15 Apr 2011

US court papers alleging Pope's role in protecting priest who sexually abused 200 deaf boys delivered to Vatican

Winnipeg Free Press   -  Canadian Press      April 12, 2011

Vatican served with court papers naming pope, 2 others in decades-old Wisconsin abuse case

By Carrie Antlfinger, The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE - The Vatican has been served with court papers stemming from decades-old allegations of sexual abuse against a now-deceased priest at a Wisconsin school for the deaf, attorneys for the accuser and the Vatican said Tuesday.

Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the man making the allegations, said he had been notified the papers were successfully filed through official diplomatic channels.

"Every time we make a step forward, as long as that takes, we are going in the right direction," Anderson said. "And the direction we're headed is a measure of accountability. We really believe that we need to put some heat on the Vatican to bring some light."

The Vatican's U.S.-based attorney, Jeffrey Lena, said Tuesday that he still has to evaluate the papers to determine whether they meet the requirements imposed by U.S. law.

"It's premature to comment what will happen next in the case," he said.

The lawsuit was filed nearly a year ago in federal court on behalf of Terry Kohut, now of Chicago. It claims Pope Benedict XVI and two other top Vatican officials knew about allegations of sexual abuse at St. John's School for the Deaf outside Milwaukee and called off internal punishment of the accused priest, the Rev. Lawrence Murphy.

In October a U.S. federal judge asked the Vatican to co-operate in the serving of court papers. The Vatican was not obliged to comply with the request.

In January, Anderson said representatives of his office served the lawsuit at the Vatican's office of the Assessor for General Affairs, but that it was returned via Federal Express. At the time, the Vatican's lawyer, Lena, said the lawsuit should have been served through diplomatic channels as would be done with any foreign state.

Kohut's lawsuit alleges Murphy molested him for several years starting around 1960 while Murphy worked at the school for the deaf. The lawsuit contends Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI; Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, and his predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Sodano conspired to keep quiet decades of abuse allegations against Murphy.

Murphy, who died in 1998, has been alleged to have sexually abuse some 200 boys at the deaf school from 1950 to 1974. In 1996, Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland complained about Murphy in a letter to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the powerful Vatican office led by then-Cardinal Ratzinger from 1981 until he became pope in 2005.

That office initially ordered Weakland to hold a canonical trial against Murphy in 1997 but later changed course after a letter from Murphy. The Vatican noted Murphy's advanced age, failing health and lack of further allegations.

Kohut wrote two letters to Sodano in 1995, reporting he had been abused by Murphy and asking for help.

Kohut's lawsuit contends he "continues to suffer great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life" — as well as years of lost job income and bills for medical and psychological treatment.

The Vatican argues it's not liable for clerical sex-abuse cases under canon law and a church structure that holds bishops — and not Rome — responsible for disciplining pedophile priests.

Anderson also has a pending lawsuit against the Vatican in Oregon for a man who claims he was abused at his Catholic school in the 1960s. Anderson has asked a federal judge to require pope and the other Vatican officials to testify.

This article was found at:


U.S. federal judge submits court documents to Vatican asking for its cooperation in serving a lawsuit on the Pope

Deaf man suing Vatican tells his story in CNN report on Pope's role in protecting pedophiles and covering-up clergy child rape

U.S. lawsuit accuses Pope Benedict and other Vatican officials of negligence for enabling abuse at school for deaf

Court documents show Pope Benedict protected pedophile priest who molested deaf boys, Vatican reacts with claims of media conspiracy

Future Pope ignored warnings from U.S. archbishop about remorseless pedophile priest who molested 200 deaf boys

“God’s Rottweiler”, Ratzinger, punished peaceful priest, but not pedophile priests; turned deaf & dumb to abuse of 200 deaf boys

TV report from 1990s shows then Cardinal Ratzinger slapping reporter for asking awkward questions about evil child abuser Marciel Maciel

On Sex Abuse: The Pope, the Bishop and the Mexican Priest
Mexican reports reveal more children sired by founder of conservative Catholic cult Legionaries of Christ

Vatican refuses to shut down corrupt Legionaries order for fear of imposing ideas on others, yet indoctrinating kids ok

Kentucky Lawyer drops case against Vatican, says courts placed impossible burdens on plaintiffs

Vatican files arguments in Kentucky sex abuse case to block attempt to question Pope under oath

U.S. Supreme Court allows Oregon clergy sex abuse lawsuit to proceed against the Vatican

German lawyers file crimes against humanity charges alleging spiritual coercion and abuse cover-up by the Pope

US clergy abuse lawyer says lawsuits only way to force churches to end secrecy, protect children, compensate survivors

Prominent Catholic clergy abuse lawyer says lawsuits needed to force church to disclose secret files that reveal abusive priests, policies and practices

Lawyer suggests Milwaukee archdiocese shielding assets to avoid paying compensation to clergy abuse survivors

US lawyer behind 1500 lawsuits against Catholic church opens new firm in London to pursue cross-Atlantic cases

US Federal judge rules cases involving Catholic clergy abuse in other nations can be tried in US courts

Holding Bishops Accountable: How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse [Book Review]

Litigating clergy sex abuse - 3 book reviews

Leaked confidential letter reveals Vatican's intention to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities

1963 letter by church expert on pedophile priests shows Pope Paul VI and Vatican officials ignored warnings to expel problem priests

Pope John Paul authorized 2001 letter to all bishops praising French bishop for hiding rapist priest from authorities

Bishops were warned of abusive priests as early as the mid-1950s

Head of church-backed probe into Belgian clergy crimes says the Pope must set an example and resign

Irish priest calls for Archbishops and investigators to pin blame on Vatican for central role in global clergy crimes crisis

