Alaska News

Alaska priest’s abuse of boys hidden for decades

Originally published on Aug. 3, 2003

First in a series

MONSIGNOR FRANK MURPHY was the charismatic priest, the one who was interested in every family, who electrified the congregation from the pulpit with his sermons or tickled dinner guests with jokes. He could play the piano, cook a fabulous meal or direct an amateur show.

Murphy was a force in Muldoon, the priest who established St. Patrick's Parish in 1970, a man with many visions, ever-building and forever re- arranging.

He was so interesting that most people tolerated, if uncomfortably, the scruffy, troubled boys ever-present in the rectory, many sent there by Catholic social agency workers because he would take care of them. Between these "runaways," as the parishioners called them, and the God Squad -- the priest's boys-only service corps trained in table waiting and appropriate manners -- it seemed there were always adolescents around. As popular as the priest was, hardly an eyebrow was raised.

Murnell Fargo joined St. Patrick's Parish when her husband, a highway department employee, was transferred from Kodiak in 1973. They were active in the church and served as ushers. In 1984, she was working as a counselor at McLaughlin Youth Center when she noticed a familiar face, one she recalled among the hundreds she would see at Mass.

"Don't I know you? Don't you go to St. Patrick's?" Fargo asked.


"Yeah, I do," said the boy, who was about 16.

A few minutes passed.

"Mrs. Fargo, I need to talk to you," he finally said. "I get to watch pornographic movies at St. Patrick's," he said.

"I said, 'Whoa,' " she said.

In a recent telephone interview from her home in Billings, Mont., Fargo said she was shocked by the boy's story. Later that day, she filed a report that eventually found its way to police investigator Frank Feichtinger. The officer, in charge of the Anchorage Police Department's child sexual exploitation unit, had already opened an investigation into the parish priest, Monsignor Francis A. Murphy, for possible sexual abuse of minors.

[Part 2: With police investigating Murphy, the alcoholic and abusive priest is banished from Anchorage]

[Part 3: Exposed as an abuser, Murphy faces an uncertain future in New Mexico]

Though the boy said Murphy wasn’t present when he watched the films in the basement of the new church office building with two young men from Poland who were staying with Murphy, the allegations added to the accumulating details of inappropriate activity surrounding the priest from Boston.

Some time later, Fargo received a surprising call from the Archbishop of Anchorage, Francis Hurley.

"You and I need to meet, and I don't want anybody to know about it," Fargo recalled Hurley saying. "Meet me at the back of St. Patrick's Church after work."

"It was strange," Fargo recalled, "but if you are used to taking orders, you do as your told. This was the archbishop in the Catholic Church. If he wants chocolate cake on Wednesday night, you give him chocolate cake."

So she met Hurley. He asked her if she thought the boy was telling the truth, and she said she believed him. But then, instead of asking her questions that could have helped him investigate whether Murphy was a risk to the teens at the church, Hurley appeared to seek information to discredit the boy, Fargo said.

"He was wondering why he had it in for Father Murphy," Fargo said. She told the archbishop, "I didn't think he had anything against Father Murphy, he just said he watched porn in the basement with these two men."

After making her report, Fargo noticed that church officials began to behave differently toward her and her family. Her two sons were told they could not be confirmed at St. Pat's. An obscure rule was cited to remove her and her husband from volunteer duties, a long-ignored requirement that ushers be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Unknown to Fargo at the time -- as well as the police -- was that about two years earlier, in 1982, a prominent parish family brought a direct complaint about Murphy to Hurley. Pat Podvin, the 18-year-old future principal of Service High School, told Hurley that Murphyhad made sexual advances toward him during an overnight drinking episode in Girdwood. His parents also came in to complain.

Murphy admitted his behavior to Hurley and agreed to some counseling, according to church officials and documents. But Hurley allowed Murphy to remain in command of the parish and its host of boy volunteers and residents.

Like the victims who have emerged from the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal elsewhere, Murphy's targets say he took advantage of their trust in the church and his position of authority to gratify himself at their expense, often with debilitating personal consequences. Five men have told the Daily News that Murphy sexually abused them as teenagers, and several said they know of other victims who don't want to come forward.


