Collateral Damage

A column in the Boston Globe reported the news that Fr. Charles Murphy recently passed away. Last October, BCI shared with our readers in this post that the archdiocese had cleared Fr Murphy from an accusation of sexual abuse and restored him to senior priest status.

Though we did not know Fr. Murphy, we expressed in that October 2010 post that we hoped the archdiocese could do whatever possible for him and other priests who had faced unsubstantiated charges to restore their reputation. Unfortunately, Fr. Murphy was “crushed” emotionally by the latest allegations, and never recovered from the blow.

The Globe column by Brian McGrory tells a sad story about Fr. Murphy’s situation.

Collateral Damage

The first time the Rev. Charles Murphy was cleared of accusations that he improperly touched a minor, a girl 25 years earlier, everyone who ever met him said they had never doubted his innocence.

It was 2006 and priests were all over the news for every awful reason, most of them deservedly so. But Father Murphy swore his innocence, the archdiocese ruled the allegations lacked substance, and the woman dropped her suit on the eve of trial.

When Murphy triumphantly returned to the pulpit of his sun-splashed church in South Weymouth, the applause could be heard across the South Shore. Father Charlie, as he was known, was back — back cracking cornball jokes from the altar, back as a fanatical hockey fan, back as the mad plow driver clearing the parking lot at the hint of snow. He was also back ministering in prisons and helping the deaf, a man of the cloth to his core.

“He was just the same guy as before the accusation, a bubbly guy, fun, a little bit of a jokester, but a diligent priest,’’ said Joe Corcoran, the developer who befriended Murphy decades earlier at St. Agatha in Milton.

Amid so much joy, it would have been impossible to imagine the turn that Murphy’s life would eventually take.

That turn came in April 2010, when lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who had lodged the first unfounded complaint, brought another. This one involved a man, not a woman. It went back 40 years rather than 25. It centered on accusations of fondling at the old Paragon Park in Hull and on a ski trip up north.

When the charges hit, Murphy canceled a long-planned party celebrating his 50th anniversary as a priest. He cleaned out his room in the church rectory and went to live with his brother. Two accusations in four years, he knew, did not look good.

But it didn’t matter to the prominent friends and everyday parishioners who refused to give up their faith. They hired a lawyer, who in turn brought in a private investigator, who discovered that the alleged victim was mired in financial problems, had a long list of liens placed against him, and faced massive credibility issues even within his own family.

It took nearly six months — about five months longer than it should have — before an archdiocesan review board cleared Murphy of the allegations in September and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley restored him as a senior priest. But this time, there was no triumphant return to the pulpit. In fact, when Murphy reappeared at St. Francis Xavier in South Weymouth to say Mass, he couldn’t summon the strength to deliver a sermon.

“He would say to me, ‘I just can’t preach. I just don’t have it in me,’ ’’ said Jack Pender, his longtime confidant. “It was so frustrating for him.’’

His spirit was evaporating. His antidepression medicine kept him up at night. He moved to Regina Cleri, a North End residence for retired priests, where he continued his tortured descent.

Garabedian is a talented lawyer who has done vital work on behalf of hundreds of victims of abusive priests, but in terms of Murphy, what he did is a disgrace. Garabedian told me this week his Milton client was “credible.’’ He wasn’t. He lashed out at what he described as a “kangaroo court,’’ the respected, independent archdiocesan panel that cleared Murphy. He didn’t utter the only words worth hearing: I made a mistake.

They brought Murphy to a hospice in Haverhill a couple of weeks ago after doctors determined there was nothing left to be done. There was no cancer, no apparent physical disease, just a broken 77-year-old heart that refused to mend.

And that’s where he died Saturday evening, a wisp of the man he once was. Garabedian lost his compass on this case, and thousands of people all over Massachusetts lost a truly wonderful priest.

BCI is saddened to read this story.  In the archdiocese, the team of Mark Dunderdale (Office of Professional Standards and Oversight, and former prosecutor in the office of the Plymouth County district attorney), Fr. Thomas Foley, Fr. John Connelly, and outgoing Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson handle allegations of sexual abuse against clergy. Everyone no doubt agrees that victims’ claims must be taken seriously and we need to protect children from sexual abuse, but at the same time, priests also have canonical rights that also need to be protected. There is a balance. Damage to a priest’s reputation and physical or emotional health from a false accusation can be irreparable as this column describes.

