Did Catholic Watchdog Miss Child Porn? Priest to Plead Guilty in Federal Case
By Patricia Montemurri
July 24, 2013
There was supposed to be someone from the Archdiocese of Detroit watching Timothy Murray of Novi, a Catholic priest banned from working in the Catholic Church because of sexual misconduct.
But the archdiocese did not know what Murray was doing inside his home. And last year, federal agents investigated him for possession and distribution of child pornography.
Today in federal court, Murray is scheduled to plead guilty to child pornography charges, which could put him in prison 20-30 years. According to court documents, he was in possession of sexually explicit videos of boys ages 6-16 and had downloaded roughly 500 images of child pornography from the Internet.
Murray told investigators that he viewed porn weekly and preferred 13-year-old males, court documents reported.
Murray’s case illustrates the conundrum facing the Catholic Church: What do you do with priests accused of long-ago sexual abuse? Because technically, the former pastor of St. Edith parish in Livonia is still a Catholic priest.
“It’s near-impossible to control what a grown adult does on the computer or in a computer, unless they’re in a detention facility,” said archdiocesan spokesman Joe Kohn. “We don’t have that level of control.”
Federal court documents say Murray was removed from public ministry in 2004 because, decades earlier, he touched a 13-year-old boy’s genitalia. Murray was never charged or convicted of a crime because of the statute of limitations — too much time had passed since the alleged abuse and the reporting of the allegation.
The 63-year-old priest was required to file monthly reports about his activities with the Archdiocese of Detroit and make periodic visits to a onetime state parole officer employed as an archdiocesan monitor of priests accused of sexual abuse of minors.
But the archdiocese did not know that Murray was under investigation for child pornography until after federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security searched his home in December, Kohn said.
There are 11 Detroit archdiocese priests, including Murray, who have been credibly accused of past sexual misconduct. They avoided prosecution but are banned by the Catholic Church from working as priests, Kohn said. The eleven priests — who can’t dress, identify or work as Catholic priests — are all supposed to report to the archdiocese monitor.
Murray receives a pension from the archdiocese, Kohn said, but the archdiocese is not paying his legal fees. Murray’s attorney did not return a call or e-mail seeking comment.
Kohn said Murray “was more closely monitored” after the federal porn probe was revealed.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, through spokeswoman Sister Mary Ann Walsh, refused last week to discuss procedures or guidelines for monitoring priests removed from ministry because of long-ago sexual misconduct.
In 2010, an official with the group told the Free Press that there were no standardized guidelines for monitoring priests restricted from ministry, but that the organization was surveying dioceses to assess monitoring.
Contact Patricia Montemurri: 313-223-4538 or email@example.com