Sex Abuse Victims Challenge Catholic Bishop

January 9, 2009

“Stop The Secrecy About Clergy Sex Crimes,” They Urge

Group Blasts Wyoming Diocese For “Staying Silent” When “Proven Predator” Violated Probation

“Kids Are Being Endangered,” SNAP Says, And “Church Officials Have A Duty To Warn Parents”

A national support group for clergy sex abuse victims is blasting Wyoming’s Catholic bishop for staying silent about one of his priests who molested a child and was recently jailed for violating his probation.

In 2006, Fr. John Murray pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a girl in 1976 and 1977 at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Casper. Three months ago, Murray spent a week behind bars because his probation agent saw him with kids. According to his plea deal, Murray is required to get the approval of his probation agent and sex offender therapist before being around youngsters.

That news became public this week then the Star Tribune newspaper reported it, which upsets leaders of a Chicago based self help group called SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests).

“As Murray’s employer, it’s the bishop’s duty to tell Catholics and citizens that this proven predator is around kids, even though he’s not supposed to be,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s national director.

In 2002, when the church’s child sex abuse and cover up scandal exploded onto the national scene, America’s bishops adopted a national policy which purportedly mandated “openness and transparency” in such cases. Clohessy says that pledge is rarely kept.

“Bishops keep saying they’ll be open with child sex cases but acting as secretively as ever,”

SNAP believes Murray probably violated his parole conditions other times but wasn’t detected.

"What are the odds that the first and only time a child molester breaks the rules, he happens to get caught?" said Clohessy. "That defies common sense."

Murray's probation could be revoked, according to news accounts.

SNAP wants him to be “harshly punished,” according to Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP’s president.

“It’s sometimes possible to deter criminals from wrongdoing, but only if wrong-doing has real consequences,” Blaine stressed.

The organization, which was founded in 1989 and has 8,000 members, plans to write Wyoming diocesan officials and challenge them to “use their considerable resources – websites, church bulletins, pulpit announcements – to warn families about this dangerous priest and urge them to keep their kids away from him,” Clohessy said.

Murray, who lives in Cheyenne, is represented by attorney Mike Krampner.

SNAP has been critical of Wyoming church officials over now retired Wyoming Bishop Joseph Hart, who faces several allegations that he molested a boy while a bishop in Wyoming and five boys when he was a priest in Missouri. All six of those civil lawsuits are now settled.

Hart is now retired but still lives in Wyoming. He has denied the allegations. Hart has been represented by attorney Lawrence Ward of Kansas City and by Wyoming attorney Jack Speight. His victims have been represented by Rebecca Randles and Sarah Brown of Kansas City (816 931 9901) and Patrick Noaker of St. Paul MN (651 227 9990, 612 961 1307 cell).


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