Boston Priest Moved to Arizona after Admitting Rape

Associated Press, carried in The Arizona Republic [Boston MA]
February 4, 2003

BOSTON - Documents released Tuesday show what alleged victims say has been a disturbing pattern in the yearlong clergy scandal: Priests accused of sexual abuse have been allowed to move to other states, where they continued to have access to children.

The personnel files of five priests released Tuesday are among 24 new files handed over last week by the Boston archdiocese to attorneys for the alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley. The new files were originally thought to contain allegations of clergy sexual misconduct with adults only, but attorneys for the alleged victims found they also contained allegations about the sexual abuse of children.

Records dating back decades on the Rev. Francis A. Murphy indicate the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, was aware of an extraordinarily graphic catalogue of allegations gathered against Murphy by police in Anchorage.

Murphy, who had worked as a missionary in Alaska, underwent alcohol treatment and returned to the Boston area, apparently in 1986, where he was eventually allowed to work in hospital ministry at Holy Family in Methuen in 1988.

Another allegation surfaced in 1994, and in 1995, Cardinal Bernard Law insisted that he no longer be allowed to perform ministerial duties, despite apparent reluctance from an archdiocese board.

In 1985, Anchorage police sent a report to their counterparts in Belmont, Mass., that accused Murphy of collecting massive amounts of pornography and abusing transient boys. The files indicate that Anchorage Archbishop Francis T. Hurley was aware of the allegations, and communicated regularly with Boston church officials during Murphy's treatment. Law eventually requested and received Hurley's consent to reinstate Murphy to one-year hospital ministry assignments, which were renewed several times.

It is not clear when Boston officials first read the 1985 police report, though they acknowleged in 1996, after another complaint against Murphy, that the report was in their files.

Strangely, in 1989, Hurley contacted Boston officials to notify them that an Anchorage police officer, who worked on sexual abuse investigations, was being tried for improper police conduct. Hurley reported the officer "subscribed to pornographic material under the pseudonym of Frank Murphy."

In 1990, Hurley wrote to Murphy that the case against the officer was "terminated" and "some young men who you had taken and helped were poised to try to implicate you in their problems with the police."

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said he did not know Murphy's whereabouts.

Attorney Jeffrey Newman, who represents more than 200 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse, said Boston archdiocese officials should have considered the allegations in Anchorage when deciding whether to assign Murphy.

"I find this to be an indication that the Boston archdiocese at that time was not making rational judgments on how to deal with admitted child molesters," Newman said.

In another case, the Rev. John Picardi Jr. admitted to Boston church officials that he had raped a 29-year-old man, but he was allowed to resume parish work in New Jersey, where he was later accused of putting his hand on the buttocks of a 5th grade girl, according to the documents. He is now serving as a priest at a parish in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Picardi did not immediately return a call left Tuesday at the church rectory. Neither the Diocese of Phoenix nor its attorney immediately returned calls seeking comment Tuesday.

In another case, Deacon Mark Doherty was accused of molesting two brothers during a 1977 camping trip. Years later, a woman told church officials Doherty molested her when she was a child. Two brothers from another family said Doherty had also molested them.

Church officials, including Law, refused Doherty's request to be ordained as a priest, citing the abuse allegations. Law wrote letters to former Bishop William Curlin of Charlotte, N.C., informing him of the allegations against Doherty and saying he would not recommend him for ordination.

Doherty was never ordained as a priest in North Carolina, but he was allowed to work as a religion teacher at Charlotte Catholic High School.

Kevin Murray, a spokesman for the Charlotte diocese, said Doherty was placed on administrative leave Tuesday.

Diocesan administrator Mauricio West agreed Tuesday to bring Doherty's case to the diocese's lay review board, a request made by Doherty "in hopes of again clearing his name," said Murray.

The first allegation was made against Doherty in 1992, while he was a seminarian and shortly before he was to be ordained. Two brothers from Canton contacted church officials in Boston and told them Doherty had molested them on a camping trip to Conway, N.H., in 1977. The brothers said Doherty fondled them after offering to apply mosquito repellant on them.

Doherty denied the allegations.

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