The Pope and the Wisconsin sex abuse scandal [Telegraph - UK]

In the early 1990s, when I was religious affairs correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, I reported on the American Catholic Church’s terrible failure to address allegations of child abuse. I think I was one of the first journalists in Britain to write about the way pervert priests were being shuffled around US parishes by bishops. So don’t accuse me of being an apologist for the culture of secrecy and cowardice that enabled wicked men to go unpunished.

But something smells fishy about today’s New York Times story implying that Pope Benedict XVI was complicit in the cover-up surrounding the crimes of a Wisconsin priest, Fr Lawrence Murphy, who abused children at a school for the deaf between 1950 and 1974.

Murphy? Guilty as hell. Various bishops? Likewise. But the fact that in 1996 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger may have approved the decision not to pursue complex canonical procedures against Murphy on the grounds that the guy was dying anyway doesn’t strike me as much of a smoking gun.

I do, however, get the very strong feeling that the Pope’s enemies, including his enemies in the Church, are trying desperately hard to discover serious complicity on his part in a child abuse case. Because that would be just so convenient, wouldn’t it?

The news stories on this subject have been written mainly from the perspective of angry victims’ advocates. I don’t deny for a second that (in so far as they can be separated) the grotesquely overdue delivery of justice to victims and their families is a more important priority than dealing fairly with the authorities involved in these cases. Even so, we must distinguish between full-scale guilt, complicity and less serious errors of judgment.

This Wisconsin scandal does not indicate that Joseph Ratzinger was guilty of anything more than misplaced compassion towards a seriously ill old man who had performed (but not been convicted of) acts of great wickedness. In the Munich case, he could be accused of lack of vigilance; the American scandal is much less damaging to him personally, once the full details are taken into account.

It drives me crazy that so much energy is being devoted to trying to acquire the papal scalp while certain profoundly compromised bishops and cardinals have managed to slip out of the public eye – and even land plum appointments in Rome. (And I don’t just mean Cardinal Law.)

Anyway, because some of the media coverage of this latest story has been so partial, in my opinion, I’m going to reproduce in full today’s report by John Thavis of the Catholic News Service. There are facts here that must be taken to account before we arrive at a nuanced judgment.

Read more here:

**Vatican defends action in case of Wisconsin priest abuser
By John Thavis

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican defended a decision not to laicize a Wisconsin priest who sexually abused deaf children, despite the recommendation of his bishop that he be removed from the priesthood.

In a statement responding to a report in the New York Times, the Vatican said that by the time it learned of the case in the late 1990s, the priest was elderly and in poor health. The Vatican eventually suggested that the priest continue to be restricted in ministry instead of laicized, and he died four months later, the Vatican said.

The Vatican decision not to proceed to a church trial and possible laicization came after the priest wrote a personal appeal to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, who was head of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation at the time, the Times article said.

On March 25, the day the article was published, members of the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests held a brief demonstration in front of the Vatican, distributing copies of documents related to the case and calling on the pope to disclose how he and the doctrinal congregation handled allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

Vatican officials who spoke on background said the New York Times story was unfair because it ignored the fact that, at the urging of Cardinal Ratzinger himself, new procedures to deal with priest abusers were put in place in 2002, including measures making it easier to laicize them.

“This would be handled differently today, based on jurisprudence and experience,” one Vatican official told Catholic News Service. “But you can’t accuse people of not applying in 1998 a principle that was established in 2002.”

The case involved Father Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a school for the deaf in Milwaukee from 1950 to 1974. In the early 1970s, multiple allegations of sexual abuse against the priest were made to civil authorities, who investigated but never brought charges. He was placed on a leave of absence for a while and later returned to pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Superior, where he worked until 1993.

The Times story said that according to documents it obtained from lawyers involved in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, then-Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland in 1993 hired a social worker who interviewed Father Murphy and reported that the priest had admitted his acts, had probably molested about 200 boys and felt no remorse. The archbishop placed restrictions on Father Murphy’s ministry.

Archbishop Weakland wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger about the case in 1996 because he thought it might involve “solicitation in the confessional,” a sin which because of its gravity involved the doctrinal congregation.

Later in 1996, the doctrinal congregation told Wisconsin bishops to begin a canonical trial of Father Murphy, the Times article said. But it said that process was halted after Father Murphy wrote directly to Cardinal Ratzinger, saying that he had repented and was in poor health, and that the allegations went beyond the church’s own statute of limitations for such crimes.

When Archbishop Weakland met in 1998 with Cardinal Ratzinger’s assistants at the doctrinal congregation official, he failed to persuade them to allow a trial that could lead to the defrocking of Father Murphy.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the Father Murphy case was a “tragic” one that “involved particularly vulnerable victims who suffered terribly from what he did.”

Father Lombardi pointed out, however, that the Vatican was only informed of the case more than two decades after the abuse had been reported to diocesan officials and the police. He noted that civil authorities had dropped their investigation without filing charges.

The church’s canonical procedures in such cases do not envision “automatic penalties,” but recommend that a judgment be made, not excluding removal of a guilty priest from the priesthood, Father Lombardi said.

