Memories of Bishop MurphyFor half a century...


Memories of Bishop Murphy

For half a century it was my privilege to know Philip Francis Murphy, who died Sept. 2 ("Bishop Murphy, advocate for justice, dies at age 66," Sept. 3) after 40 years as a priest and 23 years as auxiliary bishop of Baltimore.

If Christ was the winning face of God, Bishop Murphy was the beguiling face of Catholicism -- a structured religion whose officials too often seem cold and legalistic.

We first met in our teens as fellow students at St. Charles Minor Seminary in Catonsville. Even then, he radiated the unflagging cheerfulness, courtesy, kindness, patience and universal benignity which marked his 66 years of life.

Though he was proudly Irish, he embodied none of the cliches of the stern Celtic clergyman. The serious jest was that, in him, justice was tempered by Murphy.

After studying in Rome, he was appointed to the seminary faculty of his alma mater there. His special task was to be repetitor: A staff member who repeated in American the main points of the seminarians' theology classes. These classes were taught, but not always caught, in Latin.

As a priest, he was also a repetitor: By his words and deeds he repeated and clarified what it meant to be a genuine Christian.

Like Jesus, who sought out the marginal and the neglected, Bishop Murphy made his own the causes of minority groups in the modern church -- women who sought a greater role, married priests who still wanted to minister and laymen whose sexuality made them feel ostracized.

He befriended the poor -- of all faiths and none -- especially in Western Maryland, where he served as the Archbishop's Vicar.

He worked hard to make Protestants, Jews and other non-Catholics feel better understood and esteemed by their Catholic neighbors.

While some his Roman contemporaries rose to be Cardinals, Bishop Murphy was never entrusted with a diocese of his own.

It was often claimed that, because he espoused officially disfavored causes, he would never go anywhere in the church. I always liked to rejoin that he didn't need to go anywhere in the true church -- he was already there.

The eyes of faith will now see that he needs to go nowhere in the purified, unbureaucratic celestial church. He is already there.

Father Joseph Gallagher Baltimore

The writer is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

As a Roman Catholic and a feminist, I am distressed that we liberated Catholic women have lost a brave soldier, who fought for the emancipation of women in the Catholic Church -- as well as for women struggling in poverty.

Bishop Frank Murphy was a man who loved God and believed all men and women are one and equal in being with the Father.

Larnell Custis Butler Baltimore

It is ironic that Bishop Frank Murphy left us just before the third millennium begins, as he was a man who embraced the future.

While committed to service through his beloved church, Bishop Murphy's deep integrity occasionally led to stands at variance with church practice.

He showed rare courage in advocating an equal role for women in the church, acceptance of gays and rejection of war.

He worked to bridge the gaps among religions and preached a philosophy of inclusion.

This gentle, listening man employed his priesthood to bring light to the dark corners, change where it is desperately needed and comfort to those lost in the storm.

As his Jewish friends would put it, Frank Murphy was a mensch.

Charles A. Wunder


For city to thrive, these goals are key

The following is a summary of "First Things First -- Setting Priorities for Strengthening Baltimore's Business Climate in the 21st Century," a report recently issued to the candidates for mayor by the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC):

The future political leadership of Baltimore City must embrace the clear correlation between reducing crime, improving education and expanding Baltimore's population and economy.

Here are eight recommended goals for improving the city:

Public safety

Reduced homicides and violent crime in Baltimore City by 50 percent by the year 2002. A Violence Reduction Task Force, comprising key city, state and federal law enforcement officials, has launched a "focused deterrence" strategy to dramatically reduce Baltimore's homicide rate.

Government leaders, public safety officials and the business community must continue to support collaborative intervention to reduce homicide in our city.

Reduce the total crime rate by 25 percent by 2004. Coordinate all public safety agencies, deter nuisance crime through the operation of a community court and strengthen preventive programs and youth programs, such as the Police Athletic League.

Fully fund effective drug treatment on request. Drug use produces crime and the most effective way to reduce that crime is a public health strategy that increases drug treatment and prevention.


