Original False and Misleading Article by The New York Times: Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys (Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times)
Last week, The New York Times implicated Pope Benedict XVI in an alleged cover-up by accusing Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy at the time, of stopping a canonical trial of a notrious child abuser-priest, Fr. