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Letters: Alternative views of retired Bishop William Murphy

Bishop William F. Murphy discusses his 10 years

Bishop William F. Murphy discusses his 10 years as head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. (Sept. 20, 2011) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

I write in defense of retired Bishop William Murphy, who was the subject of an unflattering and unfair critique by former Newsday editorial board member Bob Keeler [“Politics and the pastor,” Opinion, Jan. 29].

Keeler’s criticism sounds like the tiresome clichés of 1970s-era Catholics who cannot distinguish between Christianity and left-wing political activism.

Keeler is disappointed that Murphy did not engage in politics more often, but is nonetheless annoyed that the bishop, in keeping with his core duty as a preacher and pastor of souls, wrote a letter this past fall reminding Catholics of their duty not to participate in the furtherance of the evil of abortion by supporting pro-choice candidates.

As evidence of Murphy’s callous indifference to the oppressed, Keeler cites a grand total of two incidents during the bishop’s 15-year tenure in which Murphy allegedly failed “to speak prophetically for justice.” Because certain people thought the bishop could have said or done more concerning these matters, Keeler indicts Murphy for a general failure of compassion. Anecdotal references based upon the perspectives of a handful of individuals hardly make for a fair evaluation the Murphy’s work here since 2001.

Christian Browne, Rockville Centre


Kudos to Bob Keeler, who had the courage to tell it the way it was 15 years ago after the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal in Boston. I found it very difficult to believe that William Murphy was elevated to bishop in Rockville Centre.

Congratulations to his successor, Bishop John O. Barres. How fortunate the Diocese of Rockville Centre is have him.

Carol Voelger, Syosset


Opinion writer Bob Keeler’s judgmental screed against departing Bishop William Murphy was a deep disappointment. Certainly the bishop’s good service to our diocese deserves consideration, rather than the entirely negative focus, much of it through clumsy innuendo, so prominently published.

A crude hit piece on our bishop is no journalistic achievement. As the Bible says, judge not, lest you be judged.

Gregory J. Blass, Jamesport

Editor’s note: The writer is the former social services commissioner for Suffolk County.


I want to comment on one statement about which I have extensive personal knowledge. Referring to the anti-immigrant feelings among some people in Farmingville in the early 2000s, Bob Keeler writes, “But the bishop and the diocese didn’t publicly weigh in.” That statement is incorrect.

From 1989 through 2007, I served as auxiliary bishop of the diocese, living in Riverhead and serving as vicar, which is the bishop’s representative to 41 parishes in central and eastern Suffolk County.

During the difficult times over the immigrant and day-laborer situation, I took an active part in supporting the vast majority of people in Farmingville who did not share the anti-immigrant sentiment and in defending the dignity of the new arrivals. I took part in the rally supporting the residents at the site of the house that had been torched and another at the county center in Hauppauge. I gave testimony supporting the immigrants at a meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature.

When an award-winning documentary about the situation in Farmingville came out, I, and others, traveled to show and discuss the film in a number of places. I participated in a meeting at the Church of the Resurrection parish with representatives from other churches and from interested organizations, including county government, which considered the possibility of creating a gathering place in Farmingville for day laborers.

In all these events, I participated not as an individual interested clergyman, but in my role as auxiliary bishop and vicar for the area.

Auxiliary Bishop Emil A. Wcela, Riverhead