Our sense is that the new Vicar General brings strong skills to the archdiocese in this area, and we hope and pray that he can help strike the right balance.

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21 Responses to Collateral Damage

  1. Former Employee says:

    You should post as a follow up the obit of Fr. Paul Bolduc, another victim of the “investigators” and our “humble” Friar.

  2. GBullough says:

    For a more nuanced perspective on the original editorial look here: http://nationalsurvivoradvocatescoalition.wordpress.com/editorials/

    • Catholic Gal says:

      I wouldn’t call it a more nuanced perspective, but a more biased one, as in “the priest is always guilty, no matter what.” Whatever happened to considering a person innocent until PROVEN guilty?

  3. teddy ballgame says:

    Garabedian is the reason lawyers have a bad name. If it weren’t for pedifile priests he’d be chasing ambulances. Ever hear him interviewed? He makes Mayor Menino sound like a Harvard English professor.

    Having said that McCrory is a self centered shoot from the hip dope who never lets facts get in the way.

    I know Fr. Murphy. He’s a great guy who played hockey until he was 75. He once told me he may take a guy out in the corner with an elbow, but to hurt a child——-never. I believe him.

  4. Karen says:

    I pray that Fr. Murphy is now enjoying the eternal reward of Heaven along with the other martyred saints!

  5. [...] Collateral Damage: Accusing Innocent Priests – Boston Catholic Insider [...]

  6. Downhill says:

    There are so many Fr. Murphys that are still out there, still in Limbo. Fr. John E. McLaughlin, former Pastor of St. Benedict in Somerville is going into his SIXTH year of Ecclesastical exile. The two men that had made accusations against him in 2004 had their cases thrown out of Civil court years ago. They have since admitted lying and common sense would say this was a closed case. It was an incident that essentially destroyed a holy and orthodox priest’s good name in the name of “cashing in” by a couple of losers he thought were parishioners in need of help.

    I must ask, why does the Archdiocese continue to move at a snails pace (if it does at all) to close this sad chapter and reinstate him? What could possibly take so long? This lack of compassion for good priests like Fr. John simply astounds me.

  7. Fr Bill says:

    Innocent or Guilty have we Forgotten Reconciliation ?

    What about St. Augustine’s early life ? He caused his mother’s tears + abandonned his common law wife + child !

    What about Francis’ youthful daliances ? Lust driving hi to throwing himself naked into the thorns of rose bushes.

    How aboyt Margaret of Catona ?

    I could go on ….

    What about this ferverino about Maria Goretti’s Muderer + rapist ….

    Serenelli was captured shortly after Maria’s death. Originally, he was going to be sentenced to life, but since he was a minor at that time the sentence was commuted to 30 years in prison. He remained unrepentant and uncommunicative from the world for three years, until a local bishop, Monsignor Giovanni Blandini, visited him in jail. Serenelli wrote a thank you note to the Bishop asking for his prayers and telling him about a dream, “in which Maria Goretti gave him lilies, which burned immediately in his hands.”[10]

    After his release, Alessandro Serenelli visited Maria’s still-living mother, Assunta, and begged her forgiveness. She forgave him, saying that if Maria had forgiven him on her deathbed then she couldn’t do less, and they attended Mass together the next day, receiving Holy Communion side by side.[11] Alessandro reportedly prayed every day to Maria Goretti and referred to her as “my little saint.”[12] He attended her canonization in 1950.

    Serenelli later became a laybrother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, living in a monastery and working as its receptionist and gardener until dying peacefully in 1970.

    YES SEAN, SERENELLI WAS A BROTHER CAPUCHIN !

    The Church of this day has abandonned Spiritual rehabilitation … WE TOSS THE SINNER ON THE GARBAGE HEAP AND SET THE FIRE !!!

