Falsely accused priest "died of a broken heart"

This is the sort of story that rarely gets told.

I  posted on this priest’s case over at Beliefnet some months back.  But now columnist Brian McGrory tells more in today’s Boston Globe:

The first time the Rev. Charles Murphy was cleared of accusations that he improperly touched a minor, a girl 25 years earlier, everyone who ever met him said they had never doubted his innocence.

It was 2006 and priests were all over the news for every awful reason, most of them deservedly so. But Father Murphy swore his innocence, the archdiocese ruled the allegations lacked substance, and the woman dropped her suit on the eve of trial.

When Murphy triumphantly returned to the pulpit of his sun-splashed church in South Weymouth, the applause could be heard across the South Shore. Father Charlie, as he was known, was back — back cracking cornball jokes from the altar, back as a fanatical hockey fan, back as the mad plow driver clearing the parking lot at the hint of snow. He was also back ministering in prisons and helping the deaf, a man of the cloth to his core.

“He was just the same guy as before the accusation, a bubbly guy, fun, a little bit of a jokester, but a diligent priest,’’ said Joe Corcoran, the developer who befriended Murphy decades earlier at St. Agatha in Milton.

Amid so much joy, it would have been impossible to imagine the turn that Murphy’s life would eventually take.

Read the rest. And remember this man and those who loved him in your prayers.

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37 responses to “Falsely accused priest "died of a broken heart"”

  1. what an awful shame. there are more innocent priests out there too. it truly is collateral damage because some of these priests have been hung out to dry and haven’t been given opportunities to demonstrate their innocence.

  2. What a tragedy!

    Can you believe? A few minutes ago I read an Internet headline:

    “‘He Will Die of a Broken Heart”

    “Hef’s pal told us he’s trying to cope, but the abruptly canceled wedding to the ‘love of his life’ has left him in pieces.”

  3. Garabedian and his clients should go to jail. Whatever the penalty is for the crimes they falsely accused Fr Murphy of, they should go to prison for that long. And the lawyer should also be dis-barred. It’s not only a problem with Priests. This business of bringing false charges of rape and child abuse, against men is getting out of hand. Look at those young men at Duke, what they had to go through. And there was no repurcussions to the woman who made up that story.

  4. It strikes me that rapacious lawyers are at least as much a threat to the public good as pedophile priests–and vastly more numerous. Unfortunately, when the public today hears the words “Catholic priest” in conjunction with the word “victim,” they assume the priest has been the one doing the victimizing.

  5. One of the comments on the original article is worth repeating:

    Tangible3 wrote:

    Put aside the emotional appeal of this column and what do you have in the way of facts? Friends of the priest hire private investigators to dig up dirt on the accuser, and find only that he has had financial problems. The Church panel finds insufficient evidence, which is very different from innocence.

    We have a criminal and civil justice system to resolve such matters. There’s no reason to trust a panel that’s beholden to the Church, given its record of covering up abuse. The fact that many parishioners loved and admired the priest is irrelevant: that was true of many priests whose abusive behavior was beyond doubt.

  6. I don’t buy it.

    Had Father spent a lot less time “cracking cornball jokes from the altar” and spending his time as “a fanatical hockey fan,” which God (I think) and we as parishioners are sick and tired of, and devoted himself to a deep prayer life, he might not have either put himself in the situation that gave rose to these accusations, or would not have lost hope if he had been falsely accused. We’re sick of circus Masses and the latest sports news and the har de har har sermons. Be a priest! Be Holy! The saints didn’t fall into despair when they were calumniated, and calumniated, they were. St. John of the Cross was beaten, hated, calumniated and imprisoned by his own brothers in religion. He did not despair. He turned to God all the more. How many priests, Bishops etc are in Chinese gulags right now on false charges? Not easy, but turn to God. Be who you are. Be what you are supposed to be! Be a saint.

  7. I have to agree at least in part with Adele. It is unseemly to give too much sympathy to this level of despair, since it is a loss of hope and charity.

    Is anyone sure this is what was wrong, rather than an illness? I hope his death is not being usurped and misrepresented by those not in the know for political reasons.

  8. We should be careful to remember that some are unjustly accused of very shameful things, and to not minimize the suffering this must cause to their spirit. Urging others who are suffering terribly to high standards of heroism and cheerful stoicism reflects badly on those who do the urging, especially if they are comfortable in body and spirit. Sacrificing anothers happiness to the greater good is easy, when you cannot imagine that you would ever be the one sacrificed.