Irish head of Amnesty International says addressing past human rights violations prevents future abuse

Thousands of children raped by priests is a human rights atrocity, Pope should resign to give survivors more than mere words

Catholic Church ignores Amnesty International's call to comply with international children's rights law

New book by UN judge says Vatican should be treated as a rogue state until it abandons canon law and stops protecting abusers

Christopher Hitchens: holding the Catholic Church accountable for its crimes takes earthly justice

Hitchens says Pope responsible for obstructing justice & enabling the rape & torture of children, an apologist responds

Humanists ask UN to hold Vatican accountable for violating children's rights by shielding abusers & obstructing justice

Pope & Church tested by children's voices crying out for accountability and justice long after childhood


  1. Explosive sex abuse lawsuit against Vatican dropped

    by John L Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter Feb. 11, 2012

    ROME -- A Wisconsin sex abuse lawsuit against the Vatican, which helped trigger a global firestorm in early 2010, was withdrawn late Friday. It marks the formal end of a case that seemed to cast doubt on Pope Benedict XVI’s role in the abuse crisis, and shifted focus from local bishops to an alleged cover-up in Rome.

    Lawyers for the victim filed a notice of voluntary dismissal on Friday, effectively abandoning the lawsuit. It had named not only the Vatican but also Pope Benedict XVI and two senior Vatican officials, Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone and Angelo Sodano, as defendants. The suit had been filed by Minnesota-based attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who has frequently represented sex abuse victims against the church.

    Anderson said at the time the case was filed that he hoped to take formal depositions from Benedict XVI, Bertone and Sodano, concerning the Vatican’s role in the sex abuse crisis. Bertone is the current Secretary of State, the top official in the Vatican after the pope, a position formerly held by Sodano.

    Anderson told NCR on Saturday that the decision to withdraw the case was "pragmatic and practical," based largely on the fact that as a result of proceedings related to the bankruptcy of the Milwaukee archdiocese, he had already obtained most of the files regarding the Vatican's involvement he could have gotten through a separate lawsuit. Those documents are presently under seal, he said, but he said they paint an "ugly picture" of the Vatican's role.
    "We have not in any way abandoned our effort to hold the Vatican legally and fully accountable," Anderson said.

    While Anderson said he does not plan to refile the Wisconsin case, he still hopes to pursue depositions of Vatican figures such as Bertone and Sodano as part of other litigation. In the meantime, he said, he plans to depose Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, a former archbishop of Milwaukee, about his role in the Wisconsin case.

    The Vatican’s lawyer, California-based Jeffrey Lena, nevertheless welcomed the withdrawal of the case.

    “A case like this, which was held together by a mendacious web of claims of international conspiracy, amounts to what appears in its aftermath to have been little more than a misuse of judicial process and waste of judicial resources,” he said.

    With the collapse of a similar case in Kentucky in 2010, Friday’s dismissal leaves only the Doe v. Holy See case in Oregon, originally filed in 2002, as an active sex abuse claim against the Vatican in American courts. (Another lawsuit in Chicago has been filed but not served on the Vatican through diplomatic channels.)

    Anderson said that another reason for dismissing the Wisconsin case is that it allows attorneys to concentrate on the litigation in Oregon.

    In terms of jurisdiction, lawyers for the Vatican argued in the Wisconsin case, as they have in others, that the Vatican is immune because it’s a sovereign state. Substantively, they contended that under church law, responsibility for supervising priests and other church personnel rests with local bishops, not in Rome. ...

    read the rest of this article at:

    read the Vatican's response at:

  2. Judge dismisses historic child sexual abuse case involving Vatican’s role in clergy abuse cover-up

    Attorney says appeal is definite

    Jeff Anderson & Associates Press Release August 20, 2012

    Statement of Jeff Anderson re: John V. Doe v. Holy See

    (Portland, Oregon)“We are saddened and disappointed that after ten years in the federal courts, United States District of Oregon Judge Michael W. Mosman dismissed the historic lawsuit (John V. Doe v. Holy See) brought by clergy abuse victim John V. Doe against the Vatican for its role in the cover-up and secrecy of the clergy abuse crisis in America.

    However, be assured that we will be appealing this decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Along with courageous survivor John V. Doe, we have been there before, and prevailed, and we expect to prevail again.*

    In making his ruling Judge Mosman’s thoughtful remarks from the bench clearly expressed his difficulty in deciding the case as he referred to the case as very troubling and a close call. But he ultimately decided that under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) there was insufficient evidence to decide that the Vatican has both directional and operational control over priests in the United States. The Judge also acknowledged that there would likely be an appeal of his decision.

    Indeed, I can confirm that there will be an appeal. We believe that under further scrutiny the courts will find that Vatican protocols and practice make it clear that obedience to Rome required the secrecy, and concealment practiced by priests and bishops as the clergy abuse crisis unfolded in the United States.

    Finally, it is with renewed vigor that we must, and will, carry on this fight for transparency and accountability on behalf of John V. Doe and every single survivor of sexual abuse by a priest in this country and across the globe.”

    *Note: Earlier in the case, Holy See claimed sovereign immunity from the suit and moved the court to dismiss the case. However, both the Federal District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Holy See’s motion. As a result, the Holy See petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case on appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition.


  3. Documentary details abuse of deaf boys in Catholic boarding school

    Victims of late Father Lawrence Murphy featured in film

    By Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel October 2, 2012

    It is a story almost too horrible to comprehend.

    Deaf boys sent by their parents to a Catholic boarding school in Wisconsin, where they were molested again and again by a popular priest who stalked them in their dorm rooms at night, on trips to his North Woods cabin, even in the confessional.

    Dismissed as "mentally retarded," they were often not believed, or worse ignored, for years by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, police, prosecutors and the media.

