Catholic Priest

John J. Murray

Ordained: 1947
Diocese: Archdiocese of Philadelphia

From the Report I of the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

The Diocese of Erie received reports that Father John L. Murray sexually molested young boys in a church rectory before serving mass, as well as in recreational settings such as the lake shore. A review of his Diocesan file revealed that, as a result, the Diocese paid thousands of dollars in therapy fees and civil settlements. Two of his victims each received monetary settlements in the amount of $25,000 each.

The first allegation of sexual abuse against Murray was made in 1967. In was reported that in the summer of 1966, Murray, while in a social setting with the victim’s family at the shore, allegedly fondled the young boy in the water and on shore. This incident was brought to the attention of the boy’s parents and Bishop John F. Whealon in 1967. There was no indication in the file that law enforcement was notified.  Whealon’s personal notes revealed that he confronted Murray with the accusation and spoke with the victim’s father on a number of occasions. Murray partially denied the allegation by telling the Bishop that the victim has “an overactive imagination,” and that any touching was accidental due to normal roughhousing with the boy. The notes further indicated that the victim’s father met with Murray and Murray apologized to him for the incident. The records revealed that Whealon convinced the family that nothing could be done in this case. Whealon wrote that the victim’s mother and father have “no doubt that this priest (Murray) did something wrong, in the water and on the shore.” Whealon recorded the father as saying, “If it was the first time, Father Murray is now so frightened that it will not happen again.

In April of 1985, Murray was charged by the Pennsylvania State Police with one count each of indecent assault and corruption of minors. He eventually pled guilty to both charges, was sentenced to twelve months’ probation and fined. This incident was the result of Murray sexually molesting a 12-year-old boy who was preparing to serve mass in the church rectory. One year later, the church paid the victim’s family a settlement in the amount of of $25,000.

As a result of Murray’s second instance of child molestation, the Diocese disciplined him by removing his priestly faculties in 1985. While awaiting sentencing on his criminal charges, the Diocese sent Murray to two treatment facilities. After several years of treatment, paid for by the Diocese, Murray was retired and moved to his family home in Philadelphia. As of 2007, he was still receiving money to pay for his therapy.

Finally, in 2016, Bishop Lawrence Persico received the latest complaint against Murray. This incident came to the attention of the Diocese when the victim was visiting the Conneaut Lake area. According to Persico’s handwritten file note, the victim, now 55 years of age, was a 12-year-old boy in 1973. He was cutting grass at Our Lady of the Americas church where Murray was the Pastor. Murray allegedly grabbed the child’s genitals through the boy’s clothes. Persico wrote to the victim on September 15, 2016 and advised him that the Diocese notified the Erie County District Attorney’s Office and reported the incident to Childline. He further advised that Murray was out of ministry, was not permitted to function as a priest and offered to speak with the victim should he have any further questions.

Additional information regarding the widespread sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Dioceses of Pennsylvania and the systemic cover up by senior church officials is compiled in the Pennsylvania Diocese Victim’s Report published by the Pennsylvania Attorney General following a two-year grand jury investigation.  A complete copy of the Report is available on the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website.