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Boston Globe columnist says false accusation ruined a good priest

Catholic World News - June 15, 2011

The late Father Charles Murphy was gravely scarred by a false accusation of sexual abuse, writes Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory. Father Murphy was cleared of the charge after an investigation, but the experience left deep scars.

McGrory’s emotional column highlights the injustices that are suffered by priests who are falsely accused. Yet the lawyer who represented the man accusing Father Murphy still insists that the charge was accurate, and complains that the archdiocesan investigation was a whitewash.

How can anyone know with certainty whether a charge is true or false? In Philadelphia, a grand jury excoriated archdiocesan officials—and even indicted one—for clearing priests of abuse charges. If Father McGrory was innocent, might not those priests be innocent as well? But the grand jury in Philadelphia said that the archdiocesan investigation was too cursory.

Victims’ groups have routinely demanded the public identification of every priest accused of abuse. The McGrory column reminds us how devastating that policy could be for innocent priests who are falsely accused. Still, McGrory’s own newspaper has been sympathetic toward the victims’ demands for public listing.

There is a gross inconsistency when the call for public identification of every accused priest, whether or not there is convincing evidence of guilt, is coupled with a plea for sympathy on behalf of a priest who is wrongfully accused.

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  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jun. 15, 2011 7:20 PM ET USA

    As a deacon, I always conduct one-on-one interviews in a room with the door open or at least an unobscured window to the interview, with someone else close at hand. There is no way to protect yourself from unwarranted accusations otherwise--maybe even with such precautions.

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Jun. 15, 2011 6:53 PM ET USA

    Another good reason to pray daily for good and holy priests......

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