Bishop Rebuts Abuse Report
Cites Policy Change in Claims Last Spring

By Frank Eltman
Associated Press, carried in Boston Globe
February 15, 2003

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. -- A Roman Catholic bishop expressed sorrow about sex abuse by priests in his Long Island diocese yesterday, but said a scathing report documenting the scandal "is about the past, not about the present."

Speaking publicly for the first time since a grand jury report on abuse was issued Monday, Rockville Centre Bishop William F. Murphy said that he has already changed how his diocese handles molestation claims.

Murphy said all accusations of sex abuse involving the clergy are now to be reported directly to law enforcement. And, at his request, the executive director of the US bishops' Office for Child and Youth Protection will visit the diocese next week to review its procedures.

"It's a terrible tragedy because kids have been hurt; that's the reality. And they've been hurt by people who committed a crime wearing this," Murphy said, grabbing his clerical collar.

Murphy's comments came at the end of a week when the Suffolk County district attorney's office released a 180-page grand jury report that cited repeated failures of the diocese to properly handle child sex abuse cases involving dozens of priests.

Murphy, who moved to Rockville Centre from Boston in 2001, also testified Wednesday before a Massachusetts grand jury about his former role as a top aide to Cardinal Bernard F. Law, the former archbishop of Boston.

The Long Island grand jury said in its report that the diocese "time after time and despite overwhelming evidence that priests were committing crimes against children . . . would willingly sacrifice the truth for fear of scandal and for monetary considerations."

A five-year statute of limitations prevented the grand jury from issuing indictments, but it called for changes in state law regarding the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse, and for extensions of the statutes of limitations.

Murphy said he overhauled the diocese's procedures for dealing with molestation claims last April, a few months after the nationwide clerical sex abuse crisis erupted in Boston.

A three-person team that includes Donald Kane, former Nassau County police commissioner, now refers any accusation of priestly sex abuse to the proper law enforcement authorities, he said.

"I put together a team not to keep anything from the district attorney, but rather to make sure it went to the district attorney," Murphy said.

This story ran on page A20 of the Boston Globe on 2/15/2003.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.