Memories of Bishop MurphyFor half a century it was my...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

September 11, 1999

Memories of Bishop Murphy

For half a century it was my privilege to know Philip Francis Murphy, who died Sept. 2 ("Bishop Murphy, advocate for justice, dies at age 66," Sept. 3) after 40 years as a priest and 23 years as auxiliary bishop of Baltimore.

If Christ was the winning face of God, Bishop Murphy was the beguiling face of Catholicism -- a structured religion whose officials too often seem cold and legalistic.

We first met in our teens as fellow students at St. Charles Minor Seminary in Catonsville. Even then, he radiated the unflagging cheerfulness, courtesy, kindness, patience and universal benignity which marked his 66 years of life.

Though he was proudly Irish, he embodied none of the cliches of the stern Celtic clergyman. The serious jest was that, in him, justice was tempered by Murphy.

After studying in Rome, he was appointed to the seminary faculty of his alma mater there. His special task was to be repetitor: A staff member who repeated in American the main points of the seminarians' theology classes. These classes were taught, but not always caught, in Latin.

As a priest, he was also a repetitor: By his words and deeds he repeated and clarified what it meant to be a genuine Christian.

Like Jesus, who sought out the marginal and the neglected, Bishop Murphy made his own the causes of minority groups in the modern church -- women who sought a greater role, married priests who still wanted to minister and laymen whose sexuality made them feel ostracized.

He befriended the poor -- of all faiths and none -- especially in Western Maryland, where he served as the Archbishop's Vicar.

He worked hard to make Protestants, Jews and other non-Catholics feel better understood and esteemed by their Catholic neighbors.

While some his Roman contemporaries rose to be Cardinals, Bishop Murphy was never entrusted with a diocese of his own.

It was often claimed that, because he espoused officially disfavored causes, he would never go anywhere in the church. I always liked to rejoin that he didn't need to go anywhere in the true church -- he was already there.

The eyes of faith will now see that he needs to go nowhere in the purified, unbureaucratic celestial church. He is already there.

Father Joseph Gallagher Baltimore

The writer is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

As a Roman Catholic and a feminist, I am distressed that we liberated Catholic women have lost a brave soldier, who fought for the emancipation of women in the Catholic Church -- as well as for women struggling in poverty.

Bishop Frank Murphy was a man who loved God and believed all men and women are one and equal in being with the Father.

Larnell Custis Butler Baltimore

It is ironic that Bishop Frank Murphy left us just before the third millennium begins, as he was a man who embraced the future.

While committed to service through his beloved church, Bishop Murphy's deep integrity occasionally led to stands at variance with church practice.

He showed rare courage in advocating an equal role for women in the church, acceptance of gays and rejection of war.

He worked to bridge the gaps among religions and preached a philosophy of inclusion.

This gentle, listening man employed his priesthood to bring light to the dark corners, change where it is desperately needed and comfort to those lost in the storm.

As his Jewish friends would put it, Frank Murphy was a mensch.

Charles A. Wunder

Baltimore

For city to thrive, these goals are key

The following is a summary of "First Things First -- Setting Priorities for Strengthening Baltimore's Business Climate in the 21st Century," a report recently issued to the candidates for mayor by the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC):

The future political leadership of Baltimore City must embrace the clear correlation between reducing crime, improving education and expanding Baltimore's population and economy.

Here are eight recommended goals for improving the city:

Public safety

Reduced homicides and violent crime in Baltimore City by 50 percent by the year 2002. A Violence Reduction Task Force, comprising key city, state and federal law enforcement officials, has launched a "focused deterrence" strategy to dramatically reduce Baltimore's homicide rate.

Government leaders, public safety officials and the business community must continue to support collaborative intervention to reduce homicide in our city.

Reduce the total crime rate by 25 percent by 2004. Coordinate all public safety agencies, deter nuisance crime through the operation of a community court and strengthen preventive programs and youth programs, such as the Police Athletic League.

Fully fund effective drug treatment on request. Drug use produces crime and the most effective way to reduce that crime is a public health strategy that increases drug treatment and prevention.

Education

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