  9. Adeke #7 — Actually, that comment misstates the facts as reported by the column. The comment says the investigators found “only that [the accuser] has had financial problems.” Actually they also found that his family said he has credibility problems.

    Adele #8 — I think that we have to realize that different people will react differently to different situations. And to have actual persecutors whom one can heroically withstand may be easier for some people to bear than to be in a nebulous situation like Father Murphy’s.

    We also have to realize that priests have differing personalities and appreciate the gifts each one brings to their ministries. There is nothing inherently contrary to being a priest and being holy in making jokes and being a fan of sports teams (at least if they are Boston teams). And where did “clown Masses” come from? Nothing in the article mentions clown Masses. So don’t project them onto him.

  10. It seems based on the things mentioned in the article, that he “died of a broken heart”. However, I wonder if an autopsy was or will be done? Perhaps a medical reason would be found. Sounds like he did will himself to die, which is, IMO, killing ones self slowly. Is that considered a “sin” like sucide is?

    Perhaps he has found peace. We can hope so.

  11. I think “losing the will to live” is not the moral equivalent of taking direct action to end one’s life and would not be considered sinful.

  12. My comment sounded harsher than I meant it to. I don’t wish to minimize the suffering he must have endured or imply that he wasn’t worthy of sympathy, which on second reading my post seems to do.

    But in truth there are 2 sides to every story and it should not be an offense to point that out. No one can say it’s all the fault of the accuser and the lawyer because no one can force another into despair and giving in to despair is wrong.

  13. At the high school I recently retired from there was a male teacher who was accused of sexual abuse of one of the male students. Everyone in the school, both teachers and students,knew the accuser was a chronic liar and tale fabricator.
    The DA brought the case, there was no actual evidence brought forward. And the jury took about 5 minutes to declare him “not guilty.”
    The local newspaper interviewed the DA and asked why he had brought such an empty case. He said that he AGREED there was no case there, but he didn’t want to be accused of hushing anything up.
    In the meanwhile the teacher had to pay so much to his defense lawyers that he lost his house. He also lost his job because he was not on tenure and the school board didn’t want to deal with any backlash they might run into for re-hiring him.
    The teacher considered countersuing for bring- ing false charges, but you can’t sue a DA and the student’s family was on welfare using a publicly financed lawyer so there was no sense in suing in that direction.
    Our legal system once operated under the premise that it was better that 10 guilty people got away with a crime than for even one innocent person to be falsely punished.
    But today, where is the punishment for false charges being brought whether in criminal cases or in lawsuits???

  14. Note–because I am a deacon people say to me that I am only very concerned about false accusations because of sympathy for fellow clergy (priests).
    However, my concern came long before the priest situation arose. It is because I personally witnessed the crucifixion of an innocent man by a false accusation and his financial, professional, and personal destruction by a pack of lies and our legal system being complicit in it. I also saw the false accuser waltz away.

  15. Dcn. John Bresnahan:

    As sad and unfair as these situation are, I at least take comfort in knowing that what may appear to be a “waltz away” now will for sure be justified by God, in His time.

    Also, despite it possibly being thousands of years away, someday we will all stand together in final judgement, and with a totally, ‘Just Judge”, when all truths will be known.

  16. Deacon John,

    Surely there is such a thing as ethics charges if the DA (and judge) knowingly let a case proceed to court that had no evidence?

  17. “Sounds like he did will himself to die, which is, IMO, killing ones self slowly. Is that considered a “sin” like sucide is?”

    Sadness or depression is not a sin. Depression and stress can lead to high blood pressure and elevated homocysteine levels that damage arteries, and cause blood clots. Priests are human. I think 2 false accusations is more than anyone can bear. Let’s not hurl another false accusation at the man. Let him rest in peace. That would be the CHRISTIAN thing to do.

  18. Naturgesetz (#11) — For once I agree whole-heartedly with what you wrote. What happened to Fr. Murphy, from all evidence reported, was a genuine shame.

    As for Ray’s comment above (#5) about disbarring and jailing lawyers whose clients are less than fully credible: That would just about ensure that no one — even people who have actually been abused — would dare file a lawsuit, since an accuser’s credibility can always be called into question by SOMEONE. That’s no form of justice, either.

    Sexual abuse is a real crime; survivors of abuse were victims and they deserve justice. Lawyers who specialize in abuse lawsuits are not, for the most part, crooks — no more so than lawyers who try to advocate on behalf of people who have been exposed to hazardous waste in the workplace. Efforts to demonize lawyers are wrongheaded. But sorting out credible accusations from false accusations that amount to slander — yes, that is a complicated and often tragic experience.