And as elsewhere, where the decisions of bishops and cardinals to protect abusive priests kept them in positions were they could hurt again or thwart justice, Hurley's efforts on behalf of his friend kept the full extent of Murphy's actions secret until Podvin forced it into the open with a dramatic television interview in February.

"As I reflect on those decisions, I recognize that I made some mistakes of understanding and judgment," Hurley said in a written statement. He declined a request for an interview but responded to several questions in writing.

Among his regrets now, Hurley wrote, was to assume that Murphy, a problem drinker at the time, was "primarily driven by alcoholism" in his inappropriate sexual behavior.

"Today, I have a greater understanding of how devastating sexual abuse is on the young, especially when the perpetrator is a priest. For this grave mistake, I again apologize to the Podvin family and to the people of St. Patrick's Parish for keeping Monsignor Murphy in the parish after Pat Podvin's allegation was made to me.

"Had I known then what I know now about sexual abuse and alcoholism, I would not have left him on assignment."


Francis Aloysius Murphy was born in the working-class Boston suburb of Belmont on April 9, 1932. On Dec. 7, 1941, at the age of 9, his mother took him to see a movie. The United States was at peace when he went into the theater. The war began before he walked out.

Just as indelibly etched in young Frank's mind as Pearl Harbor was the film he saw that day. It was a documentary on Alaska by the famed ethnographic filmmaker the Rev. Bernard Hubbard, a California-born Jesuit known as the "Glacier Priest." Murphy would later describe the movie as one of his major, life-altering events.


"Something in the movie just screamed to me about Alaska," he said in a recent interview.

Through the war years and then seminary, Alaska remained on his mind. He studied at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass., which recently came under fire from the Massachusetts attorney general for graduating nearly half the priests accused of abusing children since 1946.

Murphy was 24 when he was ordained at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. The next year, Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston established the Society of St. James to send missionary priests to Latin America. Murphy joined but went to Alaska instead, arriving in the Juneau Diocese in 1959.

"They went south and I went north, and Cushing says, 'God, you have a helluva sense of direction. You went the wrong way,' " Murphysaid.

Murphy joined Holy Family Parish in Anchorage in 1961 when the city had a population of 45,000 and was still part of the Juneau Diocese. The priest gravitated toward young people, running the Catholic Youth Organization and, after the Anchorage Archdiocese was organized in 1966, becoming its first education superintendent over parochial schools in Anchorage, Copper Center and Kodiak.

He was a relaxed, laid-back priest, perfect for that generation. But as kids were discovering pot and psychedelics, Murphy found something far more traditional: whiskey.

To this day, at age 71, Murphy remembers his first drink. It was a particularly cold day in 1963, and he was with his regular Wednesday skiing buddies: a parish priest, two other priests, a dentist and an undertaker. They went back to someone's house and mixed up Manhattans with VO whiskey.

Murphy's parents weren't drinkers. He had tasted sacramental wine, but it was nothing like that Manhattan.

"Lights went on with this drink, and I didn't even know there were bulbs there -- it was that bright. It was just, 'Ohhhh, God, what a wonderful feeling.' "

From that day on, Murphy can remember missing a drink only once, when he had surgery. On Good Friday 1964, when the ground started shaking, Murphy was upstairs in the Holy Family Rectory with another priest. A chimney crashed through the roof and into his bedroom.

Murphy believed he might be meeting Jesus the next minute, but when he heard the china cabinet downstairs tumble over, a more desperate thought entered his mind. He turned to the other priest and said, "Oh God, no Manhattans tonight."



With his descent into the bottle, Murphy, an acknowledged homosexual, became increasingly aggressive sexually. His targets were the young people entrusted in his care.

Two men now in their 50s recently came forward to report that in 1964 or 1965, when they were students in the short-lived Catholic Junior High School on Fireweed Lane, Murphy enticed them to strip naked and allow him to rub their bodies with oil by telling them they could float above the Fur Rondy parade in helium-filled weather balloons. The preparation was necessary to fit the balloon over their bodies.

The shame of that incident in the junior high gym followed the boys through their lives. Today, Murphy described it as "just touching," though he expressed his regrets.

