The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


A report from Ground Zero — UPDATED

posted by jmcgee

An e-mail about this arrived in my in-box overnight, and it’s worth reading.

It’s regarding the notorious case of Fr. Murphy — written by the presiding judge in his case. 

A snip:
Since my name and comments in the matter of the Father Murphy case have been liberally and often inaccurately quoted in the New York Times and in more than 100 other newspapers and on-line periodicals, I feel a freedom to tell part of the story of Father Murphy’s trial from ground zero.

As I have found that the reporting on this issue has been inaccurate and poor in terms of the facts, I am also writing out of a sense of duty to the truth.

The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself.

My intent in the following paragraphs is to accomplish the following:

To tell the back-story of what actually happened in the Father Murphy case on the local level;

To outline the sloppy and inaccurate reporting on the Father Murphy case by the New York Times and other media outlets;

To assert that Pope Benedict XVI has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured;

To set the record straight with regards to the efforts made by the church to heal the wounds caused by clergy sexual misconduct. The Catholic Church is probably the safest place for children at this point in history.

Before proceeding, it is important to point out the scourge that child sexual abuse has been — not only for the church but for society as well. Few actions can distort a child’s life more than sexual abuse. It is a form of emotional and spiritual homicide and it starts a trajectory toward a skewed sense of sexuality. When committed by a person in authority, it creates a distrust of almost anyone, anywhere.

As a volunteer prison chaplain in Alaska, I have found a corollary between those who have been incarcerated for child sexual abuse and the priests who have committed such grievous actions. They tend to be very smart and manipulative. They tend to be well liked and charming. They tend to have one aim in life — to satisfy their hunger. Most are highly narcissistic and do not see the harm that they have caused. They view the children they have abused not as people but as objects. They rarely show remorse and moreover, sometimes portray themselves as the victims. They are, in short, dangerous people and should never be trusted again. Most will recommit their crimes if given a chance.

As for the numerous reports about the case of Father Murphy, the back-story has not been reported as of yet.

Continue at the link for the backstory.

Also, one detail he mentions is worth underscoring: the Catholic Church is, at this moment, arguably the safest and most stringently monitored institution when it comes to the care of children. Everyone who comes into contact with a child on a regular basis — teachers, volunteers, lay ministers, rectory secretaries, clergy, maintenance workers, sacristans — has to take a course on the protection of children. Many also have to undergo police background checks. (I had to be fingerprinted, and have my records searched, before I could be ordained.)    

Clergy today are scrutinized more than ever — I know a lot of priests and deacons who insist on having another person in the room if they have to talk with a child, often for their own protection.  This has been a significant shift, I think. All of us know someone who has been falsely accused, and no one wants to be in that position, ever.  Everybody now needs a witness to verify that nothing happened.  I’m reminded of something Billy Graham used to do: if he ever had to meet with a woman about a personal problem, he always kept the door to his office open.  
More and more, you’re finding the Catholic Church opening its doors — letting in air, and light.  
There is still much more to do.  But it’s a beginning. 

UPDATE: A reader alerts me to this comprehensive overview of the Murphy case, which fills in a lot of blanks. 

Do yourself a favor. Read it. You’ll get a much fuller picture.


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cathyf

posted March 30, 2010 at 11:53 am


the Catholic Church is, at this moment, arguably the safest and most stringently monitored institution when it comes to the care of children.
I would put up the following fact-set as a counter-argument:
Very few Catholic parishes have a priest who is abusing children, but virtually every parish and other Catholic institution has children who are being sexually abused. This is basic statistics — a parish has hundreds of times more parishoners than priests. I’ve been through one of the programs (VIRTUS), and I certainly can’t see anything wrong with it or any way to substantially improve it. But, like Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn’t bark, I have to say this — the programs that the church has put in to place do NOT systematically cause the abuse that we know is going on to come to light.
Or, to put it more concretely, if these programs worked, then every single diocese should have multiple cases every year of a certain type: the girl who tells her CCD teacher that her coach is groping her; the boy who tells the youth minister that his neighbor is molesting him; the 6th-grader who tells her religion teacher that her stepfather has been raping her for years, and that when she fell pregnant her mother took her to the abortion clinic and made her get an abortion…
These evils are happening around us all the time. If we really knew how to (as the program title promises) “protect God’s children” and we really were having a real substantive success in confronting and eliminating these evils, then that’s where we would expect to see it (because that’s where the numbers are.)



