Bowen Gets Jail Time

By Gregg M. Miliote
Herald News
July 16, 2005

NEW BEDFORD — After hearing an astoundingly emotional impact statement from the victim, and later determining that Father Donald Bowen is still minimizing his behavior, Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson sentenced the Diocese of Fall River retired priest to two years behind bars and 10 years of probation Friday.

Bowen, 67, an Attleboro native, pleaded guilty to a two-count indictment charging him with indecent assault and battery of a person under 14 and unnatural and lascivious acts on a person under 16. The plea came three years after he was indicted and more than three decades after he systematically ruined the life of a young Bristol County girl by consistently forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

The victim, Catherine Murphy, 50, was in court Friday and tore through a lengthy impact statement that left many of her supportive friends and family members in tears. She gave reporters permission to use her name.

"The abuse has colored every aspect of my adult life. All the problems I have has an adult can be traced back to the abuse I endured as a child," Murphy said. "It was all about psychological and physical control. I was forced to perform oral sex on this monster, and it scared the hell out of me.

"I blamed myself, even though I now know I was brainwashed by this perverted man."

The former National Honor Society student at Bishop Feehan High School fought back tears as she pressed on through her obviously cathartic statement to the court, saying she prayed daily to be saved from her "nightmare."

"I felt that I was a tramp, a whore, a slut. I was very popular in high school, but was petrified of intimacy and cut off from all normal boy-girl relationships," Murphy said. "These demons inside me lay dormant for only so long.

"This man of the cloth robbed me of my childhood. I never experienced a first crush or a first kiss without thinking I was dirty."

She went on to detail her tragic life and her constant battle for survival.

Murphy said she was anorexic in college, watched her "loving" marriage fall apart as an adult, and still to this day feels the traumatic pain of being abused as a child.

Bowen first came into contact with Murphy sometime around 1965 while he was serving as a pastor at St. Mary's Church in Norton.

The victim, just 9 years old at the time, became friendly with Bowen through her family's relationship with him.

During Friday's hearing, Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea explained how Bowen spent "a significant amount of time" with Murphy's family, stopping by for dinner, traveling together or summering on Cape Cod.

But unbeknownst to Murphy's family, Bowen engaged in an illicit relationship with the girl until she was 16.

Although the abuses ended in 1972 after Bowen left to lead a Catholic mission in Bolivia, Murphy's "nightmare" continued.

She explained that Bowen continued to send her "desperate and angry letters" from South America, pledging his love for her.

Nickerson, who chose to go beyond Shea's request for just two years in prison, said he entered the plea hearing with "an open mind," but left it confident that his sentence was appropriate.

While asking Bowen a number of questions about the facts of the case, Nickerson said he began to realize that Bowen was continuously minimizing his past conduct.

As an example, Nickerson pointed to three separate instances during the hearing. When he asked Bowen if he forced Murphy to perform oral sex on him, Bowen initially contested that, and later said, "Rarely."

Then, when asked if he knew the charges against him, Bowen left the words "indecent" and "unnatural" out of his answers.

He also made a lengthy attempt to persuade the judge into believing he is not a danger to society.

Bowen, though, did offer up a brief apology to his victim, saying he has a "profound regret and deep sorrow for her and her family."

"This will be my sorrow for the rest of my life. I apologize to her and her family for violating their trust," a contrite Bowen said. "I fully acknowledge the wrongness f my behavior."

Nickerson, however, seemed unmoved by Bowen's apology.

"While Bowen stood in court and apologized, there were occasions where something else shown through. To this day, he still minimizes what he did," Nickerson asserted. "This minimization concerns me to the point that I want this man on probation until old age."

With that, Nickerson agreed to accept Bowen's guilty plea and sentenced him accordingly.

In addition to spending the next two years in the Bristol County House of Correction and the following decade on probation, Nickerson also placed several conditions on Bowen once he is released.

Bowen was ordered to stay away from the victim and attend sexual perpetrators counseling.

He is also forbidden from living in a house with children, an apartment complex that houses children, can have no unsupervised contact with children, is prohibited from taking a job or volunteer position that may put him in contact with children and must register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

Shortly after the hearing, Shea described the victim as being "pleased with the results in court."

"This was a 40-year process for her," Shea said. "But justice was done today. Mr. Bowen was led away in shackles and handcuffs and will now spend the next two years in jail."

Bowen also served at St. Patrick's Parish in Somerset and St. John the Evangelist Parish in Attleboro before leaving for Bolivia.


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