Nearly 15 years later, in the late 1970s, Murphy was repeating the pattern with only slight alterations.

Colin Boyden, a member of Murphy's God Squad, was with another boy digging fence posts near St. Pat's on a hot summer day. Boyden was 16 then, and he and the other boy had taken off their shirts.

"Murphy came out and offered us something to drink, and stood there talking to us," Boyden, now an elementary school teacher, said in a recent interview. The other boy left to go to the bathroom, and Murphy used the opportunity to propose that he order some giant balloons or balls he saw advertised in a magazine. Boyden could fit into the ball and bounce safely around the St. Pat's parking lot, as high as 30 feet.


"You know, wow, it kind of intrigued me," Boyden said. Then Murphy told him about the preparations: "What I would have to do was to go up and meet him and to get into the bathtub with a solution. The solution would cover my body and allow me to slide easily into the ball." Boyden would have to be nude.

Boyden didn't leap at the idea, the other boy came back and that was the last time Murphy mentioned it.

However, another boy from Boyden's group, Kent Podvin, Pat's brother and Boyden's eventual brother-in-law, fell for a similar idea when he was a high school freshman, about 14, which would have been in 1975 or 1976. The boy took the oil bath and allowed Murphyto cover him with some kind of material that he claimed -- falsely -- could be inflated so that he could float above the Fur Rondy parade. While no overt sexual activities took place that evening, two years later Murphy made sexual advances, Podvin said.

"He was big -- he could've resisted," Murphy said of Podvin, but Murphy also agreed he was an authority figure to the boy and might have been able to dominate him.

After Brian Donohue finished high school in 1980, he worked for Murphy at St. Pat's for about a year. Donohue was the son of Ken Donohue, a church deacon who was a good friend of Murphy's. Murphy would often send Brian on errands, and one day he asked him to pick up his mail at the airport post office all the way across town from Muldoon.

"There was a magazine in a brown-paper wrapper, and of course I peeked, and it was a gay magazine," Donohue said in a telephone interview from his home in Bellevue, Wash.

Donohue said he wasn't particularly stunned -- the idea of a homosexual priest didn't seem all that outlandish to him -- but he remembers deciding not to tell anyone.

"I would have made a more serious response had I known more, but I don't think that a porno magazine, gay or straight, is a harbinger of molestation," he said.

Today, a few months after the first news accounts exposing Murphy's abuse, "I'm still blown away," Donohue said. "I didn't think that he was that kind of man, even after I saw the magazine."

And, Donohue added, he wouldn't be the only one with that reaction.

"There was a familiarity about Murph that is really important to understand and convey. Most everyone I knew from St. Pat's -- longtime parishioners, the staff, even the archbishop -- calls the man 'Murph.' He wasn't the old-school priest-on-the-pedestal, he interacted with everyone, he'd have a glass of beer like a regular Joe. I think that's why people revered him, and how young men came to trust him, and how his awful actions could go under the radar."

Retired investigator Justin Koles of the Anchorage Police Department, a parishioner at St. Patrick's, also didn't have a clue, at least through the early 1980s. His own son wanted to be an altar boy, but Murphy kept rejecting him.

"Murphy always said he was too immature," Koles said. "He never got to hang out with the other kids." Koles and his wife assumed that Murphy was a good judge of his son's maturity and didn't press the issue. It was only later that Koles came to believe that he himself was the reason, not his son.

"Thank God I was a cop, because my kid wasn't allowed to hang with the other kids and never became involved," he said.

So far, the earliest that it is known that Murphy's sexual behavior came to the attention of church hierarchy is the 1982 complaint by Pat Podvin and his parents. It took two more years for Murphy to come to the attention of police when Koles would team up with the department's child sexual exploitation unit.


At 15, Ken Gage was having trouble at home in South Anchorage. He was admittedly "a pain" who wasn't interested in his parents' idea of a curfew or their concerns about his friends.

"My mom called Catholic Social Services," Gage said in a recent interview. "They told my mother that Murphy takes in boys and helps them out. 'A stable surrounding' was how it was portrayed."

