A Response to the Catholic League's Defense of Bishop Murphy.

The Catholic League is circulating a petition in support of Bishop Murphy. In urging the faithful to sign it, the League denounces the Voice of the Faithful as irresponsible for seeking the Bishop's resignation and contends that a columnist lied about the extent of the Report's references to the Bishop.

The petition asserts that "less than two pages of the Report mention Bishop Murphy". This is a gross inaccuracy. In fact he is mentioned by name on pages 4, 38, 39, 48, 64; in context, as the "Vicar of Administration" on pages 2, 3, 7, 8, 10, 31, 40 and 41, as in the group of "senior managers" or "Archdiocese senior managers" on another 10 occasions (see, e.g., pp. 8, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 30, , 32, 47 and 54). Moreover, scores of pages describe the failures of staff under his supervision or the misconduct of priests known to him to be molesters. Indeed Bishop Murphy served as second in command for eight years of Cardinal Law's reign. He was an important integral figure in the diocesan failures described in the Report. The Catholic League's attempt to minimize his involvement is baseless.

Equally egregious is the claim that there is "no evidence of wrongdoing". The evidence is overwhelming; it is based on 30,000 pages of documents from the Archdiocese files, numerous interviews, and the sworn testimony of thirty-one witnesses including Cardinal Law, Bishop Murphy and many others intimately involved in the scandal (Appendix 1-1).

The same may be said for the Catholic League's praise for two aspects of the Bishop's service in Boston. One proclaims that he personally did not shuffle molesting priests between parishes; the other applauds his defrocking of the serial molester John Geoghan.

Artfully evaded in the first point is the question of what the Report said he did do.

Reliance on something Bishop Murphy did not do is in itself a condemnation of his moral leadership. According to the League:"The report does not charge that Bishop Murphy ever moved a molesting priest to another parish. That's because he never did."

Notwithstanding a report that decries multiple incidents of malfeasance by our Bishop, including the conscious failure to protect the children, we are asked to support him because of a crime he allegedly did NOT commit. If that's the League's criterion for the Shepherd of our flock, the sheep are in deep trouble. The Shepherd did not personally harm the sheep. He simply left the gate open for the wolf.

Moreover, while the Report neither confirms nor denies that Bishop Murphy himself moved a molesting priest to another parish, it does recount several movements of such priests to other parishes or to sites where they had access to children, all while Bishop Murphy was in a leadership role (See the Findings regarding Father Joseph Welsh (p. 61), Father Paul Shanley (p. 66,67) and Father Paul Mahan (p. 70). Moreover, Bishop Murphy himself was responsible in placing an accused molester, Father Melvin Surrette in charge of the assignment of fellow priests accused of abuse.(p. 38,39) The wolf is now the shepherd.

In addressing the role of Bishop Murphy in dealing with molesting priests, let's see what else the Report says: "Bishop Murphy did not report to law enforcement any of the numerous allegations of clergy sexual abuse he reviewed nor did he ever advise the Cardinal to do so". (p. 39)

According to the Attorney General, this failure by Bishop Murphy and his colleagues had tragic consequences: "The abuse of hundreds of children might have been prevented if the Archdiocese had adopted and followed a policy over the years of promptly disclosing allegations of child sexual abuse to public authorities"(p 22).

In the words of the Report: "And, even with undeniable information available to him on the risk of recidivism, Bishop Murphy continued to place a higher priority on preventing scandal and providing support to alleged abusers than on protecting children from sexual abuse." .(p 39)

If the Catholic League was interested in informing its membership, why did it remain silent about these findings? Instead it chose to deceive with another misleading assertion. The Catholic League Petition asserts; "As a matter of fact, when Bishop Murphy was in Boston, it was he who forced the infamous John Geoghan out of the priesthood."

But when did he force him out? We cannot find support for this contention in the Report. We do find however evidence of how the "infamous John Geoghan" was treated by Bishop Murphy before he was defrocked.

Here is what happened while Bishop Murphy's served as second in command to Cardinal Law and also served as the overseer of those (Delegate's office) directly charged with dealing with Geoghan.

"In early January 1995, the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office began an investigation of separate allegations that Father Geoghan had recently engaged in sexual misconduct with three children. As was the case in its earlier dealings with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, the Archdiocese was aware of multiple allegations against Father Geoghan and that he had been diagnosed as a pedophile. Father Geoghan had been reassigned several times because of such allegations and, at the time of the Middlesex investigation, Geoghan was serving as Assistant Director of the Office of Senior Priests. Top officials at the Archdiocese who were aware of the District Attorney's investigation made no effort to contact prosecutors and share the information they had regarding Father Geoghan's lengthy history of sexual abuse of children or diagnosis as a pedophile." "In February 2002, Geoghan was sentenced to nine to ten years in state prison for molesting a ten-year-old boy." (p.56)

Defrocking Geoghan long after he had abused untold numbers of children, enabled in part by a failure to advise authorities makes virtue out of necessity and is hardly the mark of due diligence. Rather it is convincing evidence that in the portfolio of Bishop Murphy's values, personal friendship trumps stewardship. Protecting predatory clergy takes priority over protecting the helpless minor. Institutional reputation overrides justice. It also reveals a tragic insensitivity to the sufferings of those abused. It is these failing that make a compelling case for the Bishop's resignation.

Forgiveness is not the issue. Our faith commands all of us sinners to forgive one another. It's the lack of moral authority that compels the call for resignation. We are in desperate need of moral and spiritual guidance.

The Catholic League has done a disservice to its members by misrepresenting the Report's findings involving Bishop Murphy.

If it is truly committed to discouraging anti-catholicism, it will support the resignation of our Bishop whose involvement in the scandals has surely generated enough Catholic bashing to keep the League busy for a long time.

Tom Dowling