New Fire for Bishop Murphy
Critic Says He Covered up Boston Scandal

By Rita Ciolli [Long Island NY]
February 12, 2004

Bishop William Murphy covered up the priest sex abuse scandal in Boston and can't be trusted to protect the children in the church's care on Long Island, an advocate for child-abuse victims charged yesterday, saying Catholics should hold back donations to the diocese.

"In the Murphy Files, there is evidence of deception through omission, evidence of outright fabrication and evidence of putting children in great danger," said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, a Long Island-based victims advocacy group. In Boston, Murphy was second in command to Cardinal Bernard Law from 1993 until 2001, when he was named head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Responding to Ahearn, the diocese released a short statement yesterday: "Even after a lengthy inquiry by the Attorney General in Boston," it said, "no one has ever established that Bishop Murphy has engaged in any wrongful conduct during his tenure as Vicar General in Boston."

Ahearn said she went to Boston to review thousands of formerly secret church documents the Archdiocese of Boston released under court order. She said she believed Murphy's involvement in Boston had not been fully examined because it was eclipsed by the revelations of abuse and cover-up, which occurred on Long Island before Murphy arrived.

In a lengthy presentation at the group's Stony Brook headquarters, Ahearn used original documents from the files of 16 accused priests and the recent Massachusetts attorney general's report and contrasted them with Murphy's past statements. For example, Murphy had defended himself by saying another priest named Murphy had been assigned to handle the abuse complaints. Bishop Murphy also said he only had routine involvement with the priests after they had been removed from ministry. "If you are asking me if I am calling him a liar, the answer is yes," she said.

Pointing to decisions such as Murphy's allowing a priest in Boston accused of abuse to continue serving in a hospital and wear a clerical collar, Ahearn said Murphy "cannot be trusted" to protect the estimated 200,000 children in the diocese's educational, religious and sports programs.

"Don't allow Bishop Murphy to remain at the helm of this diocese," said Ahearn, calling upon local Catholics to stop donating money directly to the church until Murphy steps aside. Ahearn said Catholics were "delusional" to think anything but an economic campaign would catch the Vatican's attention. "What's only going to matter is we have to hurt them in their pocketbook," she said. Ahearn, who is Catholic, said money should be given directly to Catholic causes.

Ahearn is to repeat the presentation at a Voice of the Faithful meeting tonight at the Unitarian Universalist Church at Shelter Rock in Manhasset.

The Rev. James Vlaun, a spokesman for the diocese, said Murphy explained his role in Boston in a "Report to the Diocese" on July 2. In it, Murphy said "it should be clear" he was not involved in assigning accused priests to jobs where they could be a danger to minors. "My efforts were directed at keeping such priests away from minors, either making sure that they were not in pastoral situations or removing them from the priesthood entirely."

Vlaun noted that Ahearn's news conference came just as the diocese was launching its Catholic Ministries Appeal, the fund-raising drive that used to be called the Bishop's Annual Appeal. The campaign, renamed because of Murphy's unpopularity, will only fund charitable activities and not administrative costs for the diocese. Vlaun said he doubted that Catholics wanted to see those services end or schools close. "For decades, the Catholic church has been the outreach to thousands of poor, sick, elderly and young people who desire a Catholic education on Long Island."

Murphy initially reached out to Ahearn last year for help in structuring a program to train priests in abuse prevention. However, Ahearn said she and Murphy fell out over how much control she would have. The diocese has previously questioned whether her failure to obtain a large contract motivated her calls for Murphy's resignation.

While the diocese did not attack Ahearn directly yesterday, William Donohue, president of the Catholic League and one of Murphy's major supporters, went directly for the jugular in a written statement yesterday. Donohue noted a report issued last summer by Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly "didn't lay a glove on Bishop Murphy."

"We are now to believe that a woman from Long Island, armed with her master's in social work, has found evidence of Murphy's culpability that escaped the army of lawyers working for the Massachusetts Attorney General..."


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