Catholic priest banned from ministry in child sexual abuse case

The Rev. James Glenn Murray, known for liturgical expertise, taught at Baltimore school

June 23, 2011|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

A celebrated liturgical scholar has been permanently removed from Catholic ministry in the wake of a "credible allegation" that he had inappropriate sexual contact with a child in Baltimore three decades ago, according to Jesuit officials.

The acts by the Rev. James Glenn Murray allegedly took place at St. Frances-Charles Hall, now known as St. Frances Academy, where he taught English and religion for seven years starting in 1981 and served for three of those years as assistant principal. Murray, who was ordained in 1979, has been a member of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus for 38 years.

It is the third such case to come to light in the Baltimore area in recent months, and one of a long string of allegations to have surfaced against members of the clergy of the Catholic church, both in the United States and elsewhere, in recent years.

Murray, who has been an associate pastor at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church in Washington since 2007, has not been accused of improprieties beyond those alleged by the individual in the Baltimore case. That person came forward in 2005, and church officials say they immediately reported the allegation to civil authorities, who they said launched an investigation but closed it after the individual declined to speak with them. The province's own review board ordered an investigation, but based on the information it uncovered, "did not find the allegation credible."

A fresh investigation was ordered by province officials this spring, when Murray was being considered for a new assignment, and it "uncovered new information" about the allegations in Baltimore, church officials said. They added that they had offered "pastoral care to the victim" in 2005 and have renewed that offer and apologized "for any harm the individual has suffered."

Murray, who lives in a "monitored residence with his Jesuit community," according to church officials, did not respond to a request for comment. His official biography says he graduated with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and communications from Saint Louis University in 1970 and later was director of the Office of Pastoral Liturgy for the Diocese of Cleveland. He taught theology and lectured widely on liturgy and culture, and conducted priests' retreats. He has written often for the liturgical publication Plenty Good Room.

In May, Baltimore police and the Archdiocese of Baltimore said that a retired priest accused last year of sexually abusing a young female parishioner more than 40 years ago would not face charges. Police said that the investigation stalled after the woman decided not to pursue the case against the Rev. John Lippold, who retired from a 52-year career in 2009. Nevertheless, the archdiocese revoked Lippold's authority to act as a priest.

Lippold was accused of abusing the woman "a number of times" over a two-year period beginning in the late 1960s, according to the archdiocese's spokesman, Sean Caine. The alleged abuse occurred while Lippold, now 79, was the associate priest at the Church of Ss. Philip & James on Baltimore's North Charles Street.

On June 9, The Baltimore Sun reported that a priest who once worked at Loyola University Maryland had been removed from his ministry duties in Pennsylvania after allegations surfaced that he had been involved in inappropriate sexual contact with two minors. According to the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, the Rev. Louis Bonacci inappropriately touched a minor at a Howard County residence while working as Loyola's assistant director of ministry from 1978 to 1982. During an investigation by the province's review board, a second victim made allegations of similar sexual contact as a minor with Bonacci in Howard County.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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