Murphy: 'I Feel Pain Like You'
Bishop Releases Statement

By Rita Ciolli
Newsday [Long Island NY]
November 13, 2003

Describing himself as "deeply upset and saddened" by how some Catholics view him, Bishop William Murphy issued a lengthy statement Wednesday seeking to address concerns in the Diocese of Rockville Centre ranging from the priest sex abuse scandal to how donations are used to the need to provide English elocution lessons to foreign-born priests.

Murphy also reaffirmed his refusal to recognize the Voice of the Faithful, a national organization of priests and lay people with a very large and active contingent locally who want a stronger role in church governance.

While saying the 1,600 members of the Long Island Voice of the Faithful have his prayers and respect, Murphy said he will not allow them to meet on church property because he is still unsure of their position on "hot button issues such as the ordination of women or the reinterpretation of certain moral issues."

But Dan Bartley, co-chair of the Long Island chapter, said Murphy's failure to lift the ban is "a sad but strong indication that nothing has changed. Bishop Murphy's assertions about VOTF positions on church teachings are false. To make such accusations is harmful to the healing process we were all hoping for."

The bishop's long-awaited response to three "listening sessions" held in June for Catholics to express opinions was posted late Wednesday afternoon on the diocese Web site. Murphy is in Washington, D.C., attending the annual conference of Catholic bishops.

A significant part of the more than 8,000-word statement is a compilation of previously released information on how the local church is responding to the abuse scandal. This time, Murphy also included his own reaction. "I have been scandalized like you. I feel pain like you," he wrote.

Murphy did not mention his seven-year tenure as the second in command of the Archdiocese of Boston, where the revelations about the massive cover-up of the sexual abuse of minors led to the national scandal.

William Donohue, head of the Catholic League, said Murphy's statement "is thorough and should go a long way to putting this issue to rest." However, Murphy's response may have been too emotive, he said. "That's the problem with listening sessions; as soon as you enter that arena you open yourself up to a saccharine response," said Donohue, whose organization monitors the depictions of Catholics in the media.

Wednesday's response comes as there is increasing pressure on Murphy to find new approaches to move the diocese past the abuse scandal. The bishop himself acknowledged the lack of confidence in his leadership, which continues to manifest itself in several ways. Diocesan priests have been meeting among themselves about how Murphy can overcome the deep resentment in the pews. Even on the diocese Web site, there are harsh assessments of Murphy from Catholics who filled out cards in recent weeks at local parishes' meetings, both of which are part of a multiyear process leading to a diocesan synod in 2007.

Meanwhile, newly hired fund-raisers are discussing how to get better results from next year's major fund-raiser, known as the Bishop's Annual Appeal. Contributions to this year's Bishop's Appeal are down by about 40 percent. Sunday collections in many, but not all, parishes are also in a slump.

Addressing the financial issue in his response, Murphy said that in the diocese's new budget, a distinction was made between administrative and pastoral programs. From now on, the annual appeal will fund only charitable and pastoral programs. The costs of running the diocese will come from the 8 percent tax on parish collections.

The bishop also said the diocese's main bank is being restructured "to give parish deposits an ironclad assurance" their money will not be used to pay any legal costs involved with the abuse scandal.


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