FOUR CASE STUDIES
Church documents filed in a Massachusetts court provide a glimpse into Bishop William F. Murphy's role in handling allegations of sexual abuse by priests. Here are some of the cases.
The Rev. James Power had been accused in 1992 of sexually molesting a 13 year old boy at night, inside the priest's van, on a camping trip in Maine in the 1980s, church records show. He denied the accusation. The archdiocese paid the accuser a $35,000 settlement in June 1996 in exchange for his agreement to keep silent. An undated, unsigned document in Power's file said: 100% positive other kids. Power was removed February 7, 2002, by Cardinal Bernard Law soon after a Massachusetts judge ordered church documents released to the public. When it seemed Power would be left on his own as the only priest in a suburban Massachusetts parish, an aide to Bishop Murphy asked his superior in a June 16, 1997, memo whether it was wise to leave the priest unsupervised. Power would have to assume a full-time pastor's duties at the Wellesley, Massachusetts parish, which had an active youth ministry and other programs for children. Father Power had been investigated by this office for sexual misconduct, the aide wrote to Murphy. The question arises: Is the lack of immediate supervision a cause for concern? Personally, I don't think so. What do you think? In a handwritten notation, Murphy wrote: Let him serve.
Church records show that after the Rev. Dennis Keefe was accused in 1995 of a sexual attack on a 15 year old altar boy, the then Msgr. Murphy (he was elevated to bishop later that year) tried for several years to convince Keefe to return to active ministry. The priest maintained his innocence and refused for three years to follow routine church policy by going for psychological assessment. In a 1998 memo, Murphy then advised Boston's archbishop to tell Keefe that we are trying to resolve this issue by looking more deeply into the allegation itself to determine if perhaps there were elements that could lead us to rethink our current position vis-avis its credibility. Church records also show that after Keefe was removed for the alleged sexual assault, Murphy misled a parishioner about what happened, saying in a letter to the concerned churchgoer, Father Keefe is taking some time off for personal and health reasons. Murphy continued trying to bring Keefe back as an active priest, describing his efforts in a 1997 memo to Law: I told him that you and I were most eager to try to resolve this and that I believed we could resolve the issue so that he could return to active service. Keefe's powers to serve as priest were suspended in 1999 for refusing to go for counseling.
Church records show that in an April 3, 1977, meeting with the Rev. Jay Mullin, who was accused of sexually molesting a high school age boy, Murphy took a hard line, saying he had no chance of returning to active ministry. Murphy told Mullin had two choices: Leave the priesthood or spend the rest of his life in the Boston archdiocese's supervised home for pedophile priests, far away from children. Mullin had denied the accusation of sexual abuse, admitting only that he had wrestled with the teenager and pinched him. However, by December of the same year, the archdiocese had paid Mullin's accuser $60,000, including $10,000 of the priest's own money, in a legal settlement. A month after the settlement, Murphy was sent a memo saying Mullin was being sent back to work as an active priest in Wayland, Massachusetts. On March 1, 1998, Mullin was back at work as a parish priest. And in a May 12, 2000, memo advised Murphy that Mullins was being transferred to another parish, again as an active priest. Church files contain no record to show whether Murphy or other administrators gave notice to parishioners that Mullin had been accused of molesting a child. Standard practice was not to inform parishioners.
JOHN K. CONNELL
The Rev. John K. Connell, a freshman religion teacher and chaplain, was removed from his job at St. John's Preparatory School near Boston on April 12, 1995, after accusations he had molested several boys in the 1970s at a vacation home in Cape Cod. Church records show that the archdiocese found the allegations credible but two years later, Murphy was playing a role in the church's attempts to return the priest to active ministry. A May 1997 Boston memo from the Rev. Paul Miceli, the archdiocese secretary for ministerial support said, At my most recent meeting with Bishop Murphy, he expressed a desire that we bring to resolution some kind of job description for Jack Connell and that he received a letter of appointment to this position from the Cardinal. I apprised Bishop Murphy of our conversation with Jack. The archdiocese's reasoning was that Connell could safely remain in the priesthood because, though he likely did sexually molest at least one boy int he 1970s, he did so because he had been an alcoholic. According to church officials, Connell had been sober for 12 years. Initially, Connell admitted to an investigator that he'd shared a bed with an accuser on Cape Cod, but he recanted several days later after hiring a lawyer. At first the archdiocese had hoped to return Connell to the all-boy high school, but after it learned in 1997 of further allegations against him, they started looking for another job for him. The archdiocese paid a $45,000 settlement in June 1998 to one of his alleged victims. Connell had once before been accused of sexual abuse in 1983. He was removed May 23, 1983, as associate pastor of a Newton, Massachusetts parish, and was sent away for treatment. But he was back working as an active priest but October 1, 1984, as a chaplain and teacher at St. John Preparatory's campus north of Boston. He remained a prist on active duty as a consultant to the Priest Recovery Program, until November 30, 2001, when at age 61, he was given retirement status.