Feds End Church Sex Case
Boston Archdiocese Inquiry Completed without Charges against Murphy and Then-Cardinal Law

By Carol Eisenberg
Newsday [Boston MA]
November 22, 2005

A federal prosecutor has ended a probe of the protection of sexually abusive priests by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston without seeking indictments of former top officials, including William Murphy, now bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, and Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as Boston archbishop almost three years ago.

In lieu of criminal prosecutions, U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said he has reached an unprecedented agreement with the archdiocese, imposing intensive training and public disclosure requirements.

"In many ways I share the frustration that many have expressed about the conduct of decisionmakers of the Archdiocese of Boston," Sullivan said in an interview yesterday.

"But the bottom line is I think this settlement will have a much greater benefit going forward than a successful prosecution, with the consequences of maybe a fine for the organization, if we were successful."

The settlement ends a nearly two-year federal investigation that targeted Murphy's role on May 12, 1999, in certifying that a now-retired Boston priest had nothing in his background to disqualify him from a job as a federal military chaplain. At the time Murphy signed the document, the church had several memos warning about the Rev. William J. Scanlan's infatuation with boys, as well as other signs of instability.

One warning cited by the settlement quoted an unnamed priest that Scanlan had "fooled around with kids" while working at a home for adolescent boys. Another cited a psychiatric evaluation saying that Scanlan had a crush on a boy at the home. Both memos were kept in a locked cabinet separate from general personnel files, according to the settlement.

The settlement describes the case in detail without naming the bishop or the priest. However, documents identifying both men have been made public and are posted online at, a Boston-based group dedicated to gathering and disclosing documents related to priest sex abuse of children.

As Cardinal Bernard Law's top aide in Boston, Murphy signed the federal background check forms about Scanlan's fitness. He also told the Veterans Administration that Scanlan was never accused of sexual misconduct and "manifested no behavioral problems ... "

A spokesman for Murphy released a brief written statement yesterday, saying that it was "inappropriate for the bishop to comment on this agreement because it was an agreement between the U.S. attorney and the Archdiocese of Boston, and the bishop was not a party to the discussions or to the agreement."

The Boston archdiocese said that it has "consistently maintained that there was no basis for a criminal prosecution."

But several advocates of church reform reacted with disappointment to the settlement.

"At the very least, you would think that someone who falsifies information in a federal document to allow a credibly accused priest to get a government job should be moved from a position of authority," said Anne Doyle, co-director of

Dan Bartley, co-director of Long Island Voice of the Faithful, a group that advocates greater lay involvement, wondered "At what point does Rome become responsible for allowing someone with Bishop Murphy's background to remain in office?"

Sullivan said he understood the anger, but prosecuting a bishop would have been challenging, requiring evidence of intent to commit a crime - with a likely sentence of probation for a first-time offender.


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