The Guardian - UK - March 25, 2010
Pope accused of sparing priest suspected of sex abuse attacks
Vatican denounces claims as attempt to smear pontiff as abuse scandal engulfing Catholic church grows
John Hooper in Rome
The growing sex abuse storm buffeting the Catholic church today moved closer to the figure of the pope himself, after allegations emerged that as a cardinal he had chosen not to discipline a dying American priest accused of molesting as many as 200 deaf boys.
In a report that for the first time pointed the finger directly at the pope's own conduct, the New York Times said that while he was cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger was twice informed about a notorious case involving Father Lawrence Murphy, who ran a school for deaf children in Wisconsin between 1950 and 1974. Though instructions were giving for a canonical trial to be held into Murphy's misdeeds, proceedings were dropped after the priest wrote to Ratzinger begging not to be indicted.
The Vatican angrily denounced the latest accusation in what it sees as a campaign to smear the pope, and said the church was being unfairly portrayed as the only institution with such a sinister history.
In a statement published on its front page, the Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano, lambasted the international media for an "obvious and ignoble attempt to strike, at all costs, Benedict and his closest collaborators". It said: "The prevalent tendency in the media is to gloss over the facts and force interpretations with the aim of spreading an image of the Catholic church almost as if it were the only [institution] responsible for sexual abuses."
Benedict is already on the defensive because of his stint as archbishop of Munich, during which a paedophile priest was accepted into his archdiocese and assigned to duties that enabled him to prey on children again.
Victims' groups have also accused Benedict of encouraging cover-ups by reminding bishops in a directive he issued before becoming pope of the need for secrecy in canonical proceedings involved particularly serious offences.
The New York Times said that three successive archbishops of Milwaukee were told Murphy was sexually abusing children, but never reported him to the civil authorities. Instead of being disciplined, he was removed from teaching duties but transferred to another diocese where he continued to work for more than 20 years in parishes, schools and – according to one account – a juvenile detention centre.
According to the newspaper, in 1996 the archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland, twice wrote about the case to the future pope, then prefect of the powerful congregation for the doctrine of the faith, but got no reply.
Benedict's deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, nevertheless instructed the bishops in Wisconsin to start a canonical trial that could have led to Murphy being defrocked.
But the proceedings were dropped after the priest wrote to Ratzinger begging not to be indicted. The Vatican said "the canonical question presented to the congregation was unrelated to any potential civil or criminal proceedings against Father Murphy".
The Vatican statement called the case "tragic" and said it involved "particularly vulnerable victims who suffered terribly from what [Murphy] did". But, it said, the congregation "was not informed of the matter until some 20 years later". It noted that the civil authorities had investigated allegations but had taken no action, though it acknowledged that neither that directive "nor the code of canon law ever prohibited the reporting of child abuse to law enforcement authorities".
Since Murphy was "elderly and in very poor health," said the Vatican, "and 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 Murphy died approximately four months later, without further incident."
Weakland, who resigned in 2002 after a scandal involving his relationship with a man and the disclosure that church money had been used to pay him a settlement, said: "The evidence was so complete and so extensive that I thought he should be reduced to the lay state, and also that that would bring a certain amount of peace in the deaf community."
After Murphy died, Weakland wrote to Cardinal Bertone, who had since been promoted to Vatican secretary of state, equivalent to prime minister, regretting that Murphy's family had disobeyed his instructions that the funeral be small and private. He added: "In spite of these difficulties, we are still hoping we can avoid undue publicity that would be negative toward the church."
School of horror
An angel holding up a scroll on a pillar at the drive entrance is the only hint of what once went on at 3680 South Kinnickinnic Avenue in St Francis, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Until 1983, it was a boarding school for deaf boys. Until nine years before that it was the fiefdom of one of the most rapacious paedophiles ever to wear a cassock.