    Surely Jesus dfoes not approve of this approach … what did he say to the woman caught in adultry ? Regarding this story … I have always wondered how the man got away … perhaps it was the High Priest, a member of the Sanhedrin {like the Curia[ or maybe the “mayor” of the town ???
    Maybe it wasn’t even a man at all ! it might have been someone’s wife {there is nothing new under the sun) …

    THE REALLY IMPORTANT LESSON OF THIS STORY … JESUS HEALED HER THROUGH FORGIVENESS WHICH RESTORED HER TO COMMUNITY not ostracize her from community ….

    Oh how very sad ,,, the Church has now cancelled one of the Sacraments!!!!

    Here in ‘ O’Malley Church’ there are six Sacraments.

    HOW VERY SAD …

    Happy Trinity Sunday … WE USED TO HAVE A CHURCH PARISH UNDER THAT TITLE THAT TOO WAS WIPED OUT …

    WHAT A GLORIOUS REIGN … We have wiped out lay staff who worked for low wages because they loved the Church, We have summarily dismissed priests at the slightest whisper of accusation, perpetually sending them to the habitat for lepers … We have minimalized the care for the retired + disabled …. Oh the lists go on … Dismiss, diminish, Disparage, obfuscate, and delegate for the sake personal distance and to be able to deny and shift the blame.

    COME HOLY SPIRIT OPEN OUR HEARTS + RESTORE THE PIETY AND ZEAL SO SADLY LACKING IN OUR LOCAL CHURCH!.

    Lift up our Bishop + revive his spirit and energize his exhaustion from being used as the Sex Abuse Fixer … this sad man has bleed with the Church of Fall River, the Church of Palm Beach , the Church of Boston and the entire Island of Ireland.
    O’Lord have mercy on the exhaustion of Sean Patrick… restore his energy for his unique mission in your Church!

  8. "Just Wondering" says:

    Fr. Bill: Thank you. You have the words. You are blessed. I pray that all will read and heed your statements. You have expressed beautifully what I have tried to state for a long time. Thank you, brother. Thank you. I’m “Just Wondering” when others will get on board with this. “Your sins are forgiven. Go in Peace.” Beautiful words we have forgotten. As I said, I’m “JUST WONDERING” when Braintree will get on board!!!!!

  9. "Just Wondering" says:

    Fr. Bill and otthers, a line from today’s “Morning Prayer” Psalm 118 teaches us:\ “In your mercy, Lord, hear my voice;
    in your justice, give me life.
    My persecutors come to do me harm:
    they are far from your law.”

    Thanks again, Fr. Bill, I’m still “JUST WONDERING’”

  10. I've had it... says:

    Shame on you O’Malley, Dunderdale, Connolly, Foley, Erikson…Charlie Murphy’s broken heart will be healed in eternity. Will your hardened hearts at least TRY to do right. Msgr. Deeley can’t get here soon enough.

  11. Carolyn says:

    Somehow it seems that passion for righting the wrongs done to children, while giving credence to their claims, and the desire for justice for those wrongly accused might not be mutually exclusive. If we keep in mind that wrongful accusations are the extreme exception, and that wrongful accusation is in itself a terrible wrong, then we should not hold back compassion for priests and others who are verifiably wrongly accused.

    Those who work for RCAB who are charged with the protection of children have worked hard to hear and care for victims, and to prevent any future abuse. These people, by their very passion for rooting out perpetrators and stopping them, are ill-suited to care for accused priests and lay staff who have been exonerated. Is there someone in an official capacity who can offer solace to the wrongly accused? Is their someone whose charge includes caring what happens to them?

    • Michael says:

      Now I’m “just wondering.” Why put a prosecutor, with no prior experience in church legal matters, on the legal staff? I’m also wondering if this servant of the Church is making triple what he made as a servant of the public? Does anyone know what his salary is? What his salary once was is a matter of public record. I would bet $100 that he is making more money now … way more… than he made in the DA’s office. If that is true, it makes no sense.

      Public servants should make less money than their colleagues engaged in private civil practice AND servants of the Church should theoretically make less than their public servant peers. But, unless you are a solid Catholic with a real love for the Church, it would make no sense to move from the public servant’s job into a lesser paying job, when you have a family to take care of.

      So why would Attorney Dunderdale move to the Archdiocese’s legal staff? Is he a devout Catholic willing to sacrifice even more than he already has sacrificed as a public servant? Or is he someone who couldn’t hack the hack job of working as a state employee 9-5 and needed an even bigger hack job of working at the Archdiocese?

