Two separate cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests were heard Wednesday at the Marin County Courthouse, and both were connected to the release by the Archdiocese of San Francisco of names of church officials who had been accused internally of sex offenses.
The most recent, former priest Guy Anthony Murnig, was arrested Tuesday at his home in Petaluma, accused of repeatedly assaulting a teenage girl at his parish in Greenbrae thirty years ago. He is being held on $1 million bail, and appeared briefly in court Wednesday afternoon.
His attorney, Paul Burglin, said Murnig left the priesthood years ago.
“He lives with his wife and his three children in Sonoma,” Burglin said. “He’s a hard-working family man who left the priesthood because he fell in love and got married.”
In the same courtroom half an hour later, Rev. Milton Thomas Walsh made his second court appearance. Walsh is charged with molesting an altar boy 18 years ago. The altar boy, 13 at the time, is Guy Seaman, who was in court Wednesday to witness the proceedings. Walsh’s name was also one of those given by the San Francisco Archdiocese to law enforcement authorities.
Unlike Murnig, Walsh was an active and high-ranking priest until the allegations surfaced. Most recently, he had been a professor of theology at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park.
Before that he had been the pastor at St. Mary’s Cathedral and an adviser to then-Bishop John Quinn. It was apparently a temporary assignment at Our Lady of Loretto in Novato 20 years ago that introduced him to the young boy who would allegedly become his victim.
He refused to speak to reporters Wednesday after court, but his attorney, Cristina Arguedas, spoke in his defense.
“I know this, ” Arguedas said. ” I know he’s a good person. It doesn’t mean that good persons can’t have made mistakes in their lives. I’m not saying he did, but he’s a good man, he’s a good priest, he has the respect and affection of a lot of people, a lot of people who where in here today.”
Walsh was often a spokesman on matters of religion. In 1995, he wrote an opinion piece in The San Francisco Chronicle called, “A Priest on the Priesthood.” In it, he said: “What about failure? I have let people down, and in some instances, wounded people deeply. Again, why should I think that I can be preserved from failure? No one else is.”
It is impossible at this remove to know what failure, exactly, Walsh was referring to. But according to court documents, in a telephone call monitored by police in June, Walsh apologized to the former altar boy he is accused of molesting.