Prayers Part of Abuse Suit Deal

By Manya A. Brachear
Chicago Tribune
December 8, 2004

To settle claims by 13 individuals allegedly molested by a former Augustinian priest, the religious order's Midwest province has agreed to offer prayers for survivors at its seven parishes and host a special healing mass in Chicago, attorneys said Tuesday.

The order also agreed to consider survivors' nominations for a new national review board that will hear allegations against religious order priests.

"We're so very sorry that anything like this ever happened in the first place, and we sure don't want it to happen again," said Rev. Jerome Knies, vicar provincial for the order's Midwest province. "We believe we can be part of the healing process."

The measures, coming in addition to an undisclosed monetary settlement, drew praise from the attorneys for the plaintiffs, who said the terms of the settlement were "real breakthroughs" in terms of what a religious order or diocese was willing to do to help victims heal.

"It's a first in our experience," said plaintiff's attorney Marc Pearlman. "Money is one aspect of it. But real healing cannot happen without these non-economics taking place."

The settlement stems from two lawsuits filed last year by four men against the religious order and John D. Murphy, 62, who left the priesthood in 1993. Since the suits were filed, nine more individuals have come forward with claims.

The abuse allegations date from the early 1970s to the early 1980s when Murphy worked as a vocation director for the order and later as a pastor at Chicago's St. Rita of Cascia Parish. He was removed from ministry and sent to a treatment facility in 1981.

Although he returned to ministry shortly after treatment, he resigned when more allegations surfaced in 1993. In 2003, he resigned from the Shedd Aquarium, where he had worked as a guest services supervisor and docent who led tours that included children.

The aquarium hired Murphy in 1994 based on a "positive written record" from the order that made no mention of the allegations. Victims' attorneys also accused the order of neglecting its obligation to notify state's attorneys.

In addition to issuing private and public apologies to survivors' families and congregations, the order agreed to dedicate a monument or plaque at St. Rita of Cascia Parish in honor of survivors.

It also agreed to refund part of the tuition for survivors abused at grammar schools where Murphy worked.

The leader of the worldwide order agreed to meet privately with plaintiffs.

While praising the terms of the settlement, plaintiffs expressed uneasiness that Murphy, who has never been criminally convicted, is not being held accountable for his acts.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.