Conduct of Priest Investigated | Charlottesville Pastor on Leave As Diocese Studies Complaint about His Behavior with Teens

By Alberta Lindsey
Richmond Times Dispatch
April 9, 2004

A Charlottesville priest has been placed on administrative leave while the Catholic Diocese of Richmond investigates what it says are complaints of questionable behavior with teenagers.

A statement released late yesterday by the diocese did not say whether the behavior being questioned involved sexual misconduct by the Rev. Dennis Murphy, pastor of Holy Comforter Catholic Church. The statement also did not say if the teens were male or female.

The diocese was told that civil authorities have been notified and are likely to make inquiries, the statement said.

Murphy replaced the Rev. Julian Goodman in September 2002 after Goodman was dismissed from priestly ministry because of sexual abuse of a minor in the 1970s. That abuse did not occur at Holy Comforter.

Cardinal William Keeler, apostolic administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, placed Murphy on leave after an examination of preliminary information. While on administrative leave, the priest cannot perform Mass or any other priestly duties.

Murphy will undergo an "extensive evaluation," and the diocesan review board will investigate and assess the situation, according to the statement.

The Rev. Pat Apuzzo, diocesan spokesman, said in a statement: "The diocese is acting here out of an abundance of caution. We are responding to a combination of information which warrants our concern and attention to safeguard everyone involved."

Neither Apuzzo nor Murphy could be reached for comment last night.

About 100 people attending Mass last night at Holy Comforter were read a statement from Keeler.

The statement assured parishioners that a temporary administrator for the church would be named soon and that Murphy was receiving care in a safe environment. Keeler urged church members to find strength in their faith.

"It's unbelievable," said Mildred Dudley, a church member since 1940. "He's been such a wonderful priest. It's very sad if this is true."

When he was named pastor of Holy Comforter, Murphy said: "I will do my job and try to be a good pastor."

A priest for about 30 years, Murphy moved to Providence, R.I., nine years ago to care for his mother, after about 14 years serving Virginia churches and campus ministries and four years as a chaplain at Yale University.

When Murphy was named pastor of Holy Comforter, he was on loan to the Military Archdiocese, which staffs U.S. military bases and veterans hospitals.

He previously served as a pastor in Dinwiddie County, Lynchburg, Colonial Heights and Ashland. He also served in campus ministries at Hollins University, Roanoke College and Randolph-Macon College and as a resident fellow of Pierson College at Yale./


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