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Archbishop Hurley Says Former Priest Admitted Abuse

Feb 7, 2003 | AP

Former Anchorage Archbishop Francis Hurley said Friday he should have offered counseling to a teenager who was sexually abused by a priest more than 20 years ago.

"Life went on and that's where I made a big mistake," Hurley told reporters during a news conference. "I failed to follow up with the victim."

Pat Podvin, now an Anchorage high school principal, said Thursday he was sexually assaulted in 1982 by the Rev. Francis Murphy. Podvin said he decided to step forward when the Boston archdiocese released the personnel files of the former priest and four others.

Podvin, who could not be reached for comment Friday, told KTUU-TV he reported the abuse to the church but nothing was done.

"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 said he did not report the incident to police.

Hurley said Friday that Murphy admitted he sexually abused Podvin, who was 18 years old at the time. Hurley said Murphy got counseling, but none was offered to Podvin.

Hurley said Podvin would have been offered counseling had the abuse occurred today. But two decades ago the idea of victim counseling wasn't automatically considered.

Murphy's name came up in Boston Tuesday when newly 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.

Podvin, a principal at Service High School, said that after reading news accounts he wanted to let people know it had also happened to him.

He said he was sexually assaulted at an Anchorage area condominium after Murphy had been drinking.

"If I remember correctly, he had two glasses of wine and then we went to bed and he came in with me at that point," Podvin said. "I was pretty much in shock. I just couldn't believe that was happening."

The assault left him devastated, Podvin said.

Hurley praised the principal for having the courage to speak out and apologized for failing to consider his emotional state.

Hurley said Murphy's problem with alcohol became obvious in 1985 around the time police were investigating unrelated sexual abuse allegations against Murphy. Authorities have said they did not have enough evidence to pursue the case.

Murphy, a Boston-area priest, completed alcohol treatment and returned to Massachusetts, where he was eventually allowed to work in hospital ministry at Holy Family in Methuen in 1988. Hurley said he was confident Murphy could function under a controlled setting.

"I believe a priest who is guilty of sexual abuse can be reformed and can get back to a limited ministry," Hurley said.

In 1994, a relative of Podvin alleged abuse by Murphy and in 1995, Cardinal Bernard Law insisted that Murphy no longer be allowed to perform ministerial duties.

Murphy now lives in Cuba, N.M., and became an independent school district contractor to counsel children with alcohol problems. The district suspended the program this week in response to the allegations against Murphy, KTUU reported.

Hurley said others have alleged sexual abuse by Anchorage area priests and police have investigated two of them in the last few years without pressing charges. He declined to say how many times allegations have been made, saying victims often speak in confidentiality.

"You have to recognize what the victims are saying," Hurley said. "If they want confidentiality, we're obligated to do that."

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