    Gary Smith and Arthur Budzinski are among the victims of the late Father Lawrence Murphy who have worked for decades to make their voices heard. Their heartbreaking accounts have since been told on the pages of the Journal Sentinel and The New York Times.

    Now they'll reach a new and potentially wider audience with the release of an HBO documentary by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney.

    "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God," which makes its U.S. debut at the Milwaukee Film Festival on Friday, traces the church's global sex abuse crisis, and the Murphy case in particular, to the highest reaches of the Vatican.

    "I started crying even before they turned it on," Budzinski - who got his first glimpse of the movie at the Toronto Film Festival last month - said, signing through his daughter, Gigi.

    "You think, it's a movie now. Maybe people will finally understand."

    Budzinski of West Allis and Smith of Milwaukee are among five alumni of the now defunct St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis who are featured in the film (one posthumously), which recounts one of the most sordid chapters in the American Catholic Church.

    Murphy, who worked at St. John's from 1950 to 1974, is believed to have molested as many as 200 deaf boys before his death in 1998. Bishops had known about the abuse for decades but did not move to defrock him until he was near death.

    Murphy's victims are believed to be the first to publicly protest the church's inaction when they distributed fliers outside Milwaukee's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in 1974. And Smith was among the first to sue his abuser and the church, dropping that lawsuit for a $5,000 settlement he says he did not understand.

    Gibney recounts their story in old black-and-white snapshots and Super 8 footage, contemporary images of Vatican opulence and re-enactments that struck Murphy's victims as disturbingly accurate.

    "The way it showed Murphy walking through the dorm, and boys would lie with their eyes closed afraid. That's how I felt," said Budzinski.

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  4. continued from previous comment...

    As part of the filming, the men revisited the Boulder Junction cabin where Smith and others had been abused; and where they and fellow victim Robert Bolger, who has since died, confronted Murphy in 1997.

    In footage shot that day, we see the gray-haired Murphy shouting at the men to leave. "I'm sorry," he tells them. "Don't bother me."

    "I got such a bad feeling being there (again)," said Smith, in sign language through Gigi Budzinski. "That bedroom window will be embedded in my mind forever."

    Gibney, whose previous films tackled Enron Corp. and the torture and death of an innocent man in Afghanistan, said he was drawn to the story by the survivors, whom he called heroes.

    "That's one of the reasons I wanted to do this film," said Gibney. "This story is so bleak, but here are these survivors who wanted to get the word out to protect other children, and to hold somebody to account.

    "At the end of the day," he said, "what they wanted was justice."

    A spokesman for the archdiocese said he had not seen the film and that it had no time, in the midst of mediation in its bankruptcy, to draft a statement in response.

    The film features other voices familiar in Milwaukee, including a contrite retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland; Peter Isely of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests who helped to make the story public in 2006; and Minnesota attorney Jeffrey Anderson who represents 350 victims, including those of Murphy, in the archdiocese's bankruptcy.

    It also touches on the bankruptcy and accusations that then Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now cardinal of New York, transferred millions in church funds to keep it from victims.

    Dolan has vehemently denied the allegations. But efforts to interview him were unsuccessful, Gibney said .

    Murphy's victims are among a large number of creditors in the bankruptcy who could receive nothing in the way of a financial settlement if the archdiocese is successful in throwing out older claims or those in which the survivor had received a prior settlement.

    Budzinski, who was paid $80,000 as part of the church's private mediation program, said he can live with that. More important than money, he said, is the release of the church's internal documents telling what it knew and when - an accounting victims have sought, not just in Milwaukee but around the world.

    "We're just a small number of victims," Budzinski said of the boys, now men, who were molested by Murphy.

    "There are thousands of others who deserve justice as well. We're just trying to represent that."


  5. Mea Maxima Culpa: New Doc Exposes Horror of Catholic Child Sex Abuser and Heroism of His Victims

    Democracy Now November 13, 2012

    video interview at: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/11/13/mea_maxima_culpa_new_doc_exposes


    "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God," a new documentary by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, investigates how a charismatic priest in Milwaukee abused more than 200 deaf children in a Catholic boarding school under his control. The young students were molested again and again by Father Lawrence Murphy, who stalked them in their dorm rooms at night, on trips to his rural cabin, and even in the confessional booth. Gibney, whose past films include "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" and the Academy Award-winning "Taxi to the Dark Side," joins us to discuss his new exposé, which opens this Friday in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, and will debut on HBO in February 2013.

    AMY GOODMAN: We turn now from an evolving story of child sex abuse in Britain to a long-simmering case of pedophilia here in the United States that involves the Catholic Church. A new documentary by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney investigates how a charismatic priest in Milwaukee abused more than 200 deaf children in a Catholic boarding school under his control. The young students were molested again and again by Father Lawrence Murphy, who stalked them in their dorm rooms at night, on trips to his rural cabin, and even in the confessional booth. This is a clip from Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.

    TERRY KOHUT: I was afraid to tell my mother, because I didn’t think she would believe me. She’d say, "A priest would never do something like that to children." I kept it a secret. My mother had already been through so much pain. My brother had been electrocuted. My father had hung himself. My mother had been through so much pain, and I didn’t want to hurt her.

    GARY SMITH: It was hard for me to communicate with my father, and so my dad would speak, and Father Murphy would interpret. My father never wrote back and forth, because I didn’t know how to write well, so I depended on Father Murphy and the nuns to communicate with my father.

    AMY GOODMAN: Some of the courageous deaf men who later came forward to protect other children from Father Murphy—and to demand he be held accountable. They are the heroes of Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. The priest’s victims tried for more than three decades to bring him to justice, but the film shows the church neither defrocked him nor referred him for prosecution. It also uncovers documents from secret Vatican archives that portray the Pope as both responsible and helpless in the face of this abuse.

