The NYT has the story of how everyone: bishops, priests, Pope, police, failed the deaf children who were molested by Father Murphy. Some critics have asked why victims sometimes take so long to come forward. As the experience of the deaf children showed, even going directly to the police, even leafleting in front of the cathedral did no good. No one would listen to them, no one would help them. 

They told other priests. They told three archbishops of Milwaukee. They told two police departments and the district attorney. They used sign language, written affidavits and graphic gestures to show what exactly Father Murphy had done to them. But their reports fell on the deaf ears of hearing people. 

Throughout history, the poor, the disadvantaged, the weak, have suffered for the convenience of the important, the wealthy, the powerful. It has been no different in the Church or the state.  

In the 1970s, a group of former students who were in a vocational rehabilitation program in Milwaukee began telling their hearing supervisors about Father Murphy, a sequence of events reported in two articles in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2006. 

Among the supervisors was John Conway, now the deputy administrator of workers’ compensation for the State of Wisconsin. Mr. Conway, the students and others collected affidavits from 15 to 20 former students about Father Murphy’s violations. They were granted a meeting with Archbishop William E. Cousins.

“In my extreme naïveté,” said Mr. Conway in an interview on Friday, “I told them the archbishop would take care of this.”

He said they were surprised to find the room packed with people, including several nuns and teachers from the school, two priests who said they were representing the apostolic delegate in Chicago, and Father Murphy himself.

Arthur Budzinski and Gary Smith, two more victims of Father Murphy, said in an interview last week that they remember seeing Archbishop Cousins yell, and Father Murphy staring at the floor. The deaf men and their advocates were told that Father Murphy, the school’s director and top fund-raiser, was too valuable to be let go, so he would be given only administrative duties.

They were outraged. They distributed “Wanted” posters with Father Murphy’s face outside the cathedral in Milwaukee. They went to the police departments in Milwaukee, where they were told it was not the correct jurisdiction, and in St. Francis, where the school was located, Mr. Conway said. They also went to the office of E. Michael McCann, the district attorney of Milwaukee County, and spoke with his assistant, William Gardner.

“A criminal priest was an oxymoron to them,” Mr. Conway said. “They said they’ll refer it to the archdiocese.”

Murphy was Important, he was a fund raiser, the Archbishop was Important, the District Attorney was Important – the deaf children were not Important – they could be ignored. 

The final vindication of the oppressed will come someday, at the end of history, but even now God or History gives signs that the oppressed poor are not forever forgotten, that their cries to Heaven for vengeance will be heard, that their vindication will come.

Leave a Comment