“In light of the facts that Father Murphy was elderly and in very poor health, and that he was living in seclusion and no allegations of abuse had been reported in over 20 years, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested that the archbishop of Milwaukee give consideration to addressing the situation by, for example, restricting Father Murphy’s public ministry and requiring that Father Murphy accept full responsibility for the gravity of his acts,” Father Lombardi said.

“Father Murphy died approximately four months later, without further incident,” he added.

The Vatican spokesman underlined a point made frequently by church officials in recent weeks: that the rules on confidentiality in the church’s investigation of such allegations have never prohibited the reporting of child abuse to law enforcement agencies.

The Vatican’s doctrinal congregation was given oversight on all cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests in 2001. Under new Vatican rules established in 2001-2002, as the scope of the sex abuse scandal became clearer, the congregation was empowered in very grave and clear cases to laicize priest abusers without going through an ecclesiastical trial.

One Vatican official said that today, Father Murphy would have fallen into that category and would have been laicized.

Since 2001, about 20 percent of the approximately 3,000 cases processed have resulted in removal of the offender from the priesthood, a Vatican official said recently. In most other cases, removal from public ministry is the result.

Read more here:

**Pray for our Papa Benedictus XVI!

Jesus has already won the war against the evil one!!

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18).

Every single once great human empire, country & civilization are now extinct, but the Catholic Church plods along, despite being lead by & made up entirely of weak sinners!


Perhaps arrogance & selfishness are the downfall of all decadence.

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!


This is an important article I think people need to read. It pertains indirectly to the scandal.

Anti-Popes and Dangers of a Parallel Magisterium

By Monsignor Giampaolo Crepaldi


The problems and scope of the scandals are grounded in a misunderstanding of how the church functions and what everyone’s job in the church is supposed to be. The secret to solving this problem is education and a greater active roll by members of the church according to their function within the church. The danger of priests attempting to act as bishops and lay people attempting to act as pope will only increase the danger of a coming anti-pope, parrallel magisterium, or even a possible schism.

For greater insight, look up articles about the anti-popes, the great western schism, and the problem of trusteeism that infected the early American Catholic church.

Your CC is really getting nailed here of late…Made me think of these verses:

Luke 12:2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
3 Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops…

Seems in these last days NO one group is immune…Is it reaping what has been sown in the past ?..Is there any Catholic end times prophecy regarding this this? Thanks…

Your right Lemonbeam, the whiff is odious. The civil authorities were informed in the seventies and did nothing, the Vatican heard about him in the late nineties and he died four months later.

Where is the outcry about the civil authorities??

Well Scripture tells us that there are ALWAYS gonna be weeds among the wheat. We had Judas among the 12, we had Annanias and Saphira among the first Christians, we’ve had backsliders, renegades, thieves, murderers and fornicators, all claiming to be part of the Church, some even claiming to be ‘powerful’ in the Church. . .
But if you mean is there some big Catholic atrocity that was ‘done’ and is now getting a cosmic ‘payback’ today. . .uh-uh, nope, no way. We have had no more–and no less either–of the ‘weeds’ in our Church than Protestants have in theirs. . .or Jews or Muslims or even those who trumpet that they don’t NEED no religion. . .

We’ve also had people like Mother Teresa. Weeds and wheat. Saints and sinners. It might look bad but heck, hon, back in the 5th century something like 70% of the entire church (East and West, Rome AND Constantinople) were all turning to the Arian heresy. It was so much more ‘rational’ and logical than that pesky Christian belief. High ranking bishops, East and West, not to mention big shot secular kings and emperors, all cast their votes for “Arian” as the ‘real deal.’

So what happened? In the teeth of people who told them that it was too late, that Arianism had triumphed, that the people had spoken, etc. . .Christianity REFUSED TO DIE and within a generation following, ARIANISM was gone instead.

Christianity–and in its fullness that is the Catholic Church–will not die. Christ has promised, and I believe in Him.

I’ve just listened to the Rome Reports video on this case! I’m telling you right now, the New York times and other Anti-Catholic broadcasters are trying to implicit the Pope as covering up this case! It is false!

This media is reporting this as fact, when it isn’t! These media institutions that are doing this should be sued.

Quote from Rome Reports, ‘‘The Vatican said it had only learnt of these cases 22 years after they occurred. Many of the victims said civil authorities and prosecutors also ignored their cases and although some of them where investigated, others where put on the backburner. The Vatican calls this a tragic case, especially because it involved so many deaf children at a boarding school.’’

One can’t help but think there are dark forces abroad!

Isn’t this whole thing just the sin of calumny?

It seems more like “gotcha” journalism than anything. I mean to tie the Pope to the worst possible crimes commited by a member clergy would just be SO convient.

I read the stories. So he didn’t persue a cannonical trial against the wisconsin priest in 1996 because the guy was close to death. You either agree with him or you don’t. Personally, I feel that if the guy were almost dead, and no longer in active ministry, a cannonical trial would be almost pointless.

Doesn’t matter though. Father Groschel said earlier last year about the whole “holocaust denier bishop” scandel that the whole thing was discusting, and people used to have a LOT more respect for the Pope even if they wern’t Catholic. Mother Angelica did an entire episode on calumny once too. It just seems like every few months there’s someone somewhere trying to stir up another scandel about the Pope. It’s just like what happens with Politics. It’s unchristian no matter wheither you’re Catholic or not, and it’s discusting.

Anyone care to agree? Disagree?

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