    Well, for more on this incredible story of how these men stood up to the power of the Catholic Church, we’re joined by the film’s director, Alex Gibney. His past films include Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and the Academy Award-winning Taxi to the Dark Side, which focuses on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed at Bagram Air Force Base in 2002. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God opens this Friday in theaters in New York and Los Angeles and will debut on HBO in February.

    Alex Gibney, welcome Democracy Now! It’s great to have you back.

    ALEX GIBNEY: Great to be here, Amy.

    AMY GOODMAN: This film opened at the London Film Festival as the scandal is now unfolding at the BBC?

    ALEX GIBNEY: As the Jimmy Savile scandal was unfolding. So, you know, I was a bit unprepared, because it was just breaking, but I was being asked all these questions, because there are certain key similarities. It has to do with how an institution doesn’t recognize what’s going on inside it.

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  6. AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about Father Murphy. Tell us about your film.

    ALEX GIBNEY: Father Murphy was a priest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who ran St. John’s School for the Deaf. And he was actually very charismatic. He raised a ton of money for the school. He was an expert signer. And he was actually much loved in the deaf community. But not unlike Jimmy Savile, his role in the community gave him access to his victims. And he was a—he was a criminal, it’s fair to say. And he abused over 200 deaf children at St. John’s School for the Deaf.

    AMY GOODMAN: How? How did this happen?

    ALEX GIBNEY: Well, you have to remember, these kids were under his control. It was a boarding school. And very often, it happened in the confessional. And that ultimately became part of the church’s aborted case into this. And the church itself often refers to abuse in the confessional as a kind of soul murder, because you’re taking kids who are so vulnerable and using that vulnerability against them—in this case, by learning things about them. So he, for example, learned which kids had parents who couldn’t themselves sign. And then he would go after them, because they literally couldn’t communicate with their own parents, and often would have to communicate with their parents through Father Murphy, who was the predator.

    AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is a horrific story. I watched your film last night. It is also deeply moving, and it’s a story of courage. But the descriptions of these now men, boys in the confessional, and Father Murphy would say, "Pull down your pants."

    ALEX GIBNEY: That’s right. I mean, I think—this guy was a predator. I mean an absolute predator. And it’s haunting to see the images of these children, who were so innocent, being so deeply abused by somebody in such a position of power.

    AMY GOODMAN: So talk about how this case broke.

    ALEX GIBNEY: Well, the case broke, in a way, only fairly recently, to some extent, because there was an article in the New York Times by Laurie Goodstein talking about the Lawrence Murphy case, which really took place back in the '50s, ’60s and ’70s. Murphy himself was forced out of Milwaukee because of the threat of lawsuits, but there was never a prosecution, nor was there any kind of a defrocking process, until very much later, in the ’90s. So, we know about this case kind of in reverse, in part because of the courage of these deaf men, who worked so hard to see if they could get him defrocked and also to sue the church. As a result of the lawsuits, documents were uncovered which linked this case to the Vatican and the Vatican's cover-up of this case.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the Pope.

    ALEX GIBNEY: I think one of the most interesting things about Pope Benedict, the current pope—and there’s a lot about both him and the previous pope, John Paul, in this film—one of the most interesting things about him was, before he was pope, he was Cardinal Ratzinger, and he ran what was called the Congregation [for] the Doctrine [of] the Faith, formerly known as the Inquisition. After 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger got all sex abuse cases sent to his office. So Cardinal Ratzinger actually knows more about clerical sex abuse than any human being on the planet. And then he became pope. But it was while he was Cardinal Ratzinger that the case of Murphy was brought to the Congregation [for] the Doctrine of the Faith.

    Interestingly enough, you know, instead of moving quickly to defrock him, they took pity on the priest himself, who wrote a very poignant letter saying, "Look, I’m an old guy now. This was so long ago. I’m so sorry. Please let me die as a priest." And that is the wish that was granted by the Vatican. And so there was no justice for the deaf victims.

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  7. AMY GOODMAN: I want to read part of the Vatican spokesperson’s statement on Father Murphy. Reverend Federico Lombardi wrote in 2010, quote, "By sexually abusing children who were hearing-impaired, Father Murphy violated the law, and more importantly, the sacred trust that his victims had in him."

    ALEX GIBNEY: That’s right. I mean, I—there couldn’t be anything more horrific in terms of the abuse that Father Murphy, you know, was responsible for. But the staggering thing is, what these deaf heroes wanted was justice, fundamentally. And also, frankly, they wanted to protect other children. And so, so far as we know, in 1974, three of these deaf victims actually mounted a public protest. So far as we can determine, it’s the first public protest against clerical sex abuse in the country. They were kind of the patient zero of this story. And it took them so many years to actually have their voices heard, but it’s their tenacity, I think, which is such an extraordinary part of the story. That’s their heroism.

    AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about a critique of Mea Maxima Culpa that was made in the Catholic World Report's review of your film. The author notes you lament the fact that the Catholic Church never formally laicized, or defrocked, Father Murphy, and argues, quote, "Had the Church laicized the abusive priest back in 1974, or even earlier, it would no longer have [had] any control over Murphy's life activities whatsoever. With the police already having decided not to pursue criminal charges, Murphy would have been as free as any regular citizen to go and work wherever he pleased. The man would have been free to prey indefinitely on unsuspecting, innocent boys," unquote. Alex Gibney, your response?

