Former Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct

By Ross Farrow
Amherst Times [Lodi CA]
April 25, 2006

A former priest at St. Anne's Catholic Church in Lodi has been accused of sexual misconduct concerning a St. Anne's School student in the mid-1990s, according to the Stockton Diocese.

Diocese Bishop Stephen Blaire said in a prepared statement that Father Murty Fahy, who died in 2001, allegedly abused a child. Blaire's statement was read at the end of each Mass on Sunday and e-mailed shortly before noon on Sunday to the News-Sentinel and other newspapers as far south as Turlock.

Fahy was an associate pastor at St. Anne's from 1985 until his death. He taught at St. Mary's High School in Stockton the previous 15 years.

Fahy is the second former priest at St. Anne's to be accused of sexual misconduct. Oliver O'Grady, an associate pastor at St. Anne's from 1971 to 1978, served seven years at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione after pleading guilty in 1993 to four counts of sexual abuse with children under the age of 14 in Calaveras County. O'Grady was paroled in late 2000 and deported to his native Ireland a short time later.

Blaire didn't indicate the child's gender or age in the Fahy allegation, but an official from the support group, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, also known as SNAP, says the victim was a girl.

"My reaction was shock. I knew (Fahy) personally," said Janice Roth, a long-time parishioner at St. Anne's. "He seemed like a straight-up guy to me. I can't envision anything he would do that was against the law, bad or disrespectful. I heard no scuttlebutt about it before."

Nancy Sloan, spokeswoman for SNAP's Sacramento region, said Sunday she isn't surprised about the allegations against Fahy.

"I've known about it for a couple of months," Sloan said. "We argue there is no 'alleged' about it. The staff of St. Anne's is just as responsible as the deceased priest."

Diocese officials reported the allegation to law enforcement. Lodi police Lt. Chet Somera said Sunday he is not aware that the allegation has been reported to Lodi authorities. A Stockton police spokeswoman said Sunday that she is not aware that any incident regarding Fahy has been reported to that agency.

Parishioners and a deacon at St. Anne's expressed shock about the most recent allegation against a St. Anne's priest.

"I know that Father Fahy was a very loved priest by the parishioners here," St. Anne's Deacon Don Bo said Sunday afternoon. "He was just a totally committed person. He was a down-to-earth type of guy.

"He spoke in plain English," Bo said. "You didn't have to try to interpret what he was saying. He was all meat and potatoes."

Parishioner Susan Bishofberger said, "I feel sad cause you don't know whether it's true or not. It's very sad if it is true, and it's very sad if it isn't."

Roth wondered why the alleged victim waited until Fahy died before stepping forward. Now Fahy can't defend himself, she said.

In keeping with the Stockton Diocese's Charter for the Protection of Children, the allegation against Fahy is being investigated by the diocese in cooperation with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, according to Blaire's statement.

The Oblates is a Catholic order like the Jesuits and Franciscans, Bo said. The Oblates is an order of teachers, some of whom are at St. Mary's High School, Bo said.

Anyone who has any information about the allegation against Fahy may contact Sister Barbara Thiella, the diocesan victim assistant coordinator, at 466-0636. Any victim of sexual abuse by clergy, or anyone who knows a victim, may contract Thiella, Blaire said in his statement.

However, Sloan advises that clergy abuse victims should avoid talking directly to diocese leaders. Instead, they should contact SNAP or the county district attorney's office, Sloan said. The Sacramento chapter of SNAP can be reached at (707) 631-7654.


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