Courts & Crime

Priest leading Kansas sex abuse inquiry was once accused himself

The Catholic official who oversees sex abuse complaints against priests in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, has himself been accused of past sexual improprieties.

A Kansas City man wrote the bishop of the diocese four years ago, alleging sexual harassment in 1984 by the Rev. Robert Murphy, a priest who is now vicar general.

Brian Heydon, a licensed professional counselor, said Murphy exposed himself and propositioned him as a young man during a meeting at St. Catherine’s rectory, where Murphy then lived.

The diocese has said Heydon’s claims are unfounded.

Murphy, now a monsignor, has recently come under fire for the way he handled the case of a priest charged last month with possessing child pornography.

Murphy, who was named vicar general when Robert Finn took over as bishop in 2005, handles the diocese’s sex abuse complaints against priests and is on a diocesan review board that assesses allegations against priests and makes recommendations to the bishop.

Heydon first raised the issue in 2007 and contacted The Kansas City Star. The newspaper did not publish the story at his request out of concern for his privacy.

Heydon said he has now decided to come forward.

“In light of recent reports detailing the continued cover-up of abuse in this diocese, I feel that I can no longer in good conscience keep silent,” Heydon said.

Rebecca Summers, the diocese’s spokeswoman, confirmed in 2007 that Heydon had written to Bishop Finn. She said Finn conducted an internal investigation into Heydon’s allegations and responded in a letter to Heydon.

In Finn’s May 4, 2007, letter, which Heydon provided to The Star, Finn said the allegations were unsubstantiated.

“This accusation has given rise to serious discussions and considerations,” Finn wrote in the letter, which Heydon received three weeks after writing to Finn. “Your claims about events 23 years ago are detailed and full of emotion. Monsignor Murphy firmly denies any sexual impropriety or solicitation and does not remember the circumstances of his meetings with you as you described them.

“As troubling as these accusations are, I cannot conclude that they are compelling in their most serious claims.”

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