    ALEX GIBNEY: I think that’s just the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I mean, the idea that you would not give sense of fundamental justice and allow this guy to continue on as a priest, as a holy man, who had then further access to other children—because, actually, after 1974, he was sent to Boulder Junction in Wisconsin and preyed on other children up there. He didn’t have—there were ministerial restrictions on him, but his—his status as a priest continued to give him access and cover to be a predator. So to say that, "Oh, well, we were—you know, we were able to control him and protect other children," is laughable in the extreme.

    AMY GOODMAN: You also talk about the chief fundraiser for the Catholic Church, for the Pope.

    ALEX GIBNEY: The—you’re referring now to Marcial Maciel Degollado. Yes, this is a fascinating story, because it involves both Pope Benedict, then as Cardinal Ratzinger, and Pope John Paul. One of the most horrific abusers, sex abusers, was a guy named Maciel, who ran the Legion of Christ. And he raised tremendous amounts of money for the church. And as a result, he was given a pass by Pope John Paul, even though it was brought to his attention over and over and over and over again that this guy was a notorious sex abuser. Just as John Paul is dying, finally, Cardinal Ratzinger has an opportunity to actually pursue this case, which he had wanted to do for some time. And he sends a prosecutor out to gather evidence. He gathers a tremendous amount of evidence that he’s a horrible sex abuser, but when he becomes pope, he does not continue the prosecution, thus leading to the conclusion that it’s the institution itself that’s problematic and corrupt, that the institution itself is so needful of its own power that it won’t move against its own.

    AMY GOODMAN: This is not only a story of just horrific victimization, but of these young boys who become heroes. Talk about how they take their victimization in their own hands when they get older. First of all, how did they learn from each other that this was happening to different people? And then, for example, slapping Murphy’s face on hand-drawn wanted posters.

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  8. ALEX GIBNEY: Well, it’s really interesting. It was actually in the early '70s, when these kids had left St. John's, and then they got together and started hanging out with each other—ironically, ended up sort of hanging out and smoking dope, and would then recall things, recall memories that had been repressed. They began to get angrier and angrier and angrier, and then began to share their experiences with each other, and then were determined, you know, "Something has to be done. We have to do something about this. We’ve been—remained silent for too long." And their motivation was to try to protect other children. They went to the police, and the police did not behave well at all in this story, either, it should be noted. Nor did the, you know—

    AMY GOODMAN: What did the police say?

    ALEX GIBNEY: Well, in one instance, a policeman went back to Father Murphy and asked about one of these accusations of abuse. He said, "Oh, you can’t listen to those kids; they’re retarded." "Retarded" was the word that he used.

    AMY GOODMAN: These children were deaf.

    ALEX GIBNEY: These children were deaf. And that was another thing. In terms of the way the church, for a long time, regarded these children was terribly unfortunate. In fact, Archbishop Cousins, who was in charge, you know, in 1974, when he was finally removed, in a deposition, he was asked, "Did you ever go to the children and ask them what had happened?" And he said, "Well, no, of course not. We didn’t do that." And the lawyer in the deposition said, "Well, why not?" He said, "Well, the children are—are deaf," as if that was an explanation for why you wouldn’t go to the victims to understand what they were saying.

    Interestingly enough, the victims, the survivors, these kids, started passing out leaflets, as you suggest, you know, which was in that time an extraordinary act of courage. An adviser of theirs said, "Look, you’re not going to get that far doing this. What you really need to do is go to the man in charge, the archbishop. Once the archbishop learns of this horrible abuse, of course he’ll put a stop to it." Well, they had a meeting with Archbishop Cousins and, as it happens, two representatives of the Vatican. They presented their case. Father Murphy was in the room. But the archbishop, instead of acting with outrage, dressed them down and actually criticized them for bringing, you know, ill repute to the church. And after all, Father Murphy had done so much good, why were these kids raining on his parade? So it was a rather shocking exchange described by a number of them in the room who couldn’t believe that they came forward with all this courage in order to present this terrible case to protect other children, and they were told, you know, "We’re going to protect Father Murphy here. We’re not going to fire him, because he’s doing so much good."

    AMY GOODMAN: Last question—I mean, the beauty of this film is that these men are speaking in their own voices through their own hands. But do you feel that the story of the Catholic Church has been fully told, at the global level, the story of the Catholic Church and the preying on young people?

    ALEX GIBNEY: I think what hasn’t been properly told is the cover-up. And that is a global story, and that is a global story that’s ongoing. And remarkably, the Catholic Church has not disgorged itself of its documents relating to the sex-abuse scandal, not only to show us what happened in the past, but to give us information about abusers in the present to protect other children. That story has not been told at all, and that’s part of what we intended to do in this film.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, Alex Gibney, I want to thank you for being with us, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker. His latest film, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, it is opening in New York and Los Angeles and will air on HBO in February.


  9. Pope Francis continues to protect pedophile priests

    by Michael Stone, Progressive Secular Humanist February 17, 2015

    read the numerous links in this article at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2015/02/pope-francis-continues-to-protect-pedophile-priests/

    Another moral failure for Pope Francis: Victims of clergy sexual abuse are urging Pope Francis to stop protecting pedophile priests from criminal prosecution by civilian courts.

    Victims of pedophile priests from the United States, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and other nations joined forces Monday to urge Pope Francis to allow civilian courts to punish sexually abusive priests and those who covered up their crimes.

    Yesterday victims issued a public statement in Mexico City condemning Pope Francis for hypocrisy when it comes to punishing clergy sexual abuse and those who enable and cover up the crimes of pedophile priests, noting:

    We find not only ambiguities, but obvious contradictions between your actions and your pledge that you would not tolerate pedophilia and take all the steps necessary to end this calamity in the Church.

    The statement declared that only civilian trials will put an end to the “great holocaust of thousands of boys and girls who were sacrificed to avoid scandal and salvage the image and prestige of the Catholic Church’s representatives in the world.”