In 1982 or 1983, Gage joined the group of boys at St. Patrick's that the local parishioners called the "runaways." They lived in the rectory, sometimes between time at McLaughlin Youth Center or jail. They were tolerated, if uncomfortably, by the God Squad, the generally middle-class sons of the regulars at St. Patrick's Parish who Murphy used as a polite work gang, such as waiting on tables when the hall was rented for functions.

Gage found Murphy very different than the more distant priests he had met.

"They wore the black uniform and white collar. Murphy wore regular people clothes. He was a funny guy, he always had a joke to tell you." And, Gage added, "He drank like a fish."

Gage said Murphy taught him how to mix his drinks -- Rob Roys with scotch and vermouth poured into an ice tea glass.

The church grounds were like a small farm, with pigs, chickens, ducks and a goat that was sometimes tied to the building. All the animals were Murphy's. Gage would sometimes feed them.

In the evenings, Murphy would lounge around his home in the rectory, sometimes in his underwear, Gage said. One evening, when Murphy retired to his room, Gage picked up the Better Homes and Gardens magazine the priest had been reading. The cover concealed explicit gay pornography, Gage said.


In the early 1970s, Murphy began buying up lots in a rural subdivision off Buffalo Mine Road north of Palmer, according to state and borough property records. By 1981 he had accumulated about 14 acres and was calling the place Shangri-La. It was off Murphy Road on a dirt lane called Sybarite Road.

Murphy Road was named after the priest -- he petitioned the local legislator, former Sen. Jay Kerttula, to have it built. "Sybarite" is the word for an inhabitant of the ancient, wealthy city of Sybaris in southern Italy that has come to mean someone fond of luxury, pleasure and self-gratification. Murphy said the developer named it that, though it was an appropriate name for Murphy's homestead.

With the help of friends and the boys from church, Murphy built up the place, eventually constructing several cabins and a sauna they called the "butt hut."

At various times, Murphy had said he wanted to turn Shangri-La into a church farm, a boys home, a cross-country ski resort, but ultimately Murphy's own lost horizon doomed the ideas.

Gage said he and another of the "runaways" would often steal building materials for Shangri-La from unguarded construction sites that littered the Mat-Su during the building boom of the early 1980s. Murphy never asked him to steal, he said, but turned a blind eye when doors, lumber and other supplies showed up.

Murphy said he recalls only once remarking about the "miracle" appearance of some timbers at the property.


Gage had been at St. Patrick's for several months when he contracted appendicitis. He said Murphy took him to the hospital and signed as his guardian. When Gage returned to St. Patrick's to convalesce, Murphy took an unusual interest in the incision in his lower abdomen.

"Murphy would feel the incision," Gage said. "He kept going lower, using his hands." Gage would break off the contact by claiming he had to go to the bathroom, but that was usually after Murphy was fondling his genitals.

The unwanted touching formed the basis of a lawsuit Gage filed against Murphy, Archbishop Hurley and the Anchorage Archdiocese in 1996. The case never went to trial. With so many years having passed, the church successfully argued that the statute of limitations had long expired and Gage had no right to bring suit. The same argument has stymied priests' victims across the country who said it took years before they were psychologically ready to declare what happened to them and face their past in open court.

As a youngster, Gage had dreams of being a police detective. He was an avid member of the Anchorage Police Department's Police Explorers Program, which introduced high school students to police work. As an explorer, Gage met Frank Feichtinger, the lead investigator of the department's child sexual exploitation unit, and took an immediate liking to him.

"Back then, I saw Frank as my dad," Gage said.

On May 2, 1984, when Gage was 18, he dropped in on Feichtinger at his office in a police annex downtown. According to one of the many police reports Feichtinger would file in the case, Gage told the investigator about being groped by Murphy after the appendectomy, about Murphy's huge homosexual pornography collection, about Murphy hanging around in his underwear and giving back rubs to one of the teens in the rectory, a resident there since age 14, and of Murphy retreating with that teen to his room and closing the door.

But Gage's primary motivation in going to the cops, he told Feichtinger, was Murphy's intention to open a boy's home on the Shangri-La property and the risk that represented to already troubled youths, Feichtinger wrote in his report.

