EXPLOSIVE: The Pope is Directly Implicated in the Cover-Up of a Wisconsin Sexual Abuse Case (w/Update)

UPDATE: Naturally, the Vatican couldn’t let the New York Times‘ investigative report by Laurie Goodstein go by without the usual chest thumping about no cover-up. Do they really know what the word means? This is from the Associated Press, via HuffPo, published 12:50 p.m. ET, Thursday:

On Thursday, a group of clerical abuse victims staged a press conference outside St. Peter’s Square in Rome to denounce Benedict’s handling of the case and gave reporters church and Vatican documents on the case.

Afterward, Italian police detained four American abuse victims for 2-1/2 hours because they didn’t have a permit for the news conference and suggested they get a lawyer in case a judge decided to press charges, the victims said.

“We’ve spent more time in the police station than Father Murphy did in his life,” Peter Isely, the Milwaukee-based director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said after his release.

Speaking at the earlier press conference, Isely called the Murphy case the most “incontrovertible case of pedophilia you could get.”

“The goal of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was to keep this secret,” he said, flanked by photos of other clerical abuse victims and a poster of Ratzinger. “We need to know why he (the pope) did not let us know about him (Murphy) and why he didn’t let the police know about him and why he did not condemn him and why he did not take his collar away from him.”

The Vatican issued a strong defense in its handling of the Murphy case. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said there was no cover-up and denounced what it said was a “clear and despicable intention” to strike at Benedict “at any cost.”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement noting that the Murphy case had only reached the Vatican in 1996 – some 20 years after the diocese first learned of the allegations. He also said Murphy died two years later – in 1998 – and that there was nothing in the church’s handling of the matter that precluded any civil action from being taken against him.

In fact, police did investigate the allegations at the time and never proceeded with a case, Lombardi noted.

Right. We know how police sometimes sweep things under the rug when it comes to priests and prelates–anyone with a main line to the divine, or its representatives–or a phone line to its more temporal supporters, like mayors, police chiefs, lawyers and lay organizations.

The fact remains that the Church and its representatives was responsible for correcting wrong and supporting and protecting its laity and their children publicly as well as privately. More importantly they were responsible for alleviating doubt, division, pain and sorrow among the people. They overlooked the facts of Father Murphy’s activities during his career, quietly insinuating that it was the fault of the Wisconsin archbishopric for not bringing it to their attention earlier. I sincerely doubt whether they would have done anything had all or one of the archbishops had brought the case to the Vatican.

It didn’t matter whether Father Murphy was under the sentence of a terminal illness. Though there were no more reports of abuse during his last 20 years, the man was still running with children–as did the infamous H, now known as Father Peter Hullermann, in Bavaria, Germany. Hullermann was finally suspended last week after years of misbehavior. The prelates spared Father Murphy too, but they didn’t spare his victims–the least of these. Murphy needed to face his accusers, young and grown. He needed to apologize to them before he left this lifetime. I would not have bought his claim of having repented, for as we know now, a sex offender will offend again.

Moreover, the Church needed to face the wrong it perpetrated, and to self-reflect and to reform.

So far, they’re still hiding behind the infallibility number. But watch. If this shoe dropped, there are plenty more…

Father Murphy in 1960

Father Lawrence Murphy, shown near center with his hands together, with youths at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin in 1960 (Courtesy: NYT)

From the New York Times:

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

Arthur Budzinski, at a cemetery behind St. John’s School for the Deaf, says he was first molested in 1960 when he went to Father Murphy for confession.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.

The Wisconsin case involved an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. But it is only one of thousands of cases forwarded over decades by bishops to the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led from 1981 to 2005 by Cardinal Ratzinger. It is still the office that decides whether accused priests should be given full canonical trials and defrocked.

In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy’s dismissal.

But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.

“I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood,” Father Murphy wrote near the end of his life to Cardinal Ratzinger. “I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.

There’s more at the Times. Father Murphy was never disciplined by the church’s justice system under canon law during or after his twenty-four year tenure at the school. Three successive archbishops knew or had evidence that Murphy was abusing boys. Murphy was even given a pass by the legal authorities despite repeated complaints by the youths, their parents and guardians. He later admitted to a social worker who treated sex offenders that he had molested about 200 young men and boys at the school for the deaf, and felt no remorse.

It was only when then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland tried to have the man defrocked that any action–or really, inaction–occurred in Father Murphy’s case. In other words, the priest appealed to Rome and Cardinal Ratzinger. For his pains, Father Murphy was later sent to the Diocese in Superior where he died in 1998, unrepentent to the last, and still a priest. All the way up to his death, he was still allowed to work with children, including those at a juvenile detention center.

~ by blksista on March 24, 2010.

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