Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Archdiocese Priest Wrote Love Letter to Seventh-Grade Boy

Father Joseph Okonski had a pained look on his face. The veteran priest was telling a jury how back in 1995, he walked into the bedroom of his rectory roommate, Father Michael Murtha, and discovered a trove of pornographic magazines and videos.

"Certainly, I was disturbed by it," the priest told the jury Wednesday. The porn was being mailed to the rectory of St. Anselm's Church in Northeast Philadelphia in plan wrappers. The priest played one video. "It was sado-masochistic male-on-male pornography," he testified.

The priest reported the porn to the pastor of St. Anselm's, but he didn't do anything about it, Father Okonski told the jury. Then, Father Okonski made a second visit to Father Murtha's bedroom and discovered in a closet a love letter Father Murtha had written to a seventh-grade boy.

"Dear [name redacted]," Father Murtha wrote. "You are so cute ... would you like it if I sucked your dick? I bet you would." In the letter, which was displayed to the jury, Father Murtha told the seventh grader that he wanted to kiss his nipples, and that he got hot thinking about the boy's father spanking the boy's "cute ass." If the seventh-grader decided he wanted to take the priest up on his offer of fellatio, the priest wrote, the boy should leave a letter behind the bulletin board where the parish school advertised the student of the week.

The letter from the archdiocese priest was signed, your "secret lover."

This time, Father Okonski made a copy of the letter and grabbed a pornographic video. He sent them to Monsignor Charles Devlin, vicar for parishes in North Philadelphia.

What was the outcome of Father Okonski blowing the whistle on his roommate?

"Mike Murtha was called downtown" to see Msgr. William J. Lynn, Father Okonski told the jury. Murtha wound up being evaluated at St. John Vianney Center. Father Murtha told his superiors that the love letter was just a fantasy he never sent.

"He was sorry for his behavior," Father Okonski told the jury. "He was sorry he wrote the letter. He was embarrassed."

After being evaluated at St. John Vianney, Father Murtha was transferred to two more parishes with schools, without any warnings to parishioners. Father Michael Dilorio told the jury Wednesday how Father Murtha served as assistant parochial vicar at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Levittown.

Did Father Dilorio know that Father Murtha had any past problems with pornography, the prosecutor asked.

"No," Father Dilorio testified.

Did Father Dilorio know that Father Murtha had undergone psychiatric evaluation at St. John Vianney?

"No," Father Dilorio testified.

Did the archdiocese place any restrictions on Father Murtha while he was at St. Michael's?

"No," Father Dilorio testified.

Then the business manager at St. Michael's discovered some porno movies on a parish cable bill. Father Murtha's computer was seized.

But Father Murtha wasn't finished as a parish priest. Father Henry J. McKee, pastor of Sacred Hearth Church in Havertown, was called to the witness stand. He testified that in 2002, he got a call from Msgr. William J. Lynn. The monsignor wanted to know if Father McKee would accept Father Murtha as as assistant parochial vicar.

"I had lost my assistant," Father McKee testified. "I was all by myself."

Monsignor Lynn did not mention that Father Murtha had any past problems with pornography, Father McKee testified. The monsignor also didn't mention that love letter to the seventh grader.

"I called back and said, I'll give it a go," Father McKee testified. But after three years, Father McKee told the jury that Murtha had to go. It wasn't over any sexual allegations.

"I had issues with him over authority and anger," Father McKee said.

Father Murtha had to go. In his last few weeks on the job, he finally shared his psychological evaluation from St. John Vianney with Father McKee.

But the priest remained in active ministry until 2010, when Cardinal Justin Rigali asked that he be defrocked.


  1. Avery was admitted to St. John Vianney in Downingtown for nearly a year of sex therapy and mental-health treatment.
    St. John Vianney never diagnosed Avery as a pedophile, but said he should not be around adolescents or work as a DJ.

    No surprise here……St. John Vianney is a facility operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, with services and treatment staff salaries paid by the same Archdiocese of Philadelphia that employed Father Avery.

    In the professional world, this is known as a serious “conflict of interest” not only for the archdiocese, but for the client/patient as well. Who ultimately pays for this treatment, services and “conflict of interest”?….the parishioners of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

  2. Thank you for starting this blog Ralph & Max. I had planned on attending the trial every day throughout, but because of a severe back injury there's just no way I'll be able to wait in line for a seat in the courtroom or even sit on those "pews."

    I was in attendance for the arraignment and other hearings last year when this all first came about. I had to wait in line outside of the courtroom, standing, for well over an hour. I even did an interview last weekend with CNN and said "I will be up at the trial as many days as I can." Unfortunately, I just don't see me doing any days. I'm also a victim of childhood sexual abuse by a Catholic priest and I feel this trial is very important and might become the catalyst for changing the Statute of Limitations in PA, and more importantly, I think if Lynn and the other scum are found to be guilty, that verdict will protect future children from abuse.

    I usually check Abuse Tracker through throughout the day to keep updated on the trial, but I also search through,, and other resources. Hopefully this will make it easier so I don't have to search through all those "good" websites.

    So far everything here is looking good and I've been able to read all your posts. Keep it up and thanks again!

    Peace out!


  3. ".....after three years, Father McKee told the jury that Murtha had to go. It wasn't over any sexual allegations."

    Gee, why do I struggle to believe Fr McKee's assertion?


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