Rockville Centre Bishop to Be Deposed in Firing Lawsuit

By Ann Givens
January 27, 2009,0,1738526.story

Bishop William Murphy will be asked today to answer questions about his role in an incident in which a church business manager was fired after accusing a priest of looking at child pornography on the parish computer, a Garden City attorney said.

Bruce Barket, who represents Connell Friel, the former business manager at St. Louis de Montfort Roman Catholic Church in Sound Beach, said he will depose Bishop Murphy today and Thursday at a Williston Park law office.

Friel has sued the priest, Charles Papa, and the Diocese of Rockville Centre, charging that they slandered him and fired him for being a whistle-blower.

Barket says he will ask Murphy not only about his role in Friel's dismissal but also about his handling of sexual abuse cases in Boston, where Murphy was second in command for eight years during much of the priest abuse scandal.

In a statement, Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the Diocese at Rockville Centre, said the diocese "does not comment on matters of ongoing litigation."

While Murphy has apologized in general for abuse within the church, his supporters have maintained he personally did nothing wrong.

Papa's personal attorney, Charles Russo of Hauppauge, said he is not handling the case and that Papa would be represented by attorneys for the diocese.

In court papers, Papa has denied the lawsuit's allegations.

The tension between Friel and Papa started long before Friel claims he found child pornography on Papa's computer.

The two fell on different sides of a controversial issue: Whether to welcome into the parish Voice of the Faithful, a group that has been outspoken about abuse of children by priests and the church's response. Papa supported the group and Friel did not, church members have said.

Then in December 2002, a church secretary reported finding a shortcut to a pornographic Web site on her computer.

When Friel checked Papa's own computer, he found hundreds of "cookies," or electronic calling cards, left by pornographic sites - many of them featuring photos of young boys, according to court papers.

Friel then notified Murphy and law enforcement officials, according to court papers.

People close to Papa later told Newsday the priest had visited adult female pornographic Web sites, but had not intentionally viewed child pornography.

Then-Suffolk Police Commissioner John Gallagher, who was a member of Papa's parish, said the cookies could have been left by unwanted pop-up ads while Papa was visiting other pornographic sites.

Papa was never charged criminally.

Papa took a leave of absence from the church in early 2003. Soon after he returned several months later, he fired Friel, court papers show.


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