Weymouth Church Welcomes Back Priest Cleared of Abuse Allegations for a Second Time

By Christian Schiavone
Patriot Ledger
October 1, 2010

Parishioners and priests at St. Francis Xavier Church say they’re happy to have the Rev. Charles Murphy back after he was cleared of sexual-abuse allegations for the second time in less than five years.

But it’s still unclear whether the 77-year-old priest will return full time to the congregation, which held prayer meetings to support him while the last allegations against him were being investigated.

Kelly Lynch, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley will meet with the Rev. Murphy to figure out what he will do next.

“In the very near term, the cardinal and Father Murphy will sit down to discuss the next steps and how he will continue to serve,” Lynch said.

O’Malley restored the Rev. Murphy’s senior-priest status on Tuesday after an advisory board that investigates allegations of abuse by priests found insufficient evidence to support a 53-year-old South Shore man’s allegation that the Rev. Murphy molested him four times in the early 1970s. Murphy was a priest at St. Agatha’s Church in Milton at the time.

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who represented the Rev. Murphy’s accuser, said his client is considering filing a civil suit against the priest.

“My client feels re-victimized,” Garabedian said.

He said the Ardiocesan Review Board was biased toward the church when it cleared the Rev. Murphy. The nine-member board, which includes a rabbi, a priest, a social worker and a judge, makes recommendations to Cardinal O’Malley. One seat on the board is currently vacant.

Garabedian said he has represented more than 750 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Boston archdiocese, including a Rockland woman who accused the Rev. Murphy of molesting her when she was a girl and he was working at the Boston School for the Deaf in Randolph.

Those allegations were part of a 2004 lawsuit filed by 18 former students who said the Rev. Murphy, another priest and 13 nuns physically and sexually abused them or turned a blind eye to their mistreatment between 1946 and 1977.

The suit was withdrawn in 2006, and the Rev. Murphy returned to St. Francis Xavier, where he was welcomed back by parishioners like Joseph Gioncardi of Weymouth.

“Everybody is smiling again in our parish,” Gioncardi said Thursday. “The people love him.”

Gioncardi said the Rev. Murphy was “crushed” by the latest allegations, which prevented him from celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination, a milestone for priests.

The Rev. Richard DeVeer, the parish’s parochial vicar, answered a knock on the church rectory door Thursday evening. His fellow clergymen were glad to have the Rev. Murphy back, the Rev. DeVeer said, declining to comment further.

“It’s just wonderful,” he said. “We’re just so happy he’s back now that the charges have been found unsubstantiated.”

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