    May Fr. Murphy rest in the great peace and loving embrace of God, his creator and savior.

  19. Steve,

    I said they should face penalties for “false accusations.” Something that is knowingly false. Like that ridiculous story against the Duke players. I am not certain what you mean by a less than fully credible accusation. An accusation by someone reliable, but where there is not enough evidence to convict? No, I would not prosecute people for that.

    Karma is a funny thing Steve. I think you are going to be singing a different tune when some drunk out of work ex-student of yours shows up 30 years later and sues you out of house and home, claiming you brushed up against them. I afford Priests the same presumption of innocense, that I am entitled to under the law. Perhaps you recall this dialogue from “A Man For All Seasons”

    Roper: So, now you’d give the Devil the benefit of law!

    More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

    Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

    More : Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

  20. #20 Ray:
    Merely asking a question about what definition “sin” has in regards to willing ones self to die, since it can be deliberate. No 3rd “accusation” against Father Murphy. Obviously I know that depression and/or sadness would not be considered a “sin”by most religions.

  21. My son, a disabled American veteran, too, was falsely accused of sexual abuse. The prosecuting attorney and his female assistant were both running for judge positions. They made the accusations of an estranged wife into a sensational, tough-on-crime case to show themselves to be good candidates for judge. Prosecutorial misconduct was noted in several instances by my son’s attorneys. However, they refused to bring it up in court because “that’s just not the way I practice law.”

    The woman who made the accusations admitted to the judge that she had lied when she made her accusations to the police. The prosecutor hid the fact that the accusor was being treated for “Borderline Personality Disorder.” BPD is bi-polar on steroids. (Google it.) She also hid the fact that the accuser had made false accusations (of rape) before.

    Two jury pool members reported that there was jury-tampering before the jury was even picked. During the trial, the main conversation among jury members during breaks was how they needed to just “find him guilty, so (they could) go home.”

    We have since learned that prosecutorial misconduct is almost never recognized by the court; and when it is recognized, those responsible almost never are punished.

    My son was recently released after 7 years in prison. He is a bright man who was able to keep himself occupied in prison. He wrote 5 novels while he was in prison. He studied law while he was in. However, he is suffering post-traumatic stress from the 9 year experience.

    My heart and my prayers go out to this priest and those who love him.

    Peace and prayers.

  22. ” Sounds like he did will himself to die, which is, IMO, killing ones self slowly.”

    Certainly sounds like you accused him of willing himself to death. A completely unfounded accusation I might add.

    As to your question:

    “Is that considered a “sin” like sucide is?”

    I’m slightly curious as to what your sudden interest is in the Catholic definintion of sin is. Considering the fact, that in countless posts you emphatically reject Christian teachings, stating that they hold no validity to your pagan beliefs.

    And I would say ALL (not Most) religions do not consider saddness or depression a sin. Unless you know of one.

  23. Ray [#23], exactly where did I condone people engaging in false accusations? I thought I stated pretty clearly how sad and unfair the situation was for Fr. Murphy, as well as how challenging it can be for the justice system to sort out false from true accusations.

    One can be completely AGAINST people making false accusations yet acknowledge, simultaneously, that there has been a real sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church (and elsewhere), which includes real victims/survivors of abuse. I’m a fan of due process. One of the problems with due process, however, is that many bishops invested lots of time and money in covering up the tracks of abusers for decades, and now those bishops’ successors frequently lament, “But it was SO LONG AGO…The statute of limitations should apply even though this diocese arguably obstructed justice for decades.”

    Again, though, that’s not what Fr. Murphy’s case was about. This man appears to have been wrongly accused, and that makes me very sad for his good name.

  24. Ray, (#26) reread my last statement on #24. I said ” Obviously I know that depression and/or sadness would not be considered a “sin” by most religions.”

    My “interest” in “sin” and it’s definition by various religions is not sudden”.

    I’ve already responded to your other statement in #24.

  25. BTW, Ray, in #14 naturgesetz asnwered my question regarding the Churche’s stance on the way Fr. Murphy died and suicide very well.

    Thank you, naturgesetz.

  26. Fr.Murphy was one of the kindest people I have ever met.
    I had the honor of seeing “busloads ” of people mourn such a huge loss today…
    It is my sincere hope that he was looking down on all who loved him today and is finally at peace…..

    As for the harsh comments someone posted earlier regarding
    “be a saint” etc.., I have to say~ no one ever said a priest “had” to be a saint! ~But on that note I have to assume you never met him, because he truly was….and the fact that he was so upset about all of this proves that like Jesus he was human as well. May he rest in peace and tell ALL the jokes he wants in heaven!

