Ex-Priest Sued over Sex Abuse
Religious order also is named

By Julia Lieblich
Chicago Tribune
February 15, 2003

Two men sued a former Augustinian priest and his religious order Friday, charging the order failed to remove the priest and notify civil authorities after the men said he had sexually abused them as boys in a Southwest Side parish.

The suit raises new questions about the responsibility of orders to inform state's attorneys of suspected perpetrators and to inform future employers about allegations against former priests.

John D. Murphy, 60, who left the priesthood in 1993, had been working as a guest services supervisor at Shedd Aquarium and as a docent who led tours there that included children. He resigned Feb. 6.

The aquarium said it hired Murphy in 1994 based on a "positive written record" from the order's personnel director and that it did not learn of the allegations until Feb. 5, according to Shedd spokesman Roger German. In a news conference Friday, the first victim, identified in the suit as John Doe74A, said that in the 1980s--and in the early 1990s--he told the order that Murphy had sexually abused him in the 1970s when he was 10.

The order said Friday that it had received abuse allegations against Murphy in 1981.

"Following independent professional advice that Murphy was fit to minister without restrictions, he was assigned to St. Rita's," a parish in Racine, Wis., the order said in a statement.

More allegations, the order states, surfaced in 1993, and Murphy chose to resign.

None of the three allegations concerned abuse that occurred after the 1970s, said Rev. Jerome Knies, vicar provincial for the order's Midwest province. For that reason, Knies said, evaluators were right to conclude "he was fit to minister."

John Doe74B said Friday he was abused by Murphy in 1980 while he was a 10-year-old altar boy at Chicago's St. Rita of Cascia. Knies said he had not heard that allegation.

Knies said his order did not report the allegations to state's attorneys at the victims' request. Jeff Anderson, the plaintiffs' attorney, said that an unwilling victim does not absolve orders of the responsibility to report allegations.

The suit also names the St. Rita parish in Chicago and the Chicago archdiocese.


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