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
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
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.