Double the number of Baltimore City Public School (BCPS) students who score "satisfactory" on the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) by the year 2004. Achieve the statewide average in MSPAP scores by 2006.

The new city school administration should carefully follow its master plan to improve instruction and nurture strong reading and math skills in the early grades, building subsequent student achievement on that foundation.

In doing so, school leaders should set clear, measurable interim objectives.

Increase school attendance to the statewide average by 2004 and increase the city's graduation rate to at least the regional average by the year 2011.

The school system's strategy must be founded on the principle that students can only learn if they are in school.

Increase local funding resources. Baltimore must commit to improve its education system by increasing local school funding to the fullest extent feasible. Meanwhile, it must find creative and effective ways to address the system's substantial capital and school renovation needs.

Population, economic growth

Slow and reverse Baltimore's population decline by 2004. Strategies should focus on creating a diverse and affordable housing market and attracting and keeping more middle class homeowners in the city.

Neighborhoods with strong residential home ownership must be fully supported with services.

Achieve positive job growth in Baltimore City by the year 2004. Strategies should include tax increment financing and other effective economic development tools. All the city's industrial and commercial areas should be included in an enterprise zone.

The city should also consider raising it's self-imposed debt ceiling to allow borrowing for key development purposes.

The city's future policies will impact not only Baltimore, but the economic health of the region. Strong evidence across the the country shows that regions with declining core areas do not perform as well as regions with healthy and viable ones.

Baltimore's potential is underscored by a resurgence of downtown commerce, strong growth among the city's major medical and academic institutions and a growing demand for city housing.

For the city to realize its full economic potential, the prerequisites are crystal clear:

Homicides and violent crime must decrease.

The quality of public education must improve.

Employment and residential growth must be nurtured.

Any plan to expand the city's economy and population that ignores the direct relationship between those goals and reducing crime and improving public education is destined to fail.

Despite its challenges, Baltimore is in a position to reassert itself as the region's economic and cultural catalyst.

To do this, the city's new political leaders must develop a vision and a comprehensive approach based on measurable goals and objectives.

Donald P. Hutchinson


The writer is president of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

How some readers plan to cast votes Tuesday

Editor's note: We asked readers to tell us who they were voting and why. Here are some of the responses we received:

Martin O'Malley is the best choice for mayor of Baltimore City.

I first met Mr. O'Malley when he was the statewide coordinator for Sen. Bob Kerrey's presidential campaign in 1992 and I was running to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for then-governor Bill Clinton.

The keen grasp of national issues Mr. O'Malley demonstrated as an advocate for Senator Kerrey showed me that he has incredible analytic ability and understands the economic impact public policy has on working people's lives.

In 1994, I was the statewide campaign manager for Democratic challenger Pat Smith in his bid for attorney general against Joe Curran, Mr. O'Malley's father-in-law. I had many occasions to meet Mr. O'Malley on the campaign trail, because he was Mr. Curran's campaign manager.

He was always friendly and respected me as a professional, even though I was working for Attorney General Curran's opponent.

This demonstrates Mr O'Malley's temperament; the kind of temperament that a mayor must have to govern a major city.

Although Mr. O'Malley has been a hard-nosed, no-nonsense prosecutor, he is also a humanitarian. He is a class act whose integrity is beyond reproach.

The people of Baltimore, as well as Maryland, will benefit if Martin O'Malley is elected mayor.

Grason Eckel


Baltimore is in crisis. We are losing as many as 12,000 residents a year. They are leaving for a better quality of life.

The reason is simple: City government has failed the middle-class, property tax-paying population.

This is not a race issue. If anything, it's a class issue. Those who can afford to leave are leaving, or have already left.

They are leaving because of crime and because of the state of our schools.

If they don't feel safe and they can't educate their children, why should they stay?

Overemphasizing downtown development, previous administrations neglected the city's neighborhoods, which fell one by one -- victims of grime and crime.

What the city now needs is a mayor who understands the issues and the need for balance. Downtown growth must fuel, but be balanced with, neighborhood development.

Safer streets and neighborhood development will stem the middle-class flight from the city. A stable middle-class would not tolerate inferior schools -- and thus the education system will be improved.

