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Spotlight Report

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Ex-aide to Law testifies in probe

By Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 2/13/2003

After a full day of testimony before a state grand jury, Cardinal Bernard F. Law's former chief deputy said yesterday that he had answered all questions ''honestly and completely'' in the panel's investigation of the clergy abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese.

Bishop William F. Murphy, who was promoted in June 2001 from Law's vicar general to head the Rockville Centre diocese on Long Island, N.Y., is among more than a dozen bishops and other clerics from the Boston Archdiocese who have been called to testify in recent weeks before the grand jury. Law is scheduled to testify last, on Feb. 25, in the grand jury investigation spearheaded by the office of Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly.

Emerging from the grand jury, Murphy declined to answer questions about an official report issued by a grand jury on Long Island that was highly critical of the handling of clergy sexual abuse cases by the Rockville Diocese. Specifically, the report found that the diocese had for decades protected priests who had been the subjects of sexual abuse complaints by parishioners and others, choosing not to report them to authorities or remove them from the priesthood.

Murphy said that because he had been in Boston preparing for the Massachusetts grand jury, he had yet to read the full report of the Long Island grand jury. ''It's not fair to ask me to comment on something that I have not read,'' he said. However, he acknowledged he had read newspaper accounts of the grand jury report and spoken to ''associates'' about its findings.

''The grand jury concludes that the history of the Diocese of Rockville Centre demonstrates that as an institution they are incapable of properly handling issues relating to the sexual abuse of children by priests,'' the panel said in a 180-page report that followed a nine-month inquiry.

While Murphy has said nothing about the report so far, a spokeswoman for the diocese has criticized it for failing to acknowledge the steps that Murphy has taken to improve the diocese's handling of clergy abuse complaints. However, Murphy declined to say whether he found the report fair in its criticisms of the diocese's actions before he was elevated to bishop.

Asked if he would speak to Rockville Centre parishioners or the press about the report once he does read it, Murphy said, ''I'll have to talk to my associates before I say anything.''

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 2/13/2003.
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