In a recent interview, Feichtinger said that if Murphy indeed groped Gage, it probably wasn't more than a minor misdemeanor under the laws of the day. Getting the busy district attorney's office to prosecute would have been difficult, he said.

So Feichtinger told the teen to keep looking around and to stay in touch.


About two months after Gage complained to Feichtinger, Archbishop Hurley transferred Murphy to St. Benedict Catholic Church in South Anchorage. Murphy had been seeking a transfer -- 15 years at the same place was more than enough, he said -- but he found St. Benedict's, an established congregation in a middle class, suburban neighborhood, not to be the kind of challenge he said he was looking for. His drinking worsened, as did his risk-taking, he said.

With the rectory at St. Patrick's no longer home, Murphy needed a new place for the runaways. He obtained a donated home at 3227 W. Northern Lights Blvd., named it Sanctuary House, and Ken Gage and the other teen, Murphy's back-rub partner, moved in as house leaders.

Hurley said Murphy didn't inform him of the plans for Sanctuary House. Murphy established it independently of St. Benedict's and the archdiocese, Hurley said.

Nevertheless, from the outside looking in, with Sanctuary House and Shangri-La, Murphy was performing a valuable public service, said Brother Charles McBride, a spokesman for the archdiocese who first came to Anchorage in 1979.

"The way people looked at this whole thing at that time, McLaughlin didn't have a program like today, Covenant House didn't exist, a lot of these social services didn't exist," McBride said. "Basically he was the only one dealing with some of these kids."

At the time, McBride said, he thought Murphy was "eccentric," but even from his office in the archdiocese, he had no idea what was actually going on until much later.

"It was just like, 'OK, Murph is doing his thing,' " McBride said, describing what people would say when they saw the priest drinking. "He was a real character. I think back in those days, it's amazing the number of people that I talked to that thought he was the greatest guy. For all intents and purposes, to most parishioners, he was a happy-go-lucky guy who put on great parties."

On March 16, 1985, Gage showed up unexpectedly at Feichtinger's office with a porn magazine and two "gay novels," as Feichtinger described them in a report. One of the novels, "Tricking the Chicken," was about sexual acts between older men and boys.

The publications were from three boxes of similar items, including 8mm movies, that Gage said belonged to Murphy and the other teen and which were moved by Murphy from St. Benedict's to the other teen's room at Sanctuary House. With Murphy in the process of licensing the facility and anticipating a visit any day from city inspectors, they moved the porn again, this time to a crawl space beneath Sanctuary House.

Feichtinger asked Gage if any of the other porn was "youth oriented," and Gage said he would check. He returned later that day with a garbage bag containing 89 publications from the crawl space, about a third of Murphy's collection.

"I examined these materials and took Polaroid photographs of all of them," Feichtinger wrote, seizing 13 magazines and books from the trove "because they were teenage and sado-masochistically oriented material." In going through the material, Feichtinger found that some of it dated from 1978 and that Murphy's name was on numerous receipts.

"Some of the material clearly involved minor males," Feichtinger wrote.

In an interview, Feichtinger said it would have been difficult to prosecute Murphy for possessing child porn even if the models and actors were actually minors. They were sexually mature, and he would have had to prove they weren't legal age.

Over the next few weeks, Feichtinger interviewed several youths from among the "runaways" who had stayed at St. Patrick's or Sanctuary House. None reported anything more serious than Murphy giving them semi-nude back rubs. The teen whom Gage had seen spending time behind closed doors with Murphy strongly defended the priest for taking an interest in troubled boys and denied having sex with him, though he also told contradictory stories.

Feichtinger said in an interview that he reported Sanctuary House to the state Division of Family and Youth Services officials, but they said they couldn't shut down the place because it didn't receive state funding.

By April 1985, Murphy knew the police were watching him, Gage told Feichtinger. Not suspecting Gage as the informant, Murphy told Gage and the other teen to get the porn out of Anchorage and stash it at Shangri-La in the ceiling above the "butt hut." Gage said that Murphy withdrew his license application for Sanctuary House and sent the youths and young men living there packing, some of them landing at Brother Francis Shelter.

Murphy acknowledged that he grew increasingly reckless. Around that time, Deacon Felix Maguire brought Hurley some of Murphy's pornography that he had found. Maguire also informed Koles, a police investigator he knew.

