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Newark archdiocese official resigns following priest's arrest

By David Jones

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A leading official from the Catholic archdiocese of Newark has resigned his post as vicar general following the arrest of a priest accused of violating a deal that barred him from interacting with children, the archdiocese said on Saturday.

Monsignor John E. Doran, the No. 2 official within the archdiocese, has stepped down due to "operational failures" and will no longer hold a leadership position, according to letter to parishioners by Archbishop John J. Myers.

The resignation came after Bergen County, New Jersey, prosecutors arrested Father Michael Fugee on Monday on accusations of violating a 2007 judicial order to avoid working with children after he confessed years before to groping a teenage boy, according to court documents.

"The seriousness of the situation with Father Fugee necessitated a thoughtful and effective response," Meyers wrote in the letter posted on the archdiocese website.

"Appointing a new Vicar General will be just one step in a comprehensive plan to review, and where necessary, strengthen our internal protocols and ensure we are doing everything we can to safeguard the children of our community."

The archdiocese said that Doran had signed the 2007 agreement with Bergen County prosecutors that barred Fugee from working with children. Bergen County prosecutors said in a statement he had violated that agreement by attending youth retreats and taking confessions from youngsters.

A spokesman for the archdiocese said Myers would appoint a replacement, but did not give a time frame.

Fugee, a 52-year-old priest with St. Antoninus Parish in Newark, was arrested on seven counts of contempt of a judicial order. He was released on Tuesday on $25,000 bail.

The investigation found that Fugee heard confessions from minors between 2010 and 2012 at the Sacred Heart Church in Rochelle Park, New Jersey, and four other locations. Fugee resigned as a priest on May 2 and issued an apology to the church.

"The leadership of the Archdiocese of Newark, especially Archbishop John Myers, did not know or approve of my actions," Fugee said in the statement. "My failure to request the required permissions to engage in those ministry activities is my fault, my fault alone."

In 2001, Fugee confessed to groping the 13-year-old while working at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Wycoff, New Jersey, however he later recanted, court documents showed. His 2003 confession of aggravated criminal sexual conduct was overturned three years later. He signed the 2007 agreement with Bergen County prosecutors to avoid a retrial.

Myers, in his letter to parishioners, said an outside law firm appointed by the church to investigate the allegations found that protocols set up to monitor the situation were not always observed.

He said he had personally removed 19 priests for substantiated allegations and added that the monitoring function will be transferred to the Office of the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

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