Sexual abuse allegations made against former Catholic priest who served in Faribault

Sexual abuse allegations made against former Catholic priest who served in Faribault

A Catholic priest who served in Faribault in the 1980s has been accused of sexual abuse and the allegations are outlined in a file recently obtained from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Archdiocese by a St. Paul attorney who is representing survivors.

According to documents from the archdiocese file, Father James Robert Murphy was charged with criminal sexual conduct in Minneapolis for touching a “moral squad officer” in an adult bookstore in 1980.


In a memorandum dated Dec. 8, 1980, from Father Robert J. Carlson to the archdiocese file of Father James Murphy, Carlson says that Murphy saw Judge Patrick Fitzgerald, who asked Judge Robert Schumacher to take the case.

The memo further stated that the two judges would ask Murphy to see Archbishop John Roach or Carlson and begin a year of probation and counseling and that psychological testing and treatment would also be ordered. Additionally, he was to report to Roach or Carlson on a regular basis and make a report to the court after one year.

Murphy was transferred to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Faribault in June 1981, where he was named associate pastor, according to a letter to Murphy from Roach. Murphy then became pastor at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in 1983.

Numerous reports surfaced in 1987 that a Bethlehem Academy student was living at the rectory with Murphy. Murphy underwent treatment for possible alcoholism and chemical dependency and counselors determined that Murphy did not have a chemical dependency problem.

Murphy reportedly continued to have a young man living at the rectory in Faribault, according to a memo from Carlson to Roach in June 1987. The memo says: “Given our warnings to Father Murphy that he not be involved with youth after the situation in Hennepin County, it seems to me that we should call Father Murphy in and put the counseling on the front burner.”

According to a memo dated Dec. 1987, several parishioners in Faribault expressed concerns about Murphy’s inappropriate language and preoccupation with sexual matters during marriage counseling, the frequency of young people at the rectory, drinking with high school graduates at the rectory, preoccupation with adolescent males and financial improprieties.

In January 1988, Murphy underwent a general evaluation at St. Luke’s Institute, then continued working in Faribault without restrictions.

Murphy resigned from St. Lawrence in June 1988 and underwent more counseling. He continued to do weekend parish work and was granted a sabbatical in Arizona in 1989, where he ministered in the Diocese in Phoenix until 1990.

Murphy now lives in Phoenix, where he may be working as a substitute high school teacher, according to advocate Patrick J. Wall at Jeff Anderson & Associates PA, which represents plaintiffs who have lodged complaints against Murphy.

Although Wall would not confirm how many alleged victims of Murphy have filed complaints, he did say there is more than one.

“Father Murphy was on probation when he was in Faribault. The fact that he was on criminal probation was not disclosed to the public,” Wall said. “We don’t have this in any other case that I’m aware of. In no other case was a priest on secret probation.”

Now that the Archdiocese has filed for bankruptcy, the survivors will present their claims in U.S. federal bankruptcy court rather than state court, according to Wall.

“The important thing here is that the Archdiocese not be destroyed but that the core mission be retained,” Wall said. “And that survivors be properly compensated.”


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