    The victims said the pope’s recent admonishments of sex abuse in the Church are “ambiguous and contradictory” because they do not lead to any “institutional process toward truth and justice.”

    The statement was read by Jose Barba at a press conference in Mexico City on Monday, Feb. 16. Barba is one of the victims of Marcial Maciel, the Mexican founder of the ultra-conservative Legion of Christ order who died in 2008.

    In the statement, victims told the Argentine pontiff that “words are not enough.”

    In early February, Francis sent a letter to the church’s bishops and other high-ranking members of the Catholic hierarchy calling for a zero-tolerance policy towards child sex abuse as well as those who cover up incidents.

    However, the group of outspoken victims say the Pope’s much publicized announcement calling for a zero-tolerance policy towards child sex abuse is only a superficial public relations move that does nothing to bring justice to the victims or punish the criminals. Indeed, victims point to recent Papal appointments of priests and cardinals who have been accused of covering up serious cases of child abuse as proof that Francis has no real commitment to the problem beyond public perception.

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  10. The victims argue that the Church continues to seek ways to avoid negative attention that may harm its prestige. They say that turning a blind eye has done much more harm than good to the institution’s image.

    Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said via video conference from the United States that Pope Francis should follow the recommendations of the United Nations, which said last year that the Church violated the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    Last year, in a scathing report, the UN condemned Francis and the Catholic Church for protecting and enabling pedophile priests engaged in the sexual abuse of children

    Lately, Pope Francis has been a big disappointment. Last week a clueless Francis told an audience at St. Peter’s Square that choosing not to have children is “selfish,” apparently forgetting that he is a celibate man without children.

    Earlier this month, Francis endorsed corporeal punishment, a form of child abuse, making the perverse claim that parents hitting children is “beautiful” as long as the act of violence against a child is done with “dignity.”

    Perhaps even more disturbing, last month, commenting on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Francis declared “one cannot make fun of faith” and that anyone who throws insults can expect a “punch,” offering a tacit justification for terror and violence in response to a cartoon making fun of religious superstition.

    All the while Francis continues the Catholic Church’s reprehensible policy of protecting pedophile priests from criminal prosecution.
    In short, despite the friendly facade, Pope Francis is a moral failure.


  11. Over 200 Members of German Choir Were Abused Investigator Says

    By ALISON SMALE, New York Times January 8, 2016

    BERLIN — At least 231 children who sang in a boys’ choir led for 30 years by the brother of former Pope Benedict XVI were abused over a period of almost four decades, a lawyer investigating reports of wrongdoing said Friday.

    The lawyer, Ulrich Weber, who was commissioned by the choir to look into accusations of beatings, torture or sexual abuse, said he thought that the actual abuse was even more widespread.

    At a news conference in Regensburg, Bavaria, where the choir traces its roots to the year 975, Mr. Weber estimated that from 1953 to 1992, every third member of the choir and an attached school suffered some kind of physical abuse.

    He attributed the beatings and other mistreatment mostly to Johann Meier, director of a lower school attached to the choir from 1953 until his retirement in 1992. Mr. Meier died suddenly later that year, Mr. Weber said. A 1987 investigation of reported abuse did not prompt the choir’s leaders to remove Mr. Meier or take other action, the lawyer said.

    Asked whether Benedict’s brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, who conducted the Regensburg choir from 1964 to 1994, had known of the abuse, Mr. Weber said, “After my research, I must assume so.”

    Father Ratzinger, who turns 92 this month, is the older brother of Joseph Ratzinger, who served as pope from April 2005 until he stepped down on Feb. 28, 2013, saying he was too frail to fulfill the full range of his duties. Now known as the pope emeritus, he still lives in the Vatican; his brother resides in Regensburg.

    Mr. Weber noted that, as conductor of the choir, Father Georg Ratzinger sat on a three-person supervisory body, along with the directors of the high school and the boarding school attached to the choir, that was supposed to oversee the lower school where Mr. Meier worked.

    Mr. Weber started investigating the Regensburger Domspatzen, as the choir is known, in 2015 and said he had interviewed dozens of victims and figures in charge. He said at least 40 of the 231 abuse cases also involved sexual violence, “from fondling to rapes.” Most cases are too old for legal action now, he said.

    The choir has been run since 1994 by Ronald Buchner, who is not associated with the Roman Catholic Church.

    The first accusations of physical punishments and sexual abuse in the choir surfaced in 2010, in connection with other reported abuses in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, Belgium and Austria. The Diocese of Regensburg last year spoke of 72 victims and offered about $2,700 in compensation.

    Mr. Weber said that after his report Friday, at least eight people who had not previously come forward with accusations of abuse had contacted him.


  12. German choir abuse claims hit close to home for retired Pope Benedict XVI

    by David Gibson | Religion News Service January 9, 2016

    (RNS) Allegations that more than 200 boys in a Catholic-run choir and two connected schools in Germany were abused over the span of several decades, some of them sexually, have brought the church’s abuse scandal uncomfortably close to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whose older brother directed the famous Bavarian choir during that time.

    The allegations were reported by an attorney, Ulrich Weber, who had been hired by the Diocese of Regensburg last year to investigate claims of abuse at the Regensburger Domspatzen choir and two feeder schools between 1953 and 1992.

    Weber told a news conference on Friday (Jan. 8) that at least 50 of the 231 alleged victims made “plausible” claims of sexual abuse.

    Benedict’s brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, conducted the historic choir from 1964 to 1994. Asked if Ratzinger, now 92 and still living in Regensburg, had known of the abuse, Weber said: “After my research, I must assume so.”

