Kudos to Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory for composing a truly moving and remarkable tribute to a falsely accused priest, Fr. Charles Murphy, who served several years at St. Francis Xavier Parish in South Weymouth (MA).
A wonderful priest by all accounts, Fr. Murphy was the object of not just one – but two – totally bogus abuse accusations. McGrory effectively illustrates the excruciating anguish and torment that false accusations can wreck upon a Catholic priest.
Fr. Murphy died last Saturday (June 11) at age 77, but he did not suffer from any tangible malady. McGrory explains:
They brought Murphy to a hospice  a couple of weeks ago after doctors determined there was nothing left to be done. There was no cancer, no apparent physical disease, just a broken 77-year-old heart that refused to mend.
In other words, it was the overwhelming agony of the false accusations that deteriorated Fr. Murphy. The two fraudulent claims obliterated the spirit of the beloved pastor, who joyfully lived for ministering to prisoners and assisting the deaf.
Although Fr. Murphy appeared to fully bounce back after the first accusation, it was the second removal that emotionally devastated him. As the second charge surfaced, McGrory writes, Fr. Murphy had to cancel a long-planned party to celebrate his 50th anniversary as a priest. The emotional desolation led the once-happy pastor to antidepression medication.
The villains in all of this are not just the criminal individuals who lodged the phony charges. There is high-profile victim attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has lined his pockets with millions of dollars from suing the Catholic Church, mostly in the Boston area. It was Garabedian who widely trumpeted the fraudulent charges against Fr. Murphy.
Although he waits to near the end of the article to take aim at Garabedian, McGrory doesn't pull any punches.
Garabedian is a talented lawyer who has done vital work on behalf of hundreds of victims of abusive priests, but in terms of Murphy, what he did is a disgrace. Garabedian told me this week his Milton client was 'credible.' He wasn't. He lashed out at what he described as a 'kangaroo court,' the respected, independent archdiocesan panel that cleared Murphy. He didn't utter the only words worth hearing: I made a mistake.
Closing his article, McGrory writes:
[Fr. Murphy] died Saturday evening, a wisp of the man he once was. Garabedian lost his compass on this case, and thousands of people all over Massachusetts lost a truly wonderful priest.
A few quick closing thoughts:
1. A lot can be said about the title of McGrory's article, "Collateral damage." Think about it. That title is a discussion in itself.
2. For over a decade, the Globe has given Garabedian a wide-open forum to uncritically slam the Church and air wild claims, rarely with a syllable of challenge. The Globe has been instrumental in building Garabedian's clout, public profile, and bank account. The fact that the Globe finally denounced Garabedian is truly remarkable.
3. Profiles such as McGrory's have been almost non-existent in the major media, yet we know that hundreds of similar stories could be written. The issue of false accusations against Catholic priests is still woefully underreported. (We have reported this several times before. For example: From January 2011.)
4. If you think Fr. Murphy was just an anomaly on Garabedian's caseload, think again. There are more falsely accused priests connected to the notorious attorney. For starters, there is Fr. Roger N. Jacques. In 2002, a ridiculous accusation was lodged against the Boston-area cleric. The case had all the hallmarks of fraud: "repressed memory," hypnosis therapy, a changing story about the nature of the abuse, and the later addition of an allegation against another priest. Yet it took the innocent Fr. Jacques over four years to be fully exonerated. And, yes, the accuser was a client of Garabedian.
Let's hope that other journalists look to Brian McGrory's excellent article and realize that there is another side to the entire Catholic clergy abuse narrative that needs to be told.
[**ADDENDUM**: Read about Mitchell Garabedian becoming totally unhinged and "screaming at the top of his lungs" at Dr. William Donohue, President of The Catholic League!]