The priest who abused deaf boys for 24 years

Fr Murphy was the only adult his pupils could communicate with – and he betrayed them. Andy McSmith reports

Father Lawrence Murphy was a man with charm and social skills. Small of stature, he was a lively, sociable, charismatic Irishman, who also had the rare ability to communicate fluently in sign language. Watching him conduct a service with his hands is said to have been more moving than if words had been spoken.

He was the mentor and spiritual guide to hundreds of vulnerable boys – and one thing they learnt from him is that there are some disgusting individuals in the adult world who gratify their sleazy appetites without a thought for others. Father Murphy was a predatory paedophile whose crimes were all the more revolting for the helplessness of his victims. The pupils at St John's School, St Francis city, Wisconsin, were deaf. This was a boarding school, so there was no escape at nights from the vile priest who had power over them.

Anyway, he was the only adult many of them could communicate with. They were given no sex education, so they had no way of understanding what he was doing. Some may have thought they deserved this treatment.

Steven Geier was taken to St John's at the age of eight, after a high fever made him deaf. He was crying as his parents left, and it was Fr Murphy who offered comfort then, only to abuse him later. Mr Geier also witnessed about a dozen other boys being abused.

"Murphy was so powerful and it was so hard," he said in an interview four decades later. "You couldn't get out. It was like a prison. I felt so confused. Here I had Fr Murphy touching me. I would be like, 'God, what's right?'"

"It was an awful thing," another of his former victims, Joe Daniels said. "I felt anger and shame." Little Arthur Budzinski would hide under his bed, crying, when it was time to go back to boarding school. His parents did not know what was wrong, because as his 89-year-old mother Irene Budzinski explained years later: "I never learned sign language. When you had a deaf child, the public health nurse would say: 'Send them to some school.' We were looking for a good place. Who would think any harm would come to a young child?"

There is an old photograph of Arthur Budzinski taken in 1962, when he was 13, with 10 other deaf boys who made up the St John's School basketball team. Father Murphy is standing alongside them in a long clerical gown. Five of the 11 boys were sexually assaulted.

Budzinski witnessed a boy of his age, Pat Cave, being abused in the dormitory. They met again, 42 years later. Until that meeting in 2004, Pat Cave thought he was the only boy to have suffered the priest's attentions. In fact, he was probably not even the only victim in his family. He had an older brother who also went to St. John's, who was frequently called into Murphy's office at night for long periods. The brothers never discussed why. His brother died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 21.

No one knows exactly how many boys suffered at Murphy's hands in the 24 years he was running the school. It could have been as many as 200. Most said nothing about it for decades, if at all. James Smith had bottled it up for so long that when he began talking about it, at the age of 62, he started to shake and cry. He said: "I would be playing baseball, and the boys would come and say: 'Fr Murphy wants you to come and see him.' I would refuse to go, and pretty soon I was dragged into his office and molested again. I never told anyone. I thought I was alone."

But others did talk. Among the documents uncovered by The New York Times, there is an account, written in 1974, by a youth who had left St John's only four years earlier, and was prepared to go to court to testify against his abuser. He was so determined to be believed that he volunteered to give a description of Fr Murphy's penis, and asked that the court then check whether he was telling the truth.

Soon after being sent to the school in 1964, the boy had got into trouble with one of the staff, and was sent to see Fr Murphy in his office. "Fr. Murphy scolded me as a bad boy," he wrote. "Then he encouraged me to his bedroom and taught me about sex. At the first thing he spanked my ass with his belt and he started touching my penis while he explained the sex things to me.

"Few days later, again he called me to his bedroom and asked me to take my clothes off so he touched my penis and explained the sex things to me. So he started to bother me many times for coming to his bedroom and forced me to play the immodest things with him.

"Few days later he came to the boys' dormitory and to my bed and touched my penis while (name redacted) saw us from his bed.

"During my confession with Fr Murphy few times he played with my penis in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in Fr. Murphy's office... During the summer times Fr. Murphy took some boys and me to his cottage and on the way I was a passenger and sat near Fr. Murphy driving while he touched my penis in front of other boys.... For my six years, I suffered bad from Fr. Murphy."

It is hard to imagine what reserves of courage the youth must have drawn on to write such an account of a recent childhood experience. In that year, 1974, Murphy was at last removed from the school which he had run since 1950 – but that was all.

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Delivery Manager - Software Company

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager Kingston Up...

Year 3 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 Primary Teacher in HullA f...

Drama Teacher - Hull and Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: The JobRandstad are currently in need of ...

Reception Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is the UK mark...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments