A Courageous Philly Priest Speaks Out

Fr. Murphy, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, spoke to his parishioners this past weekend like a true shepherd. He didn’t gloss over the conviction of one of his fellow priests regarding the sexual abuse he allowed to continue. Rather, he asks the legitimate question-where are the bishops? Why have they not been held accountable. I’ve copied the full text of his message below:
Dear Friends:
This is a copy of my remarks made at Masses on the weekend of June 23-24:
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about the elephant in the room. Yes. As has been reported in the news, Msgr. Lynn was found guilty on Friday of child endangerment. For some, perhaps many, this verdict brings with it at least some small sense of justice rendered. No doubt, it makes clear that “I was just following orders,” is an unacceptable defense in the face of blatant evil.
Yet for many with whom I have spoken and with whom I agree, it is only a partial sense of justice. Because the other elephant in the room is the fact that those directly in charge, the bishops, have yet to claim or accept responsibility for their own horrific part in this painful scandal. Not a single bishop has acknowledged or apologized for his decision to put the image of the Church before the protection and care of sexual abuse victims of clergy. Nor have any bishops had the decency or courage to call their fellow bishops to accountability.
The result? Many Catholics, including fellow clerics, friends who are practicing Catholics and friends who have left a Church they find disingenuous, dismiss the bishops as inauthentic and unworthy of their attention.
Moreover, the bishops’ latest attempt to exert moral authority with their “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign rings hollow for many who wish the bishops had been at least as energetic and enthusiastic with their denunciation of their role in institutionalized evil in the Church concerning abuse, as they are with a perceived threat to religious freedom. Rather than appearing prophetic, to many Catholics this looks like a pathetic attempt to reclaim power and authority.
Now, while all these feelings and observations are completely legitimate, there is one thing left to say:
I preached this weekend on the need to “shut up” as Zechariah was forced to do in today’s gospel, so that we might have time and space and silence to “hear” the voice of God and discern the will of God. Well, in the aftermath of this verdict, I have been called to silence. And in the silence I have been thus far able to discern this much: all of the above may be true and legitimate. And it must be said lout and clear. “But be careful,” I hear God saying.
“Be careful not to become smug and satisfied in your rightful calling to task of cowardly and self-serving bishops. Don’t stop there. Instead remember why you are a member of the Church: not because of the bishops, or the priests, but because of Jesus Christ–because you love Jesus Christ and you know in your bones that he is the Way and the Truth and the Life.’
So this is a time for all of us to commit ourselves ever more intensely to know Jesus even more, to love him even more. And then, above all to LIVE him, with all we have and are. All of us truly LIVING JESUS–that will be the transformation of the Church and of all the world.
Let the Church say, “Amen!”
In Christ’s love,
Fr. Murphy