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Benny

posted March 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm


Pope Benedict may have done more than any other Pope to supress sexual abuse, but the bottom line is that the culture of secrecy and clericalism exist to the point where the Vatican is still spinning stories to protect priests, bishops and the Pope from any responsibility.
Responsibility has many layers. From the sick priest who violated the children to his brother priests that covered it up, to the bishop who swept it under the rug, to the Vatican who had decided from the begining not to inform the police and keep all problem priests under their control and manipulation. Where is the transparency, where is the openess. Where is the humility and compassion.
I hear many words being spoken and very little action. May our Lord help us this Easter Season begin to become the church we are intended to be. Not afraid of the truth.



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Your Name

posted March 30, 2010 at 1:02 pm


Benny took the words out of my mouth. On this blog and other blogs, I hear the argument that the Catholic Church tracks along with society or that it is not as bad as the schools, the synagogue, or home life when talking about child abuse. The “numbers are out there, not in the Church.” Is that what you want to hear from the Church? I expect our leaders – our priests, our deacons, our bishops – to be better than society. Transparency and Accountability.
The fabric of the hierarchical system must be transformed.



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Dana MacKenzie

posted March 30, 2010 at 3:21 pm


Actually, Cathy, do a little research. The programs DO work because there ARE reports that are made. You don’t read about them, because the press doesn’t talk much about what “works.” There is not much to sensationalize in a press story that reads, “a catholic (priest, teacher, volunteer, etc) was brought under investigation yesterday because the new system works.”



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DML

posted March 30, 2010 at 4:17 pm


I read Fr. Thomas Brundage’s remarks and am not impressed. I read the Murphy documents published in the New York Times and I found it to be a really nasty, sordid mess. If anything, Weakland went further than anyone else to bring some sort of justice to the situation (though he didn’t go far enough). Brundage didn’t appear to do anything helpful.
If Burndage didn’t compose the hand written notes, then perhaps he could tell us who did. At any rate, this is a red herring, the lack of a response from Ratzinger to Weakland’s repeated letters pretty much speaks for itself. I found it surprising that the routine statue of limitations for crimes committed in the confessional is only 30 days.
The CDF sent back one letter that instructs Church authorities to question the victims in a very hostile and belittling manner. Even though Brundage claims to be some sort of judge in this matter, it is clear that the only way Murphy could be punished would be by a directive from Ratzinger/CDF. So Brundage is a mere functionary with no decision making powers.
Brundage mentions that he is handling four other cases. I hope he immediately reports all that he knows to the police. The NY Times might have missed a detail, but the documents lay out the case quite clearly. Perhaps the Times will get their facts straight when they dig into Brundage’s other cases.
It is best to read the actual documents from the Murphy affair and judge for yourself. Read it and weep.



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hlvanburen

posted March 30, 2010 at 10:46 pm


“Also, one detail he mentions is worth underscoring: the Catholic Church is, at this moment, arguably the safest and most stringently monitored institution when it comes to the care of children. Everyone who comes into contact with a child on a regular basis — teachers, volunteers, lay ministers, rectory secretaries, clergy, maintenance workers, sacristans — has to take a course on the protection of children. Many also have to undergo police background checks. (I had to be fingerprinted, and have my records searched, before I could be ordained.)”
Here in Iowa many of these safeguards have been in place for schools for well over a decade. The school district I used to work for required the following of employees, both certified and classified, beginning in the early 1990s.
- Background check with police
- Fingerprinting
- Training on mandatory child abuse reporting, as well as training on spotting signs of an abused child
- Training on safeguarding yourself against possible abuse claims (no hugs to little kids, meeting students in open room where you can be seen, etc.)
“Clergy today are scrutinized more than ever — I know a lot of priests and deacons who insist on having another person in the room if they have to talk with a child, often for their own protection. This has been a significant shift, I think. All of us know someone who has been falsely accused, and no one wants to be in that position, ever. Everybody now needs a witness to verify that nothing happened. I’m reminded of something Billy Graham used to do: if he ever had to meet with a woman about a personal problem, he always kept the door to his office open.”
A very wise procedure. When I was a Scout leader back in the early 90s we had similar training, and rules in place which prohibited no one-on-ones with the youth. I saw two leaders removed from their positions for violating this rule, even though no accusation of abuse was made. We hated to lose them, but when it comes to protecting the kids you can’t cut corners.
I’m glad to see these rules are in place now. But what about those who helped cover up for past abusers? What is the church doing about them?



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Paul Hillebrand

posted March 31, 2010 at 8:27 am


A great article and I agree that much has been doen to prevent any further problems. One problem I see is the over emphasis of the background checks. Remember the various dioceses did not report the crimes to the police. Fr Murphy would have passed a background check for years after he started his abuse. In Cincinnati, the child protection amounts to watching a video. Two adults at every activity is a better deterent and is insisted on here.



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Numeaning

posted April 2, 2010 at 6:20 am


ABORTION AND CHILD PREDATORS?
THERE’S NO SCANDAL IN THE CATHOLIC HIERARCHY?



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