A few years ago, I wrote an article for Catalyst, the Journal of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, entitled, “Sex Abuse and Signs of Fraud.” (Nov. 2005) The article got a lot of attention, and has since been re-published here and there online.
My article detailed a series of sexual abuse claims brought against the Archdiocese of Boston in 2000 and 2001 alleging sexual abuse by priests some two decades earlier. The claims had moved well along the all-too-short path to a mediated settlement when they were suddenly exposed as frauds and the legal tables turned on the claimants. The discovery of fraud was a fluke. As is typical, there was little to no investigation of the claims.
The gist of the story is this: Sean Murphy and Byron Worth, then ages 37 and 41 respectively, lived 100 miles apart in Massachusetts, but brought nearly identical molestation claims against a priest, alleged to have occurred three decades earlier. Each account served to corroborate the other. The priest had previously been accused by others making him an easy target.
It turned out that a year before making the claims, Sean and Byron were inmates together at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Shirley, MA where they concocted the scam and rehearsed the details of their stories. Sean and Byron were indicted for fraud and larceny, and faced a 2-year return to prison for the scam. Sean’s mother was also indicted for the fraud. The Boston news media buried the story in the emerging tsunami of settlement demands for claims against priests.
Sean Murphy’s return to prison was, for his own interests, time well spent. After his release, he made news again last year for masterminding a scam involving the heist of Super Bowl rings.
At about the same time Sean, Byron, and their shared contingency lawyer made their $850,000 demand of the Archdiocese – which would have had the two men enjoying a cool quarter-million in each of their bank accounts after a 40% contingency fee – at least two other inmates at MCI-Shirley accused another Boston priest. They, too, shared the same story, the same prison, and the same contingency lawyer.
At the time I wrote, “Sex Abuse and Signs of Fraud,” I had been approached by a number of inmates asking for the names of priests who might have been present in their childhood neighborhoods. One man told me that he was asked by his lawyer if he was ever a Catholic.
“If you want to accuse a priest of something,” he quoted his lawyer as saying, “I can have $50 grand in your account by the end of the year.”
Father Richard John Neuhaus once wrote that the very notion of sexual abuse by priests “is sleazy business.” He was right, and the ills begot by that sleazy business are not all, as yet, exposed.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation,
Into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires
That plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the
Love of money is the root of all evils;”
(1 Timothy 6: 9-10).