High school principal says priest abused him

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2003

ANCHORAGE - A high school principal stepped forward Thursday to say he also was a victim of abuse by a former Anchorage priest.

Service High School Principal Pat Podvin told KTUU-TV he wanted to set the record straight that the Rev. Francis Murphy had sexually assaulted more than one victim, and that Podvin's own reporting of the abuse to the church was ignored.

Murphy's name came up in Boston earlier this week when released documents indicated that priests accused of sexual abuse had been allowed to move to other states, where they continued to have access to children.

Murphy was the subject of newspaper and television coverage. The Archdiocese of Anchorage claimed in the newspaper that there had been one isolated, unsubstantiated complaint by a teen from St. Patrick's church.

Podvin said he too had been abused when he was 18. He said he was sexually assaulted at a Girdwood condominium after Murphy had been drinking.

"I was pretty much in shock. I just couldn't believe that was happening," Podvin said.

The assault left him devastated, Podvin said.

Podvin said he reported being abused to the archbishop at the time, Francis Hurley, three days after the incident. He said nothing ever happened.

"That part has been the hardest part for me. That it happened is one thing. That it has been either forgotten or covered up or something else is inexcusable," Podvin said. "I mean, these people are supposed to be our ethical, moral leaders."

Podvin did not report the incident to police.

Current Archbishop Roger Schwietz called the incident a terrible, sad tragedy and something the church needed to deal with as best it could.

"We didn't have the mechanisms then that we do now. Right now we would immediately take the accusation to our sexual abuse advisory committee and act in the most appropriate ways," Schwietz said. "Those were different times, but I'm not making excuses for that. I'm sure that Archbishop Hurley could help us understand what happened at that time, but I deeply regret that it happened."

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Hurley said he was comfortable recommending that Murphy be returned to priestly duties in Boston after his alcohol treatment.

"Police investigated it and they backed off," Hurley said of the allegations against Murphy. "They did not believe the case was credible and they chose not to go ahead."

Records dating back decades on Murphy indicate the Archdiocese of Anchorage was aware of multiple allegations gathered against him by Anchorage police.

After leaving Alaska, Murphy underwent alcohol treatment and returned to Massachusetts, apparently in 1986, where he was eventually allowed to work in hospital ministry at Holy Family in Methuen in 1988.

Another allegation surfaced in 1994, and in 1995, Cardinal Bernard Law insisted that Murphy no longer be allowed to perform ministerial duties, despite apparent reluctance from an archdiocese board.

In 1985, Anchorage police sent a report to their counterparts in Belmont, Mass., that accused Murphy of collecting massive amounts of pornography and abusing transient boys. The files indicate that Hurley was aware of the allegations, and communicated regularly with Boston church officials during Murphy's treatment. Law eventually requested and received Hurley's consent to reinstate Murphy to one-year hospital ministry assignments, which were renewed several times.

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