LI Bishop's Mansion: Biggest Waste of Money, Bar Nun

By Jimmy Breslin
Long Island (NY) Newsday
October 8, 2002

I must apologize today to William Murphy, whose job for now is bishop of the Rockville Centre diocese on Long Island. He is about one strong voice coming out to lead the betrayed away from being gone. But until then, I correct all errors.

I wrote that the convent at St. Agnes Cathedral that he was taking over for a huge private residence had room for 36 apartments.

That was wrong, and I admit it. It made the bishop mad, and it should have. He said my figure of 36 apartments wasn't fair or just. He is right. I never should have said 36 apartments.

The convent has room for 37 apartments.

A housing specialist, Ed Ward, points out that once 56 nuns lived in the St. Agnes convent and therefore the number of apartments, 37, is correct.

Some months ago, there were only six nuns left and Murphy moved them out in favor of opulence. There were only six nuns left because virtually no young women or young men are entering the religious orders. The people at the top are the cause of it.

This is why he is known as Mansion Murphy and he goes beyond a matter of some local bishop drowning in greed. He is a symbol of why, the land over, this has turned into the rustiest church of all.

The amount of money that Murphy is spending on rooms for himself is an embarrassment. One thing he doesn't have to worry about is feeling ashamed. He is devoid of that. The renovation work the bishop has ordered will cost over $5 million, including the $1.6 million for placing gold plating on the brass pipes of the church organ.

You've got to be crazy to give the place any money. When you go past St. Agnes, clutch your purse or keep your hands in your pockets.

Murphy said the convent was "close to the cathedral, which is my cathedral, and if it makes sense that I could be close to my cathedral, then I should be." In New York, one of the oldest expressions is "the super in my building." It is a way of talk. Murphy appears to believe it. "My cathedral."

The bishop is making three spaces on the third floor of the convent. One is for himself: a bedroom, marble bath, sitting room and large study. In the sitting room are two exquisite armchairs that are in front of a fireplace. Both chairs appear equal to the task of absorbing a direct hit by a big bishop coming straight down.

But some good side to side swaying of the same real avoirdupois could splinter the arms of the chairs.

There is a dining room with a new table and 12 upholstered chairs. Murphy can sit and tell 11 people at once about himself.

A second suite is for Murphy's secretary. All you have to do is call out from the study and the secretary rushes in ready to do anything. Murphy also is going to have a suite that he refers to as "the cardinal's suite." He must think that he can house Cardinal Law of Boston, who is going to be run out of there for sure, and soon. Law, Murphy and Daily of Brooklyn were in the diocese headquarters in Boston, in charge, when pedophiles like Geoghan and Shanley were being transferred from parish to parish to savage the young.

Murphy can't think of himself becoming a cardinal with his record. But he can see himself and Law observing the evening from the long covered porch of the convent and gazing at the sweeping lawns and toasting each other.

The one part of the renovation that causes concern is the kitchen. He says he spent $120,000 on a Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer unit and a six-burner Viking professional range. That is reasonable for a single millionaire. But an adjoining pantry has an under-counter temperature-controlled wine-storage cabinet that can hold 50 bottles.

Now that is a lot of wine, even for a church.

The special temperature cabinet has a top shelf set at 45 degrees, for white wine and champagne, and a lower shelf set at 55 degrees for red wine.

By heritage, Irish, even Irish bishops, are not very good at wine. Never have I heard anybody with an Irish name announce, "I'm going to stop for a good glass of wine."

I know that wine is 12 percent alcohol. And if you get into bottles of it, get 10, 12 glasses down, get going good, you have maybe 144 percent alcohol somewhere in there.

Then you have that marble bathroom where a guest who trips can have this head up for grabs.

Mansion Murphy now has this obscene big house in Rockville Centre, and the dizzy judgment to show the place off.

Mike Bloomberg took Gracie Mansion in New York out of the dreams of these grubby politicians whose only reason to run for mayor has been to live in the place. Rather than live in the house, he has turned it into a museum. Mansion Murphy could surpass this. He could get out and turn his convent into 37 apartments instead of living there alone and talking about himself all night.

Once again, keep your money clear of this man.


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