"I did what a father should've done," Maguire said in an interview. "I was thinking of my kids."

"As Monsignor Murphy's consumption of alcohol escalated, suspicions about his conduct also arose," Hurley wrote in his statement to the Daily News. "Shortly after he transferred to St. Benedict's, his use of pornography was discovered. At this point, I realized that counseling alone would not effect a change in him."

Hurley also learned the police were on Murphy's trail, according to reports and the officers themselves.

In mid- to late May 1985, three years after the Podvin family told Archbishop Hurley about Murphy, Hurley called Police Capt. Del Smith to ask if Murphy was under investigation, according to police documents. Feichtinger said he and Smith met with Hurley and showed him some of the porn that was seized and relayed police concern.

While they didn't have enough evidence to charge Murphy with a crime, "we indicated that where there's smoke, there may be some fire," Smith, now retired, recalled.

Hurley didn't tell the police about Pat Podvin. But even with what they knew, Feichtinger remembers Smith expressing alarm.

"He was very concerned. The thought of a group home, and the shelter Murphy had in the Valley, was kind of scary," Feichtinger said.

On June 20, 1985, as Murphy was preparing to conduct a wedding in Girdwood, Hurley tracked him down and handed him a plane ticket to St. Louis.

"His words are engraved in my mind," Murphy said: " 'Murph, you got a problem; I've got a solution. You're going out of here tonight.' "

Murphy was off to a Servants of the Paraclete community house in Missouri.

Founded in 1947 in Jemez Springs, N.M., a beautiful green valley at the edge of the desert, the Catholic order now has four retreats to help priests and men in religious orders recover from alcoholism and other addictions. Murphy would spend five months at the order's home in St. Louis in intense counseling, introspection and prayer.

A few days after Murphy left town, Hurley telephoned Smith and told him "the Sanctuary House has been closed down and that Murphy had been sent to St. Louis, Missouri, for 'treatment' of his problem," Feichtinger wrote in a report. The priest's departure was confirmed by Gage, who called Feichtinger to report that Murphy told him his treatment would last for months "and that he might not be returning ever."

But in November 1985, the police began picking up tips from informants like Gage that Murphy would be moving back to Anchorage in mid-January. Feichtinger re-opened the case, this time with help from Koles, who was then primarily investigating burglaries.


Koles discovered that $57,000 was missing from St. Benedict's church funds and Murphy was suspected of embezzling the money, Feichtinger wrote in his report. About $22,000 of that money landed in the bank account of a police officer who was a friend of Murphy, Jim Rehmann, who was developing property in the Valley, Feichtinger wrote. The money disappeared from the church in the six months leading up to Murphy's departure, he said.

Rehmann, retired from the police department, declined to discuss the money. Archdiocese officials say he eventually paid back what they believed he owed.

Feichtinger reported that Koles was told by Deacon Maguire that two altar boys might have been molested by Murphy.

"Investigator Koles stated that Maguire had also mentioned something about some Polaroid photographs but was unable or reluctant to go into that matter further," Feichtinger wrote.

In an interview recently, Maguire said he didn't want to go into details even now because he believed the matter still may end up in court. But he said that the amount of money missing was a fraction of what Koles thought.

Koles and Feichtinger found Maguire to be a somewhat reluctant witness in 1985. Maguire told Koles that Murphy was responsible for church funds missing from other accounts too, Feichtinger wrote.

"Maguire was reluctant to make any of this information knowledge to the police department because of his position with the archbishop, who did not at this time wish it to be disclosed," Feichtinger wrote.

During the second week of November 1985, Maguire again spoke with Koles and reported that Archbishop Hurley and Murphy's lawyer, Timothy Lynch, had traveled to St. Louis to visit the priest, according to the police reports. Maguire said he felt squeezed: On the one hand, he wanted to report the missing funds as theft, but on the other, "it was the archbishop's desire that no reports be made to the police," the police reports said.

