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Bishop to meet with priest's accuser

Bishop William F. Murphy speaks in Rockville Centre,

Bishop William F. Murphy speaks in Rockville Centre, N.Y. (February 14, 2003) Credit: AP

Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre will meet with Richard Tollner, one of the men who accused Msgr. Alan Placa of sexually molesting him in the 1970s, Tollner said Friday.

Placa was cleared of Tollner's accusation by the Vatican in a decision announced a week ago.

The meeting is to take place Dec. 21, Tollner said. Diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan said, "As a matter of protocol, the diocese does not publicly disclose any personal meetings with Bishop Murphy."

Placa was never charged by civil authorities with a crime and has repeatedly denied Tollner's accusations.

Tollner, 50, said Friday he was mystified why Murphy would want to meet with him now. He said he first started trying to contact him seven years ago and never got a response from the bishop.

"After seven years of contacting his office to talk to him about what had occurred . . . why does he want to speak to me now?" said Tollner, who lives in the Albany area.

He added that Murphy's office said the bishop decided he wanted to talk to Tollner after the two met briefly after Mass last Sunday outside St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. Tollner and supporters of alleged sex abuse victims were protesting the Placa verdict.

Murphy has said previously that he has met with some abuse victims, though he does not announce it publicly. Victims groups have criticized him for not doing enough to reach out to them.

Tollner said the diocese never informed him of the Vatican's decision on Placa and he learned of it from Newsday last week. Tollner had alleged that the abuse took place at St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary in Uniondale, where he was a student and Placa was a teacher and dean.

Placa was suspended from the priesthood for seven years after Tollner first made his accusations public in 2002. After the Vatican's decision, Placa's priestly functions were restored, meaning he can wear his collar and publicly celebrate Mass.

He will also continue living at St. Aloysius parish in Great Neck, where he has resided for the last decade. However, he and Murphy agreed he would not be given a diocesan assignment.

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