Pastor, Youth Ministers Step Down Amid Controversy
The pastor and two youth ministers at a Colts Neck church have left their posts amid criticism that a priest once accused of child molestation was allowed to work with young parish members.
The Star-Ledger reported that the Rev. Thomas Triggs announced his resignation from the pulpit during a service Saturday night at St. Mary's Parish. The newspaper also said youth ministers Michael and Amy Lenehan no longer held those positions, though it was not clear if they resigned or were forced out.
The shakeup comes just days after the resignation of the Rev. Michael Fugee, a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark. Parishioners say Fugee, who is longtime friends with the Lenehans, had been involved with the parish youth group in defiance of an agreement with Bergen County prosecutors that he not to work with children.
Fugee was convicted in 2003 of criminal sexual contact involving a boy. It was overturned by an appeals court and the priest eventually entered a pretrial intervention program.
As part of the agreement with prosecutors, Fugee was allowed to return to the ministry in the Archdiocese of Newark, but was barred from having unsupervised contact with minors or a job that requires him to oversee or minister to children under the age of 18.
Fugee spent many hours at St. Mary's and participated in at least three youth retreats, two in New Jersey and one in Canada. Photos show Fugee with children as well.
Officials in the Diocese of Trenton insist they were not informed about Fugee — a requirement under church rules for a priest accused of abuse — and did not grant him permission to minister in the diocese. St. Mary's is part of the Trenton Diocese.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)