Friday, October 22, 2010

Church clears priest

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/09/30/church_clears_priest_of_abuse/

Church clears priest of abuse
Accuser was never heard, says his lawyer
By John M. Guilfoil, Globe Staff | September 30, 2010

A South Shore Catholic priest has been cleared of sexual misconduct by the Archdiocese of Boston for the second time, as the lawyer for the alleged victim decried the review process as biased and unfair.

The Rev. Charles J. Murphy was accused in April of fondling a teenage boy four times between 1970 and 1971, when he was at St. Agatha Parish in Milton.

The case was handled by attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented about 700 victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Yesterday, the Archdiocese of Boston’s Review Board found that the allegations against Murphy were unsubstantiated and could not be proved. The board is an interfaith advisory committee made up of a retired law enforcement agent, a judge, psychiatrists, social workers, past abuse victims, parents, a teacher, and clergy.

Garabedian angrily rejected the findings and questioned the review process. He said his client, a man who is now 53, was not asked to take part in the hearing. Instead, Garabedian said, a written statement was used.

“The process to determine whether the abuse occurred should not be left in the hands of the Archdiocese of Boston, which is biased in the matter,’’ Garabedian said in a phone interview yesterday. “Any fair process would have the victim testify before the hearing officers to make a determination. It makes sense to have the victim there, so the hearing officers can see his demeanor, hear his voice, and ask him questions.’’

Garabedian said his client was considering whether to file a civil lawsuit.

Cardinal Se├ín P. O’Malley accepted the board’s recommendation and met with Murphy Tuesday to inform him that he would be restored to the status of senior priest, the archdiocese said.

“I am pleased that this process has reached a conclusion and thank the archdiocesan investigators and review board members for their diligent efforts to evaluate and resolve this matter,’’ O’Malley said in a statement yesterday. “I look forward to discussing with Father Murphy how he can continue to serve God and the people of this archdiocese.’’

Murphy voluntarily stepped away from ministry after the allegations.

He was last assigned to St. Francis Xavier Parish in South Weymouth, where he ministered to the hearing-impaired community.

The Rev. Eugene P. Sullivan, pastor at St. Francis, did not return calls yesterday.

Murphy, who is now in his early 80s, will meet with O’Malley in the coming weeks to discuss his future, and the archdiocese said he will probably not return to St. Francis.

It was the second time an abuse case against Murphy has been dropped by the archdiocese.

Garabedian said in April that a second client had made similar allegations against Murphy in 2004, but that the hearing-impaired client faced a significant communications barrier in pressing his case.

“Father Murphy was the subject of previous allegations made in 2004 relating to conduct alleged to have occurred decades ago,’’ the archdiocese said in a statement yesterday. “After a complete investigation into the initial allegations and an evaluation of those claims by the Archdiocesan Review Board, the allegations were found to be unsubstantiated, and the related civil claims were dropped.’’

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