Maguire had an additional source of stress. When Murphy left, he gave Maguire the power of attorney to handle his affairs, including Shangri-La. In an interview, Koles said police lacked probable cause to obtain a search warrant for the place, but Maguire could have legally authorized a voluntary search. The police wanted to search for illegal porn, stolen building materials and evidence of sexual crimes, Feichtinger said.

But Maguire turned them down, Feichtinger wrote. "Maguire had been told by Church officials not to do that and not to allow the Police up to the properties."

On Friday, Nov. 22, 1985, Feichtinger received a call from the Rev. Steven Moore, vicar general for the archdiocese, a key Hurley aide. Moore wanted a meeting about Murphy the following Monday.

Feichtinger first had a strategy session with Capt. Smith, who thought that Murphy could be at least charged criminally with misdemeanor harassment -- and that the archdiocese should be told that.

Hurley showed up at the meeting with Moore, Feichtinger said, and listened as the detective outlined the case against Murphy.

"I told him we would like to pursue the missing funds. I was asking for the checks at St. Benedict's," he said.

Hurley responded that he wasn't going to provide the St. Benedict's records. Money was easy for the church to come by, Feichtinger recalled him saying.

More importantly to Feichtinger, Hurley said that Murphy had finished his alcohol treatment and was coming home, much to the officers' dismay.

"I basically put my foot down and said that's it -- you want to play hardball, I'll play hardball," Feichtinger said.

"I looked at him and said, 'Bishop, I'm going to tell you -- you keep Murphy out of this state. Or when he lands, I will arrest him at the airport on a misdemeanor charge.' "

Feichtinger added that Murphy's arrest would take place before a host of invited television cameras, and that it would be followed by an investigation that might yield felonies.

"He got huffy and stormed out of the room," Feichtinger said.

TOMORROW: Monsignor Murphy begins a new life in Boston. Daily News reporter Richard Mauer can be reached at or 257-4345.



April 9: Francis Aloysius Murphy born in Belmont, Mass.


Dec. 7: Young Frank Murphy sees a movie about Alaska made by Bernard Hubbard, a Jesuit priest and ethnographer. The film, featuring Alaska’s natural wonders, made a lasting impression.


Feb. 2: Murphy ordained at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston.


Fall: After three years at St. Joseph’s Parish in E. Pepperell, Mass., Murphy spends time at a number of Southeast Alaska parishes.


February : Father Murphy named curate of Holy Family Parish in Anchorage.


Feb. 9: Archdiocese of Anchorage created and Monsignor

Joseph T. Ryan named first archbishop.


Dec. 6: The Rev. Frank Murphy elevated by Pope Paul to title of right reverend monsignor. At 35, he is the youngest monsignor

in the United States.


March 21: Monsignor Francis T. Hurley of San Francisco is installed as Bishop of Juneau.

Oct. 4: Murphy becomes founding pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish.


Aug. 18: Murphy buys the first lot of what will be Shangri-La, his paradise between Palmer and Sutton.


July 8: Archbishop Hurley is installed in Anchorage.


Pat Podvin’s parents, then Podvin himself, report a sexual pass by Murphy to Archbishop Hurley. Hurley said he didn’t take the matter to police “because there was no crime.”


May 2: Anchorage police officer Frank Feichtinger opens a possible sexual abuse of minors case against Murphy when Ken Gage, who had been living off and on at the rectory at St. Patrick’s, reports that Murphy fondled him and says he believes Murphy is sexually attracted to boys.

July 15: Murphy is named pastor of St. Benedict’s Parish, Anchorage.


March 16: Ken Gage brings Feichtinger male pornography he took from Murphy’s stash and reports that Murphy is opening a home for delinquent and homeless boys named Sanctuary House.

Late May: Anchorage Police Capt. Del Smith, contacted by Archbishop Hurley, tells the archbishop that Murphy had been under investigation and that police were concerned about the risks to boys with Murphy running Sanctuary House.

Mid-June: Archbishop Hurley telephones Capt. Smith and says that Sanctuary House had been closed and Murphy has been sent to St. Louis for alcohol treatment.

Nov. 25: Upon hearing that Murphy will be returning to Anchorage, police tell archdiocese officials that Murphy will be arrested at the airport when he arrives.

Richard Mauer

Richard Mauer was a longtime reporter and editor for the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.