Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Anchorage priest accused of sexual abuse

ANCHORAGE, Alaska --A man who claims he was molested in his teens by a longtime Roman Catholic priest here filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the now retired clergyman and church leaders in Anchorage and Boston.

The plaintiff, identified only as Joseph Doe, is seeking at least $100,000 for pain and suffering, with the exact award to be determined at trial.

The lawsuit names the Rev. Francis Murphy, who was ordained in Boston before he was assigned in Anchorage in 1966. Other defendants are the archbishops of Anchorage and Boston and the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle, Boston-based diocesan priests that the plaintiff asserts brokered Murphy's transfer to Alaska even though the group normally assigns priests to South American countries.

The plaintiff no longer lives in Anchorage and doesn't want to disclose his current whereabouts, said Ken Roosa, an Anchorage attorney who has represented others alleging past abuse by Alaska-based priests. The man, who is now his late 30s, began to face his emotional injuries stemming from the abuse only in the past two years, according to the 18-page lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Anchorage.

"He's angry and he's upset and he's disappointed in his church," Roosa said.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Murphy for comment Tuesday were not immediately successful.

The Archdiocese of Anchorage has said that at least five other people have previously accused Murphy of abuse.

In response to the latest allegations, church officials said that since the plaintiff is not identified, they have no information other than what is contained in the lawsuit.

"We deeply regret any abuse anyone has suffered from a Catholic priest," said Sister Charlotte Davenport, chancellor of the Anchorage archdiocese. "We continue to encourage anyone who has been abused to come forward so we can assist them in their healing."

Officials with the Archdiocese of Boston declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

"It is my understanding our legal counsel has not seen the filing," spokesman Terry Donilon said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The Rev. Robert Thomas, director of the Society of St. James, said Murphy is not on the organization's alumni list.

"He was never a member of the society," Thomas said. "We had nothing to do with Anchorage and the diocese of Anchorage."

Plaintiff attorneys said the defendants should have known about Murphy's proclivity for abuse. Instead, they said, Murphy was allowed to thrive, holding high positions in the Anchorage archdiocese, including serving as pastor of several local parishes.

"Generally, when someone becomes a serial perpetrator, there are signs from a very early stage, there are red flags," said Ryan DiMaria, a Costa Mesa, Calif., a co-counsel who drafted the lawsuit.

The alleged abuse took place in the early 1980s, when the plaintiff was about 15 and continued for a few years, DiMaria said. The teen was from a Protestant family and met Murphy when he began volunteering at a church thrift shop then a local parish. He developed "great admiration, trust, reverence, and respect for, and obedience to, Roman Catholic priests in general, and Monsignor Francis Murphy in particular," court documents state.

Murphy, who is now in his 70s, left Alaska in 1985 for alcohol treatment and resumed ministerial duties under the Boston Archdiocese. After another sexual abuse allegation surfaced, he retired in 1995 and moved to Cuba, N.M., working as a priest until previous allegations came to light.

He later worked a counselor for high school dropouts in a nonchurch job in Cuba, but resigned in 2003 when school officials learned of the accusations.

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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