The Deacon's Bench

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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