Our Request To Bishop Murphy to Resign:
Long Island Voice of the Faithful, Inc.
Most Reverend William Murphy
Dear Bishop Murphy:
The findings of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s report on "The Sexual Abuse of Children in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston," issued on July 23, 2003 contains numerous credible charges against the leadership of the Archdiocese, including yourself. We have considered those charges in light of your statements and actions since you became our bishop in 2001. We have concluded that the differences between the Attorney General’s report and your views, expressed in the Long Island Catholic and elsewhere, bring into question your moral authority to lead.
It is with deep regret that the Board of Directors of Long Island Voice of the Faithful, acting on behalf of our members, finds it necessary to request that you step aside as our Bishop. Your continuing presence as head of our church on Long Island can only perpetuate the distrust that threatens our Church.
The revelations of the report have so compromised your role as bishop that it is no longer possible for you to exercise the spiritual leadership required for the church of Long Island.
Our Position Paper
Long Island Voice of the Faithful, Inc.
August 1, 2003
On Wednesday, July 23, 2003, the office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued its Grand Jury report on "The Sexual Abuse of Children in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston".
On Thursday, July 24th, 2003, after careful review of the report, the Board of Directors polled approximately 700 of its 1,300 members, (members with e-mail addresses), asking them to vote electronically either for or against calling Bishop William Murphy to step aside. 385 members voted;
In Favor:371 members (95%); Opposed: 14 (5 %)
Some of the reasons why we are asking Bishop William Murphy to resign:
1.According to the Report, Bishop Murphy played a key role in the failure to protect the children. As a consequence, he has abdicated his moral authority:
With regard to Bishop William Murphy, now of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, the report says:
And, even with undeniable information available to him on the risk of recidivism, Bishop Murphy continued to place a higher priority on preventing scandal and providing support to alleged abusers than on protecting children from sexual abuse. (P.39)
2. Bishop Murphy misrepresented his role in the cover-up.
In his "Report to the Diocese – Part one," (TLIC 7/2/03) Bishop Murphy says that a Delegate (at one time a priest also named William Murphy) was responsible for handling cases of sex abuse, and that the Delegate reported directly to the Cardinal. However, the Attorney General’s Report says that… "Although Cardinal Law delegated responsibility for handling clergy sexual abuse matters, his senior managers [i.e. bishops] kept the Cardinal apprised of such matters either directly or through the Vicar of Administration, who supervised the ... Delegate." (P 31) Bishop Murphy himself became Vicar of Administration in 1993 [to 2001]. (P 38)
The Report also says that the "Delegate ... sometimes discussed clergy sexual abuse matters directly with the Cardinal, and on other occasions conveyed information to the Cardinal through Bishop Murphy."(P 38) The report further says that the Delegate "…generally kept both the Cardinal and Bishop Murphy apprised of significant clergy sexual abuse matters." (P 48)
The report thus clearly contradicts Bishop Murphy’s allegation that he was bypassed in the reporting of sexual abuse cases. Indeed, "There is overwhelming evidence that for many years Cardinal Law and his senior managers* had direct, actual knowledge that substantial numbers of children in the Archdiocese had been sexually abused by substantial numbers of 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." (P. 25) In addition: "Top Archdiocese officials regularly addressed and supported the perceived needs of offending priests more than the needs of children who had been, or were at risk of being, abused." (P. 30) (emphasis supplied)
* Bishop Murphy is identified in the report as a senior manager and a top archdiocese official.
3. Bishop Murphy abdicated his duty to protect the children by ignoring the criminal nature of child abuse.
In denouncing Bishop Murphy’s actions, the Report states:
"The problem was compounded because Bishop Murphy failed to recognize clergy sexual abuse of children as conduct deserving an investigation and prosecution by public authorities. Instead he viewed such crimes committed by priests as conduct deserving an internal pastoral response." (P. 39)
4.Bishop Murphy showed a regrettable lapse of judgment when he assigned an alleged abuser to oversee abusers.
In an apparent lapse of judgment, Bishop Murphy was involved in having a priest named Melvin Surrette, who had "been accused himself of sexually abusing children, to be Assistant Delegate responsible for arranging suitable job placements for priests found to have engaged in sexual abuse of children." (P.38) The Attorney General’s report further comments that, "The Archdiocese documents relating to Surrette’s assignment do not show any consideration of the propriety of having a man accused of sexually abusing children significantly involved in finding suitable job placements for other alleged abusers. Further, there appears to have been no appreciation of the inherent conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety in having a priest under investigation by the Delegate working as Assistant to the Delegate."(39)
5. It is our firm conviction that Bishop Murphy is not meeting the spiritual and material needs of our Parishioners. Our diocese is suffering under his rule. We are without a spiritual leader.