One mayoral candidate, Martin O'Malley, has the vision to see that such progress hinges on making people feel safe again.

Stopping even the nuisance crimes is what my community expects. It's what the city needs and what Mr. O'Malley can deliver.

Joseph Myers


My admiration for Councilman Martin O'Malley keeps growing.

It began when he was the only person with the guts to challenge Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier and State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy for giving the public misinformation and for the poor performance of our criminal justice system.

My admiration grew when he had the courage to announce his candidacy for mayor, knowing full-well his late start would cause him to be branded a political opportunist.

I truly believe the real reason Mr O'Malley is running is that he knows that Baltimore, with its myriad problems, would benefit from his leadership.

While his opponents insult our intelligence with cheap accusations, defensive rhetoric, lies and poor decisions, Mr. O'Malley continues to address the issues with a dignity and strength that this city desperately needs.

My wish is that Baltimore will look at Mr. O'Malley's intelligence, courage and desire to help the people of Baltimore -- not the color of his skin.

Kate Price


Carl Stokes keeps diversity thriving

Each of us live in Charles Village. The importance of the current mayor's race causes us to write.

We take pride in the diversity and eclectic nature of our neighborhood.

Over the last decade, Charles Village voters have crossed racial lines to elect representatives on the city and state levels. Charles Village has spawned some of the first "coalition tickets" to include both blacks and whites for city-wide office.

We continue this tradition by supporting Carl Stokes for mayor.

We support Mr. Stokes because we remember his commitment to constituent service while he served as a City Councilman from the 2nd District (1987-95).

Mr. Stokes is as at home in the Yellow Bowl on Greenmount Avenue as he is in Donna's on St. Paul Street.

We believe he has earned the support of Baltimoreans of all races, as a consummate bridge-builder and consensus-maker.

We also support Mr. Stokes because we believe his positions on education and city services, and his responsible approach to community policing, are embraced by people of all races.

In Charles Village, you will see signs supporting Mr. Stokes both in the yards of homeowners and in shops on Greenmount Avenue.

We look forward to a Stokes administration as rich and diverse as the neighborhood he once represented in the City Council.

Dawna Cobb


Ms. Cobb is former president of the Abell Improvement Association. The letter was also signed by four other Charles Village residents.

A GOP voice in the Democratic wilderness

Irked that we Republicans haven't made a bigger splash and raised bigger bucks from special interests for this year's city election, Barry Rascovar has erroneously concluded ("City Republicans need a hero to inspire rebirth," Opinion Commentary, Aug. 22) that we are viewed as "liberal renegades" by state Republicans (they're actually very supportive); that Republicans are concentrated in affluent areas of north Baltimore (they're not); that we are not registering a significant number of young blacks (we are); and that we offer no real choice come November (we do).

As inaccurate as these assertions are, it is indisputable that we must further reduce the Democrats lopsided 8.7-1 registration advantage in the city and, working with other like-minded people, streamline of the archaic, gerrymandered City Council districting system before the local political landscape is likely to improve markedly.

Undaunted by these disadvantages and by the local media's deliberate slights -- it focuses virtually all its attention on the Democratic primary -- our mayoral candidates and our 15 City Council candidates are all knocking on doors and attending forums and festivals in order to hear what voters have to say.

Given the monumental problems which have grown and fes- tered under 30-plus years of Dem- ocratic rule since the revered Theodore R. McKeldin was mayor, Republicans are unwilling to concede that the November elections should simply rubber-stamp the results of the city's Democratic primary.

The last thing this city needs in November is a Democratic coronation, involving the same old players who got us into this mess.

Far from offering no real choice in November, as Mr. Rascovar contends, we will be offering the voters plenty of choices to chart a new course with refreshing new talent -- with especially capable candidates running for mayor, city council president and City Council.

All we ask is that voters give us a hearing, keep an open mind and vote accordingly in November.

Their votes could make the difference between perpetuating the status quo or embarking on a new beginning.

Dick Fairbanks


The writer is vice chairman of the Baltimore City Republican Party.

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