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Outrageous?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 22, 2003

The background: Sally Beres claims she lost her job as parish secretary 20 years ago after she reported her pastor's use of kiddie porn to the then Bishop of Erie, Michael Murphy. The same pastor was arrested in 1999 for -- don't be shocked -- possession of kiddie porn. Sally Beres (and two friends who were in on the initial whistle-blowing) recently accused Bishop Murphy (now 87 and retired) of a cover-up. Last week the current bishop, Donald Trautman, issued a statement criticizing the women. This from the pertinent news article:

Trautman in his April 21 statement said the women's account of their conversation with Murphy lacked "corroborating evidence." "The entire treatment of this supposed conversation is one-sided and prejudiced, even though it has been totally denied," Trautman said. "The impression created by this one-sided prejudicial treatment says the Diocese of Erie in the person of Bishop Michael J. Murphy fired a woman who was a whistle-blower. There is no evidence to support such an outrageous claim."

But what exactly is the claim that Trautman damns as outrageous? Is it outrageous to assert that a Catholic bishop -- qua Catholic bishop -- would act unjustly? Is it outrageous to assert that the Diocese of Erie would act unjustly? Is it outrageous to assert that Bishop Murphy in particular would act unjustly? Lacking knowledge of the persons involved it's impossible to judge whether these women are wrong in fact or whether they are ill-disposed toward the Church, but even if their claim were false it's hard to see what canon of decency it outrages.

Let's be clear. Trautman is not to be faulted for defending his predecessor's reputation, provided he knows beyond doubt that Murphy is innocent. What is mind-boggling, after fifteen consecutive months of revelations of self-serving episcopal lies in matters concerning sexual mischief by priests, is the suggestion that a bishop's word of honor is worth more than a layman's.

We'll do our best to follow this story. Suppose -- just suppose -- that Sally Beres and her friends are able to provide materials that refresh Bishop Murphy's memory (let's call it, "the institutional memory") of the meeting. In that case, will we read an apology from Bishop Trautman calling his own statement an outrageous violation of justice? Stay tuned.

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