      Why is Dunderdale here? What is his role? What is his expertise? Child abuse prosecution? How does that make him capable of representing the interests of his client – the Archdiocese of Boston? Seems like he would be predisposed to not believe accused priests? Don’t all prosecutors think that one charged with a crime is guilty — they just have to prove it? Doesn’t his prior experience as a prosecutor make Dunderdale a bit too biased?

      What I am asking is … what motivates Attorney Dunderdale? His love for the Church? Or his love for his salary? I think it is a very important question to answer.

      • rf5580 says:

        Very well said. The ecclesiastical hackarama on Brooks Drive in Braintree resembles the government hackarama which has been in place in Massachusetts and other places for decades. It will be difficult to dismantle. Hopefully Msgr. Deeley will be up to the task.

  12. "Just Wondering" says:

    “I”ve Had it …. says: do you really believe Msgr. Deeley can change things???
    Not until the list of names in your first sentence are gone can the healing begin. And “HEAL” we all have to. I’m “JUST WONDERING’ when????

  13. GBullough says:

    Unless of course what troubled Fr. Murphy was in fact that the “jig” was finally up, and that his transgressions had come to light. Ever consider that possibility?

    “Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” assumes that the victims HAVE NOT BEEN SYSTEMATICALLY DENIED ACCESS TO A COURT OF LAW BY THOSE VASTLY MORE POWERFUL THAN THEMSELVES!

    Garabadian is an attorney. The law of THIS land (to which the “innocent until proven guilty” bleat owes its origins) is that everyone has a right to representation, to someone who believes them. That’s his job. As Murphy’s lawyer’s job was to believe Murphy, even if Murphy was as guilty as sin.

    “Unsubstantuated” isn’t the same as “it didn’t happen.” It’s that it can’t be proved, as is the case with most sexual assaults, particularly those which date back decades because the perpetrator contrived to prevent reporting, using their position of power to do so.

    All the “what a good man” anecdotes are worthless; abusers usually are, outwardly, “good men.” It works for them. Gets them access, and provides them cover.

    Ultimately, the Diocese was responsible to provide Murphy with adequate counseling and support to keep his “heart from breaking.” One suspects that just maybe it was a losing battle… that the two accusers were too much for him to countenance.

    Ultimately, it was Bernard Law and his ilk that created the atmosphere in whcih trust in the priesthood was destroyed, where guilt was the presumption, versus innocence. Where was Senior Priest Murphy when that was happening? Did he object?

    In any case, his supporters can be comforted that if they’re right, he’s got his place next to the Savior. Which, in the scheme of things, is what really matters, right folks?

  14. Fr Bill says:

    I think it is similar to the Poland scene prior to President Walesa ,,, priests who sympathized with Solidarity were reported to the communist officials by Some bishops.

    Rread the horror story of FatherJerzy ….

    LINK TO HIS STORY:
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,926935,00.html

    Some Bishops were turning in their own priests to communist comrades …
    Government officials were colaborating with Church curial officials … In Corp. RCAB How many “MASTERS” is Mr. Dunderdale serving?

    A horrible question, I fear to ask is … Did Pope John Paul II know this?

  15. Fr Bill says:

    Please pray a a brother who is facing the Tribunal tomorrow @ Brooks Drive …
    May the Holy Spirit BOLDLY make His presence known to all presnt in this modern day Inquisiyion …..
    Veni Creator Spiritus, mentes tuormum visita …. ! { that’s for you, Brother. J. O’Malley ]

    • Lazarus' Table says:

      A priest before the self-righteous Sanhedrin is indeed a cause for concern. Realising that the Holy Spirit OFFERS his graces and doesn’t IMPOSE them, the best you can hope for is that this priest will have support and comfort after he is brutalized in Braintree. From what I am told, the punishment, er that is, the treatment of choice for “wayward” priests who see the truth too clearly is to send them to Philadelphia for “treatment”.

    • "Just Wondering" says:

      He has my prayers at Mass today. Will you let us know how he made out. We have to pray for all Priests every day, as I do.
      “Just Wondering!”

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