sad to say that I am not surprised.
Reading about Myers on Sunday, I was reminded of why I was not at church, as I was on so many Sundays in years past.
Several years ago, the pastor of my church received a call from Myers after a single letter requested that I be removed from serving as a lector. Because I am an advocate for marriage equality, it was not appropriate for me to speak publicly in church.
To Myers and some others, it did not matter that the bill was titled Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act, as it would allow for marriage equality in New Jersey and would not force the church to perform same-sex marriages or even recognize them. I may have been driven away from my church, but my faith has never wavered.
I attended parochial school, actively participated in my church, volunteered as a CCD teacher, taught pre cana with my husband, served as parish council president, and was invested as a Lady of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the highest honors bestowed upon a layperson. This was under the spiritual leadership of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, now cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C.
Like so many others, I am both Catholic and progressive. I do not see a conflict between my faith and my progressive values. As a child in catechism class, I was taught to heal the sick, help the abandoned and feed the hungry. Now, as the chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee, I dedicate my efforts to bettering the lives of individuals with disabilities, children and low-income families. I sponsor legislation focused on equality, access to opportunity and strengthening the social safety net.
Yet, for Myers, my beliefs and my work somehow make me an inappropriate participant in the church. Well, I ask whether it is better for the church to be known for caring for society’s most vulnerable or for protecting child abusers, ignoring sexual misconduct and using religion to cloak a lack of acceptance of our LGBT family and friends.
We as Catholics are often challenged by our faith. We are frequently disappointed, frustrated and disgusted by the actions of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy. We need spiritual leaders who inspire and protect our youth, not expose them to sexual predators.
Not only for the sake of the children but the entire flock, Myers should step down!