Bishop Murphy has not satisfactorily addressed the needs of the diocese, especially those of the poor. The Bishop’s extravagance in the renovation and furnishing of his own lavish quarters has compounded the problem. The Bishop’s Appeal is down; Parish collections are down; donations made by Long Island Voice of the Faithful to Catholic Charities have been returned by Bishop Murphy because "it is important to maintain a sense of unity of mission." Could this be a reason why Mass attendance is also down? Bishop Murphy’s decisions and policies have hurt those in need and hindered the ability of the diocese to raise funds from the laity.
6. Bishop Murphy’s credibility has been damaged beyond repair.
On numerous occasions, and in statements published in the Long Island Catholic, Bishop Murphy has downplayed his role in the Boston cover-up. An objective reading of the Attorney General’s Report clearly brands our bishop as one of the key wrong doers.
7. Bishop Murphy’s continued presence thwarts the healing our diocese needs.
Our diocese is scourged with disunity. Faithful Catholics are disillusioned. Attendance is down, contributions are down. We are in a state of disarray. There is a profound and pervasive distrust for our spiritual leader. Polls overwhelmingly support his resignation. We desperately need new leadership.
8. Bishop Murphy has contributed to the American Bishops’ loss of moral authority.
In a wider context, Bishop William Murphy, along with the Bishops of the United States, has lost the moral high ground that used to give weight to statements concerning issues such as poverty in our country, war, nuclear weapons and the death penalty. Whether or not people agreed with the Bishops’ positions on these issues, the statements were debated both within and without the Catholic Church and in the pages of many respected publications. This, unfortunately, seems no longer to be the case.
It is time to restore credibility to the American Catholic Church by replacing those leaders who have so damaged that standing. The Board of Directors and members of Long Island Voice of the Faithful are calling for the resignation of Bishop William Murphy and all Bishops associated with the cover up and misrepresentation of sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.
Others Agree That Bishop Murphy Should Resign
National Catholic Reporter The Independent Newsweekly NCRONLINE.ORG
EDITORIAL This week's stories - Issue Date: August 1, 2003
Time for some more bishops to resign
Bishops John McCormack, Manchester, N.H.; Thomas Daily, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Robert Banks, Green Bay, Wis.; William Murphy, Rockville Centre, N.Y.; and Archbishop Alfred Hughes, New Orleans, should resign.
Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly’s 76-page report on the Boston archdiocese’s handling of priestly sexual abuse places blame for the crisis in the Boston church squarely where it belongs: with the former archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law, his predecessors, and the auxiliary bishops responsible for day to day management of the archdiocese.
“The mistreatment of children was so massive and so prolonged that it borders on the unbelievable,” says Reilly’s report. “For decades cardinals, bishops and others in positions of authority within the archdiocese chose to protect the image and reputation of their institution rather than the safety and well-being of children.”
No one will go to jail as a result of Reilly’s 16-month investigation, though his report is scathing. The laws on the books at the time make it impossible to seek indictments, Reilly said.
The aforementioned bishops -- auxiliaries under Law, whose careers benefited from his patronage -- stand accused of stymieing criminal investigations, shuffling known predators to child-rich environments, demonstrating undue respect for the rights of molesters over the kids they abused, failing to inform parishes of the predators in their midst, transferring abusers out of Boston, and accepting non-Boston abusive priests into the archdiocese.
Somehow, it never occurred to these men that child rape is a crime that should be reported to the police, whether or not members of the clergy were “mandatory reporters” under the law. That loophole became a noose for the 1,000-plus children abused by Boston priests.
Any other institution in this society -- government, business, nonprofit -- would rightly show these men the door. Enron was a catastrophe, but Ken Lay is now unemployed; Howell Raines no longer edits The New York Times. It’s called accountability.
At their June 2002 meeting in Dallas, and their subsequent Washington gathering in November of that year, the U.S. bishops took a number of positive and necessary steps. A national board to investigate the causes of the crisis was established, programs were put into place to protect children, and procedures were promulgated to remove known abusers from the priesthood.
But incomprehensibly the bishops, both individually and collectively, remain loath to take responsibility for their own managerial and pastoral malpractice. Instead, they maintain to the utter disbelief of Catholics throughout the nation, that blame lies solely with the “small percentage” of priests who abused children. And to the degree culpability goes up the chain of command, they tell us, bishops made mistakes of the heart, attending generously to the needs and hurts of their brother priests.
The attorney general’s report puts the lie to this weak defense: “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.”
To regain credibility, leaders of the church must accept responsibility for their actions. As the good sisters in grade school taught us: Actions have consequences. Or at least they should.
In the spirit of “fraternal correction,” their brother bishops should call upon McCormack, Daily, Banks, Murphy and Hughes to retire. And each bishop in the country should examine his own conscience to determine whether he is similarly culpable and, if so, should take appropriate steps.
Only by taking personal accountability for their egregious failures will the bishops, individually and collectively, begin to restore their lost credibility and become worthy pastoral leaders.
National Catholic Reporter, August 1, 2003