Murphy, Clergy Faulted in Mass. Abuse

By Rita Ciolli and Joseph Mallia
Newsday [Long Island NY]
July 23, 2003

The Massachusetts attorney general's report places blame for the priest sex abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese directly on its past senior managers, including Bishop William F. Murphy, now head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

During his eight years in Boston, the report charges, Murphy placed a higher priority on preventing scandal and providing support to abusing priests than on protecting children. The report, based on a year-long grand jury investigation, said Murphy and top officials in the Boston church were deeply involved in the day-to-day operations and were well aware of its festering problem of pedophile priests.

"Any claim by the Cardinal or the Archdiocese's senior managers that they did not know about the abuse suffered by, or the continuing threat to, children in the archdiocese is simply not credible," the report said.

At a news conference, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as archbishop in December, was not the only one responsible. "There were others who were equally involved and many of those others or several of those others still hold positions of great responsibility in other dioceses throughout the United States," he said.

In response to a question, Reilly said he believes these bishops "should not be in a position of responsibility in the church."

Murphy, now the spiritual leader of Long Island's 1.5 million Catholics, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in Boston. Joanne Novarro, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said Murphy was away on vacation. The diocese issued a written statement saying it would be "more relevant" for Long Islanders to focus on Murphy's leadership and action since he took over the diocese in September 2001.

"Bishop Murphy is determined that issues raised in the Massachusetts Grand Jury report never be repeated under his jurisdiction ... He is determined that any charges of sexual abuse be handled quickly, openly and with a priority being placed on the safety and security of the victims," the statement said.

Two pages of the 76-page report focus on Murphy's eight-year tenure as the vicar general. It says he was involved in some of the most notorious of the Boston cases, including that of John Geoghan, who was eventually defrocked and convicted of child molestation.

From 1994 to 2000, during Murphy's tenure, the internal annual reports of the diocese documented the abuse problem. These reports showed that there were complaints from 402 victims alleging abuse by 191 priests. During those years, in which Murphy acknowledged he reviewed the settlements, $19 million was paid to victims who agreed to keep silent.

The Boston archdiocese did take positive steps during Murphy's tenure, "such as operating for one year a supervised residence for abusive priests," the report said. However, it noted that with one exception, Murphy did not report abuse allegations to the police or tell Law to do so.

Jim Post, national president of Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic lay group, called upon Pope John Paul II to discipline Law, Murphy and the other bishops named in the report, saying they "failed in their ministry to the people and families of the Archdiocese of Boston." The group's Long Island chapter said in a statement that it had called an emergency board meeting to determine a response to the report.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the report clearly implicates other former Boston church officials such as Bishop John McCormack of New Hampshire and Bishop Thomas Daily of Brooklyn. However, he sees no similar culpability by Murphy.

At the same time, Donohue said the report doesn't help Murphy remove the taint of having served in Boston. "Either way, Murphy still has an uphill battle with the Long Island Catholic community which feels burned and skeptical," he said.


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