Seattle Archbishop In Hospital Leukemia Is Preliminary Diagnosis, Spokesman Says
Roman Catholic Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy, who has been feeling under the weather for the past couple of weeks, was hospitalized over the weekend and may have leukemia, a spokesman said Monday.
Murphy, 64, was admitted Sunday to Providence Seattle Medical Center, diocese spokesman Jim Britt said. The exact nature of his illness is not known, Britt said, but the preliminary diagnosis is leukemia, a cancer of the blood.
“He was experiencing flulike symptoms” for a couple of weeks, the spokesman said. Britt said he did not know whether Murphy had seen a doctor before entering the hospital Sunday, when the tentative diagnosis was made.
Murphy was resting comfortably and in guarded condition, the spokesman said. He will undergo tests at the hospital, Britt said, noting that more information was expected to become available today.
Hospital officials Monday referred all questions about Murphy to the archdiocese.
Britt said Murphy had cancer about 20 years ago - a sarcoma, which is cancer arising from connective tissue such as muscle or bone. He said he didn’t know whether Murphy’s current problem is related to that, but suspected it is not.
Murphy is the spiritual leader for 353,000 Catholics in Western Washington.
And “he’s still very much in charge,” Britt said. Murphy’s two immediate subordinates - Father George Thomas, the vicar for ministers, and Father James Picton, vicar for parishes - are overseeing day-to-day operations.
Murphy’s name has been mentioned, in the National Catholic Reporter and other media, in speculation about a successor to Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, archbishop of Chicago, who died last month nearly a year and a half after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
A native of Chicago and the son of Irish immigrants, Murphy was ordained in 1958. He served with the Chicago archdiocese until 1978.
He was named coadjutor archbishop of Seattle in 1987, after the Vatican removed and then restored Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen’s authority. Hunthausen, who withheld half his income tax to protest U.S. spending on nuclear weapons and began a gay ministry, was disciplined by the Vatican for actions considered too liberal.
Murphy took over as archbishop when Hunthausen retired in Summer 1991. In the homily for the Mass he celebrated to mark the beginning of his new ministry, he said: “We must acknowledge a changing social fabric in our community and speak God’s word of love for the single parent, the separated and divorced, the gay and lesbian community.”
Last year, he joined the two other Catholic prelates in Washington - the bishops of Spokane and Yakima - in taking no position on anti-gay-rights initiatives they characterized as “inadequately crafted.”
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