When in 2006 the truth about the late Father Lawrence Murphy eventually began to come out, 62-year-old James Smith, of Orange City, Florida, shook and wept as he recounted his experiences to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter.
"I would be playing baseball, and the boys would come and say, 'Father Murphy wants you to come and see him'. I would refuse to go, and pretty soon I was dragged into his office and molested again," said Smith.
The Wisconsin scandal brings the Catholic church's paedophilia crisis full circle. The current crisis started in Boston at the turn of the century with the revelations by the Boston Globe of the devastating extent to which the US Catholic hierarchy helped conceal the clerical sexual abuse of minors. More recently, allegations have hit the church in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Ireland.
By 2002 about 1,200 Catholic priests in the US faced abuse accusations. The outcry surrounding the mishandling of abuse claims led to five prelates stepping down in one year alone. The Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, arguably the most powerful Catholic official at the time, was the most high-profile departure.
Somehow, despite bringing shame on the church, John Paul II gave the disgraced cardinal and archbishop a position in Rome – the Archpriest of the Santa Basilica Maria di Maggiore – an act that mystifies and angers victims and support groups to this day.
Riazat Butt and John Hooper
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TIME - U.S. March 25, 2010
After U.S. Abuse Revelation, the Vatican Fires Back
By Jeff Israely
The news has been relentlessly bad for the Pope. Two weeks ago, Germany was scandalized by revelations that a pedophile priest was allowed to work again with children after being transferred in 1980 to the Archdiocese of Munich, which was then headed by the future Pontiff. Over the weekend, an apology the Pope issued for sexual abuse by Irish priests was deemed insufficient by many of the victims. Now the New York Times has run an article accusing Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was head of the Vatican's doctrinal office, of not responding to requests in 1996 from the Archbishop of Milwaukee to have a priest stripped of his clerical status for alleged sexual abuse of some 200 deaf boys decades before. (See "Catholic Europe: How Damaged Is the Papacy?")
As the Times posted its story on the accused priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, who died in 1998, the Holy See responded on the Web. In a statement linked on the Vatican's brand new Twitter account, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Papal spokesman, declared, "By sexually abusing children who were hearing-impaired, Father Murphy violated the law and, more importantly, the sacred trust that his victims had placed in him." But Lombardi defended the decision not to remove Murphy from the "clerical state," saying the priest 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." Lombardi explained that the doctrinal office thought it wiser that church authorities in Wisconsin simply restrict Murphy's ministry and require him to take responsibility for his actions. Lombardi pointed out that earlier charges brought against Murphy by civil authorities were eventually dropped and insisted that, despite the Times allegation that the Vatican fought to keep the Murphy details confidential, the Holy See's rules did not require that such cases be kept secret. (See "The Father Cutié Scandal: Sex and the Single Priest.")
The Times obtained the relevant documents from attorneys representing five victims of Murphy's in a civil suit against the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Former Archbishop of Milwaukee Rembert Weakland, who resigned in 2002 after revelations of an earlier relationship with another man, told the Times he brought the Murphy case to Rome in 1996 to try to bring healing to the victims. But Ratzinger's then deputy in the doctrinal office, Tarcisio Bertone, who is now Benedict's No. 2 man in the Vatican, agreed with a letter the ailing Murphy wrote asking to be allowed to live out his life "in the dignity of my priesthood," noting his ill health and the years that had passed since the accusations. After about two years of back-and-forth arguments, according to the Times, Bertone told the Milwaukee Archdiocese to take "pastoral" rather than disciplinary action regarding Murphy. The priest died soon after, at the age of 72, and was buried in his clerical vestments.
Officials in the church staunchly continue to defend the Pope. They say Benedict has pushed for far greater transparency and penitence than his predecessor, and certainly more than many of the local bishops who should have been the ones managing the individual cases. And so far, each new revelation from Ratzinger's past seems to show more administrative detachment than bad judgment from the future Pope — though that is still a surprising hands-off management style for the man who would earn a reputation as a micromanager as he rose to become the éminence grise in John Paul II's Vatican.