    “The events were known internally and criticized, but they had almost no consequences,” Weber said. The cases are too old to be prosecuted, he said.

    Ratzinger has in the past said he knew that boys suffered physical mistreatment and he himself used corporal punishment at times, but he said he was unaware of any sexual abuse.

    Most of the new allegations concern beatings and other mistreatment, such as food deprivation.

    They were attributed mainly to Johann Meier, who headed one of two primary schools associated with the choir from 1953 until his retirement in 1992; he died later that same year.

    But dozens of the new allegations also concern sexual abuse, ranging from fondling to rape. “The reported cases of sexual abuse in Regensburg were mostly concentrated in the period of the mid to end 1970s,” Weber said, according to Agence France-Presse. He added that “50 victims spoke of ten perpetrators.”

    Weber said that over the course of eight months he interviewed 140 people, including 70 alleged victims. He said since the report was made public, several other alleged victims contacted him.

    When reports of sexual abuse in the 1000-year-old choir first surfaced publicly in 2010, Georg Ratzinger insisted that he was unaware of them.

    “These things were never discussed,” Ratzinger told a German newspaper, Passauer Neue Presse. “The problem of sexual abuse that has now come to light was never spoken of.”

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  13. But Ratzinger did concede that boys told him about physical abuse they suffered at the hands of Meier, head of one of the lower schools.

    “But I did not have the feeling at the time that I should do something about it,” Ratzinger said. “Had I known with what exaggerated fierceness he was acting, I would have said something.”

    “Of course, today one condemns such actions,” he said. “I do as well. At the same time, I ask the victims for pardon.”

    Ratzinger himself had a reputation as a taskmaster, which was not unusual for the culture of the time, in Germany and in the Catholic Church.

    “He was a very strict director and people were scared of him,” Hans Zillner, a local official who sang in the choir as a boy, told The New York Times in 2005 when Georg Ratzinger’s brother, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected Pope Benedict XVI.

    In the 2010 interview, Georg Ratzinger said that he, too, would use corporal punishment on the boys.

    “At the beginning I also repeatedly administered a slap in the face, but always had a bad conscience about it,” he told the German newspaper. Corporal punishment was made illegal in 1980.

    Ratzinger said a slap in the face was the easiest reaction to a failure to perform or a poor performance, and the force of the slap varied widely.

    Whether the latest reports will lead to any further information on what George Ratzinger knew, and when, is uncertain.

    The Regensburg diocese published the new report on its website Friday, along with a year-old homily by Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer in which he expressed regret for the abuse the children allegedly suffered.

    The diocese has previously offered to pay 2,500 euros in damages to each of the victims.

    Pope Emeritus Benedict, who retired in February 2013 (Pope Francis was elected at a conclave the next month), in 88 and lives in seclusion in a monastery inside the Vatican walls in Rome.

    As Cardinal Ratzinger, the longtime guardian of orthodoxy at the Vatican, he had publicly downplayed the extent of the abuse or the notion of a cover-up, saying reports of abuse by clergy and in church settings were exaggerated by the media.

    But following his election as pope, and as investigations continue to reveal the breadth and depth of the scandal, Benedict began to institute firmer discipline and more effective prevention policies than had his predecessor, Saint John Paul II.

    (David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS who covers the Vatican and the Catholic Church)


  14. What Pope Benedict Knew About Abuse in the Catholic Church


    The election of Pope Francis, in 2013, had the effect, among other things, of displacing the painful story of priestly sexual abuse that had dominated public awareness of the Church during much of the eight-year papacy of his predecessor. The sense that the Church, both during the last years of Benedict and under Francis, had begun to deal more forcefully with the issue created a desire in many, inside and outside the Church, to move on. But recent events suggest that we take another careful look at this chapter of Church history before turning the page.

    During the past week, a German lawyer charged with investigating the abuse of minors in a famous Catholic boys’ choir in Bavaria revealed that two hundred and thirty-one children had been victimized over a period of decades. The attorney, Ulrich Weber, who was commissioned by the Diocese of Regensburg to conduct the inquiry, said that there were fifty credible cases of sexual abuse, along with a larger number of cases of other forms of physical abuse, from beatings to food deprivation.

    The news received widespread attention not only because of its disturbing content but because the director of the Regensburg boys’ choir from 1964 to 1994 was Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Joseph Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI. Joseph Ratzinger was the Archbishop of Munich from 1977 until 1981, when he went to head up the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which establishes theological orthodoxy and was also one of the branches of the Church that dealt with priestly sexual abuse.

    The developments in Germany raised the question of what the two Ratzinger brothers knew about the abuse in the Regensburg choir. Most of the sexual abuse took place, apparently, at a boarding school for elementary-grade students connected to the choir. The chief culprit, according to Weber, was Johann Meier, the boarding school’s director from 1953 until 1992. The composer Franz Wittenbrink, a graduate of the school, told Der Spiegelmagazine, in 2010, when the abuse scandal became public, that there was “a system of sadistic punishments connected to sexual pleasure.”

    At that time, Georg Ratzinger, who was on the three-person supervisory board of the elementary school, acknowledged that some choirboys had complained about the punishments they received at the school. “But I did not have the feeling at the time that I should do something about it,” he told the Passauer Neue Presse, in 2010. “Had I known with what exaggerated fierceness he was acting, I would have said something.”

    In fact, accusations of abuse surfaced and were investigated in 1987, but no one saw fit to remove Meier from his post until the year of his death. When asked at his press conference last week whether Georg Ratzinger had been aware of the abuse, Weber replied, “Based on my research, I must assume so.” He estimated that a third of the students in the choir had suffered some form of abuse. Georg Ratzinger has said that he routinely slapped choirboys when their performance was not up to snuff, standard treatment until Germany banned corporal punishment, in the early eighties. So far, the Regensburg diocese has offered compensation of twenty-five hundred euros for each victim.