  27. pagansister – you said that depression or sadness is not considered a sin in “most” religious. I don’t know of ANY religions where it is a sin. So I aksed you to name a religion where it is considered to be one. And you obviously couldn’t do it. Therefore your assumption that it was a sin in Catholicism was highly illogical….to say the least. As was your accusation that he had willed himself to death. I think only a doctor, after extensive examination of a patient, is qualified to make that assertion.

    There also seems to be some uncertainty between statements and questions. I was always taught that questions ended in a question mark and statements in a period. Its a good system, been around for centuries, and helps to avoid confusion.

    Thus, when you said ” Sounds like he did will himself to die, which is, IMO, killing ones self slowly.” That was, by our current standards of English, a statement, not a question.

  28. Steve, I don’t think we are so far apart on this issue. I think we both agree that people who bring “knowingly false” accusations should be punished. And prosecutors who should have reason to suspect those accusations, and decide to prosecute, should be held responsible.

    I would also like to suggest that the evidence standards in civil court, meet the standards of criminal court. In civil court you are basically viewed as guilty until proven innocent. People are using lawsuits as weapon against people and organizations they don’t like, or to make money. Losing your house and home, having your life destroyed and becoming undesriable to any employer is no less horrible than spending 10 or 20 years in prison. As a society we have to take a good hard look at our system, because it is seriously flawed. Even when people win their cases against false accusations, they wind up in debt, because of it. That’s not right.

    Think about what you would do? Some student that you reprimanded 20 years ago, comes back to sue you. They make up some story, because they need money. You lose your house, your reputation, everything you have worked for all your life. You know that’s not right.

  29. witch-hunting. i knew him from my old school boston school for the deaf. he was a great man. ill never believe the victims. they played up in order to get money or attention for their sick reasons…. look at him father murphy was murdered by them.

  30. Ray: #31: Were/are you a school teacher? BTW, I didn’t put a question mark on the statement you quoted referring my questioning his willing himself to die and sin. What was the English lesson about?

    IMO, there are always things that are not true of every situation, thus the statement in#24. No, I’m not familiar with a particular faith that would consider depression/sadness a “sin”. The question that started this whole thing—was asked by me and answered by naturgesetz in #14 as I said above.

    Of course a doctor/expert is the only one quaified to diagnose a person and their mental state. (usually).

  31. One more thing, Ray. In #26 there was a 2nd statement by you mentioning I was “accusing’ Fr. Murphy of willing himself to die. That was not an accusation as I said in #24. It was merely a statement. Not the same as an “accusation” in my book.

  32. pagansister – you made a statement about the Father and then later said “you were merely asking a question..” Thus, the English lesson.

    You made a statement, making an unfounded suggestion that the Father had committed suicide, by willing himself to die. An assertion you are completely unqualified to make (lacking the neccessary medical degree or first hand knowledge of the person in question). Now, I don’t know what “your book” calls that, but in the non-fiction section, that is called an accusation.

    And if, as you now readily admit, that you are not familiar with a particular faith that would consider depression or sadness a “sin”. Then your question was highly illogical. Its seems kind of strange that anyone could have worked at a Catholic School for 10 years, and lived around Catholics all their life, yet by the questions they ask, seem to show complete ignorance of the Catholic faith.

  33. As I said in #35, it was a statement, not an accusation, Ray. so I still disagree with your continued statement that I was accusing the Father of suicide. As to my knowledge of the Church? I was teaching at a 5year level—not studying the details of the faith. I knew what I needed to know to teach the little ones. There are guides, you know, written for teachers? No one at the school attempted to convert me and there was no time during the day to “study” the complex details of the Church. The kids attended Mass once a month with the older children. I knew the responses at Mass, when to stand, kneel, and did everything else,short of receiving communion, of course. During Lent the children were taught the Stations of the Cross–religious holidays were taught too, of course. Naturally they learned the Our Father, the Hail Mary and how to make the sign of the cross, all I knew before teaching there. They were also taught about Jesus and all that goes with it. You get the idea, I assume. They were 5. Things taught at their level. Some were also being taught at home, some not–even if they came from a Catholic family. As far as I was concerned—they were taught love and respect for the each other and the Church. We had children who were not Catholic and the point was made that just because they were not Catholic, it was OK–respect for other faiths was, IMO, important. I didn’t really get into the “sin” thing.

    As far as the “sin”/suicide question—there was logic in my brain for asking it which you did not seem to get, but (for the 3rd or 4th time) naturgesetz did understand and responded to.

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