Vatican officials feel more and more convinced that there is a concerted campaign to damage the Catholic Church and its supreme leader. A senior official reacted with disgust after reading the latest article, saying, "It's obvious the New York Times has its mind made up. You have to ask why they didn't print a story earlier this month on the conviction of a Jewish rabbi in Brooklyn on eight counts of sex abuse." The official also referred to a libel case against Oprah Winfrey that involved sex-abuse allegations that was settled quietly on Wednesday. "But then why the front page for this story? They are targeting the Pope. There's a bloodlust for attacking the Catholic Church. We have to look at these cases one by one. There is plenty of embarrassment to go around: district attorneys, school teachers — take your pick."
Still, the Pope is the Pope, a global leader with very few equals in terms of pomp, history and circumstance. His links, however indirect, to specific cases of sexual abuse will necessarily catch the attention of both Catholics and non-Catholics. Another priest acknowledged that Benedict being specifically named in the Milwaukee and German cases just makes the news all the more troubling. "It's so volatile right now," he says. "Many of the faithful who were losing confidence in their bishops, now, it's in the Church Universal. What you read in paper: it's a real crucifixion for everybody."
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Times Online - UK March 25, 2010
Letters place Pope at centre of child abuse scandal
by Jenny Booth
Secret documents today placed Pope Benedict XVI at the centre of allegations of cover-up by the Catholic church of a priest sex abuse scandal in the United States.
Letters from the Vatican show that the enforcement department headed by the pontiff, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, took control of the efforts to bring paedophile priest Father Lawrence Murphy to justice, first ordering in 1997 that a church trial could only go ahead in conditions of total secrecy and then changing tack in 1998 and quashing it.
The change of heart came after Fr Murphy, who had sexually abused 200 vulnerable youths at a school for the deaf in Milwaukee between 1950 and 1974, wrote directly to the future Pope begging for mercy.
Monsignor Tarcisio Bertone, then Cardinal Ratzinger's deputy at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responded by writing to the US church suggesting they take only lesser, pastoral measures against Fr Murphy.
When the US church refused, insisting on a canonical trial, Monsignor Bertone called a summit meeting in Rome with the US bishops and told them bluntly to call the trial off and merely prevent the Fr Murphy from celebrating Mass.
"This Dicastery has every hope that the priest in question will demonstrate a willingness to cooperate in the solution to this painful case which will favour the good of souls and avoid scandal," wrote Monsignor Bertone.
A further letter from Monsignor Bertone later in 1998, after Fr Murphy had died of natural causes, returns to the same theme of preventing news of sex abuse leaking out to the media.
"This Dicastery commends Fr Murphy to the mercy of God and shares with you the hope that the Church will be spared any undue publicity from this matter," writes Monsignor Bertone, in a letter that is entirely silent on the subject of the suffering of Fr Murphy's victims.
The letters, published today on the website of the New York Times , have added to the mounting accusations that Pope Benedict had, at the least, made no effort to halt the widespread cover up of cases of sex abuse and appears in fact to have encouraged and even led the Catholic church's climate of secrecy.
In 2001 Cardinal Ratzinger issued a letter to every diocese in the Catholic Church, conceding that sex abuse was a grave crime but insisting: "Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret."
The Vatican says that this meant simply that trial judges were obliged not to reveal any details of the case. The letter appears however to have been widely interpreted by dioceses throughout the Catholic world to mean that the Church should avoid publicity at all costs over paedophile priests, to the extent of failing to report offenders to the police. This is no evidence that the future Pope did anything to correct this.
Today a group of American clerical abuse victims were arrested as, flanked by photos of other clerical abuse victims and a poster of Ratzinger, they tried to hold a press conference outside the Vatican to denounce Benedict's handling of the Murphy case.