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  15. In the early nineties a monk who worked at the Vatican told me, “You wouldn’t believe the amounts of money the church is spending to settle these priestly sexual-abuse cases.” He was not exaggerating. By 1992, Catholic dioceses in the U.S. had paid out four hundred million dollars to settle hundreds of molestation cases. These financial settlements were reached largely to keep the victims quiet: in almost all cases, the documents were sealed and the victims signed a non-disclosure agreement. Given the enormous amounts of money involved, the men running the Vatican were well aware of the problem.

    The basic outlines of the sex-abuse scandal were already evident that year when Jason Berry, an American journalist, published his first book, “Lead Us Not Into Temptation.” (While the “Spotlight” team at the Boston Globe is rightly getting its moment of glory, praise is also due to Berry, whose pioneering work on the subject, a decade earlier, was done with far less institutional support.) As Berry reported, Ray Mouton, a lawyer whom the Church hired in 1985 to defend a pedophile priest in Louisiana, warned that, if the Church did not adopt a policy for helping victims and removing pedophiles from the ministry, it could face a billion dollars in losses from financial settlements and damage awards in the next decade. It turned out that Mouton had actually underestimated the financial cost of the crisis. By 2006, the Church had spent $2.6 billion settling sexual-abuse cases, as Berry wrote in the 2010 edition of “Vows of Silence,” his second book on the pedophile crisis, which he co-authored with fellow-journalist Gerald Renner.

    Most cases of abuse were handled (or not handled) by local bishops and archbishops, but some were adjudicated by Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The most prominent of these cases was that of Father Marcial Maciel, a favorite of Pope John Paul II and the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a powerful Mexican religious order that, at its pinnacle, included eight hundred priests, fifteen universities, and a hundred and fifty prep schools, as well as a lay movement with a reported seventy thousand followers.

    In the seventies and eighties, former members of the Legionaries reported that, as young boys, they had been sexually abused by Maciel. As the Church later acknowledged, the complainants were highly credible and had no ulterior motives: they were not seeking monetary compensation or notoriety. They followed Church procedures by filing formal charges through ecclesiastical courts in Rome, but nothing was done. In fact, Pope John Paul II called on Maciel to accompany him on papal visits to Mexico in 1979, 1990, and 1993.

    When one of the former Legionaries expressed his frustration, in the lawsuit, about the Church’s inaction, Berry and Renner reported in their book, the Legionaries’ own canon lawyer, Martha Wegan, who made no secret that her first loyalty was to the Church, replied, “It is better for eight innocent men to suffer than for millions to lose their faith.”

    Cardinal Ratzinger reopened the case against Father Maciel in 2004, and, when he became Pope, in 2006, he acknowledged the validity of the claims, forbidding Maciel to continue his ministry and limiting him to a “life of prayer and penitence.” The Vatican found Maciel guilty of “very serious and objectively immoral acts . . . confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies” that represent “true crimes and manifest a life without scruples or authentic religious sentiment.”

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  16. Though the sexual abuse crisis reached its peak in the public sphere during Benedict XVI’s papacy, the single figure most responsible for ignoring this extraordinary accumulation of depravity is the sainted John Paul II. In the context of his predecessor’s deplorable neglect, Pope Benedict gets slightly higher marks than most. In 2001, he acted to give his office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, jurisdiction over all sexual-abuse cases, and soon he began to push the Maciel investigation, despite considerable Vatican opposition. After ascending the throne of St. Peter, he became the first Pope to kick predator priests out of the Church: in 2011 and 2012, the last two full years of his papacy, the Church defrocked three hundred and eighty-four offending priests.

    That said, it was too little, too late. As the second-most-powerful man in John Paul II’s pontificate, Ratzinger had more ability to know and to act than almost anyone. The actions he finally did take were largely dictated by a series of embarrassing scandals: his move to take control of pedophilia cases in 2001 closely followed scandals in the U.S., Ireland, and Australia, and staggering financial settlements for American plaintiffs. The decision to reopen the case against Maciel would almost certainly not have happened without the courageous reporting of Berry and Renner. And the zero-tolerance policy that led to the systematic defrocking of abusive priests happened only after theannus horribilis of 2010, in which a new sexual-abuse scandal seemed to explode every week and loyal parishioners left the Church in droves.

    Ratzinger understood better than most, if late, that priestly abuse was the negation of everything the Church was supposed to stand for. But, for much of his career, his focus and priorities were elsewhere. During most of his tenure, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was too busy disciplining anyone who dared step out of line with Church teachings on personal sexuality and family planning to bother with the thousands of priests molesting children. In 2009, a nun named Margaret McBride sat on the ethics committee of a San Diego hospital that had to decide the case of a pregnant woman whose doctors believed that she (and her fetus) would die if they did not terminate her pregnancy. The committee voted to allow an abortion, and the woman’s life was saved. Almost immediately, McBride’s bishop informed her of her excommunication. It took multiple decades and thousands of cases of predatory behavior to begin defrocking priests, but not much more than twenty-four hours to excommunicate a nun trying to save a human life. In 2011, also under Pope Benedict, the Vatican lifted its excommunication of McBride.

    A reëxamination of the sexual-abuse scandal may help the Church reconsider the standoff between traditionalists and progressives during Francis’s papacy. The traditionalists, who oppose changes such as offering communion to remarried couples, bemoan the good old days when papal authority was unquestioned, civil authorities treated the Church with extreme deference, and parishioners obeyed without objection. They have forgotten that those good old days were also a time when children were slapped, beaten, and often sexually abused, and priests, bishops, parents, and police looked away.