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Everything OK? Just checking. Everything still OK?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 30, 2009

The "Murphy Commission" report on the handling of sex-abuse complaints in the Dublin archdiocese was particularly rough on one former auxiliary: Bishop Donal Murray, who now heads the Limerick diocese. The commission saw his handling of one priest, Father Tom Naughton-- now a convicted molester-- as "inexcusable." In a Limerick Today radio interview, Bishop Murray defended his record.

When he first heard a complaint against Naughton, the bishop recalled, it was only a complaint that he was too chummy with his altar boys. The parishioners who brought that complaint, the bishop continued, "weren't suggesting anything wrong was going on." (Well then what were they suggesting? Why were they lodging a complaint with the auxiliary bishop?)

Despite that reassurance, Bishop Murray didn't let the matter drop. He asked the pastor about Naughton's behavior, and was reassured again. So he asked the pastor to question other parishioners and provide a fuller report. The pastor did so, and (as Bishop Murray reports) gave an extremely positive report on the young priest. So then Bishop Murray called Naughton in, to remind him that " you have to be very careful about anything you are doing that is causing parents to be concerned."

What's wrong with this picture? At every stage, the bishop reports that his inquiries produced reassuring results. Then why did he keep inquiring?

Soon thereafter, Father Naughton was transferred out of the parish. But no disciplinary action was forthcoming. Bishop Murray explains: "Nothing happened to him because we hadn’t an allegation." Right. Nobody ever said that anything was wrong. Yet the bishop kept asking.

Bishop Murray has learned well from his American brothers. Asked to explain why so many people think the Irish hierarchy engaged in a conspiracy of silence, he replies that "it's worth saying that the report also says that communication at that level was poor, in other words the individual auxiliary bishops did not know." Ah, yes: faulty record-keeping; poor internal communication. Sound familiar? There's more: "I would say that I hope we are all on a learning curve."

Some things we learn; some things we know already.

"No. I certainly never was involved in a cover-up."

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