"The goal of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was to keep this secret," said Peter Isely, Milwaukee-based director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
"This is the most incontrovertible case of paedophilia you could get. 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 Pope is also under attack in Germany, where his handling as Archbishop of Munich of the case of repeat child sex abuser Father Peter Hullermann has this week come under ferocious criticism.
In 1980 he chaired a meeting at which it was decided to move Hullermann from Essen to Archbishop Ratzinger's diocese, after persuading the parents of the 11-year-old whom he had forced to have oral sex not to press charges, it has emerged. The future Pope approved the transfer and ordered him to undergo therapy.
Hullermann went on to reoffend on many occasions, but was not prevented from practising as a priest until last Monday. The Pope has yet to comment on the case.
The pontiff has also been accused of knowing and failing to take action of reports of child sexual abuse at the Regensburg Domspatzen, the famous choir school where his brother Georg was choirmaster.
Today Professor Hans Kung, a noted theologian who has known the Pope since the 1960s, issued a devastating indictment of his former colleague's alleged collusion in clerical cover up.
"No-one in the whole of the Catholic church knows as much about abuse cases, knowledge that is ex officio, derived from his office (as head of the Vatican enforcement department for 24 years)," said Professor Kung.
"This Vatican authority has for a long time centralised (information about) all abuse cases so that they can be concealed, classified as top secret."
The Vatican is facing an ever-widening church abuse scandal sweeping Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands and Benedict's native Germany. An opinion poll in Germany, where more than 300 allegations of priestly sex abuse have emerged recently, has shown that public trust in Benedict has plummeted to just 17 per cent.
It is unclear exactly how much Cardinal Ratzinger knew of the detail of the Murphy case. Cardinal Bertone, who handled it in person, has served alongside Pope Benedict for 15 years and is now his Cardinal Secretary of State. Several of the letters are addressed directly to the future Pope by name, including Fr Murphy's successful plea for clemency, making it likely that he would have read them personally.
"I am 72 years of age, your Eminence, and am in poor health," Father Murphy pleaded with Cardinal Ratzinger. "I have just recently suffered another stroke which has left me in a weakened state. I have followed all the directives of both Archbishop Cousins and now Archbishop Weakland. I have repented of any of my past transgressions and have been living peaceably in northern Wisconsin for 24 years."
Evidence existed in his file to show that these were lies - he had continued to molest youths after he was banished from Milwaukee to Wisconsin in 1974, and social workers and priests reported that he had shown not a shred of remorse after confessing his crimes.
Donald Marshall, 45, of West Allis, Wisconsin, said he was abused by Murphy when he was a teenager at the Lincoln Hills School, a juvenile detention centre in Irma in northern Wisconsin.
"I haven’t stepped in a church for some 20 years. I lost all faith in the church," he said today. "These predators are preying on God’s children. How can they even stand up at the pulpit and preach the word of God?"
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said in a statement that the Vatican was not told about the abuse allegations against Fr Murphy until 1996, years after civil authorities had investigated and dropped the case. Fr Murphy’s age, poor health and a lack of more recent allegations were factors in the decision not to defrock him, he added.
He pointed out that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had suggested some sanctions, such things as restricting Murphy’s public ministry and requiring that he "accept full responsibility for the gravity of his acts".
Hundreds, if not thousands, of similar cases will have crossed Cardinal Ratzinger's desk in the 24 years that he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. It is estimated that in the majority of cases no legal action was taken by the church.
Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who is now the doctrinal office's chief internal prosecutor, recently revealed that of 3,000 priests accused of sex abuse reported to the Vatican between 2001 and 2010, only 10 per cent were defrocked immediately. A further 20 per cent of cases went to trial, and some of those were defrocked. A further 10 per cent left the Church voluntarily. But in 60 per cent of cases, accused priests faced only "administrative and disciplinary provisions" such as being prevented from celebrating Mass, said Monsignor Scicluna.
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