Residents Learn about Neighbor
By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
Chicago Daily Herald [Chicago IL]
December 9, 2004
A group of men who claimed in a lawsuit they were sexually abused by a Chicago priest more than 20 years ago handed out fliers in a Carpentersville neighborhood Wednesday afternoon warning residents that the former priest lives in their midst.
Someone's got to tell them, the men said.
Neighbors were grateful that someone did. And angry that no one had before.
John D. Murphy was never convicted of sexual abuse, never even charged. His name does not appear on a sex offender registry.
Murphy, now 62, was, however, named in a civil lawsuit brought by 13 men who accused him of molestation when he was a Catholic priest assigned to St. Rita of Cascia parish on Chicago's South Side.
The settlement of that lawsuit, which also named the Augustinian Order's Midwest province and the Archdiocese of Chicago as defendants, was announced Tuesday.
In the settlement, which does not include any statement of guilt, the archdiocese paid the men undisclosed financial rewards, promised to build a memorial for them and vowed to involve abuse victims and their families in a national review board that hears allegations against priests, Jim Geoly, an attorney for the Augustinian Order, said Wednesday.
But that didn't help Carpentersville residents, who had no way of knowing Murphy lived in their neighborhood because the civil proceeding doesn't require sex offender registration.
So three of the men - Dan Herlihy of Channahon, Ken Kaczmarz of LaGrange Park and a Hickory Hills man who declined to be named - distributed fliers bearing Murphy's picture and detailing his history to the homes, grocery stores and schools in his Carpentersville neighborhood.
Most neighbors weren't home, so the fliers were tucked in their doors and mail slots. But those who were home were shocked.
"Are you kidding me?" Tammy Guzy cried when she read the flier. "The old man? With the little, white poodle?"
Guzy lives two houses away from Murphy with her son, 16, and two daughters, 5 and 7.
"It kind of freaks me out because he talks to my kids all the time," Guzy said. "I know it's something he did a long time ago, so it's not really any of my business, but it's good to know."
No one answered the door at Murphy's home, and he could not be located for comment.
Across the street, however, the Baldwins were startled to learn their friendly neighbor was accused of sexual abuse.
"All we knew is that he's real nice and walked his dog and said hi to everybody," said Aron Baldwin, 24. "We should have been told about this sooner."
"I promise I won't let my friends or their kids come to my house," said his sister, Lela Baldwin, 18.
But another brother, Thomas Baldwin, 20, figured accusations from 20 years ago shouldn't be held against him now.
"Give the person the benefit of the doubt," he said.
The men, joined by a handful of supporters from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, didn't worry that their right to free speech would trample on Murphy's right to privacy, given that he was never charged. If Murphy were to sue, he would have to prove that the allegations were false, legal experts said.
SNAP, an organization with 5,000 members nationally and 100 in its Chicago chapter, has handed out such fliers before in Denver, St. Louis, Mo., and Toledo, Ohio, said Chicago SNAP president Barbara Blaine.
Despite the depression, suicidal thoughts, drug addiction, nightmares and host of other battles the men said they had to fight in the fallout of their abuse, they said their purpose wasn't to punish Murphy.
"I don't blame him. He's a sick man," the 36-year-old Herlihy said of the former priest. "I really blame the people who hid what he did."
Herlihy said he had not remembered the abuse until he saw Murphy on television last year and began having flashbacks of sexual incidents in Murphy's basement apartment at the rectory. Herlihy was a 10-year-old altar boy and student at St. Rita Grammar School when Murphy was director of the altar boys there, he said.
The man who declined to be named, identified as John Doe 74A in the lawsuit, said he confronted Murphy at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, where Murphy worked as a tour guide after leaving the priesthood in 1993.
The victim, who said he was abused until age 13 during trips to St. Augustine College Preparatory in Holland, Mich., said he has since sat in Murphy's Carpentersville home, asked for an apology and accepted it when it was offered.
As the anger against Murphy has subsided, what brought the group of men to Murphy's neighborhood is their belief that people need to know a child molester lives among them, the Hickory Hills man said.
"I believe we're here because the church failed to do something in 1981," he said.
That was the year St. Rita in Chicago got its first complaint about Murphy. He was removed from service as a priest and immediately reassigned to St. Rita parish in Racine, Wis. In 1993, he left the priesthood.
The 1981 complaint was not forwarded to authorities because it "was not considered serious sexual misconduct," said Geoly, the Augustinians' lawyer. "It was not crystal clear what the crime was."
But the absence of criminal charges has left Murphy able to go where he wants without anyone knowing who he is.
When a priest is removed, the church makes an announcement in the community where it occurred, said Jim Geoly, attorney for the Augustinian Order. The church doesn't trace his steps if he moves away.
That's not acceptable, said Marc Pearlman, an attorney for the 13 people who claim to be victims.
"I think it's incumbent on the church to notify people," Pearlman said. "If (a priest) molests one child, and they could have prevented it, then shame on them."
"They should have been screaming his name from the mountaintop," he said.
James Dwyer, director of media relations for the Chicago Archdiocese, said the archdiocese does not maintain a public list of all priests who have ever been removed from the ministry because "putting a list out implies someone's been found guilty in a court of law."
The archdiocese does post a 30-day notice on its Web site after a priest has been removed from the ministry to notify parishioners and community members of the action, Dwyer said. Since 1992, the archdiocese also has reported all priest removals spurred by abuse claims to the state's attorney's office for investigation, he said.
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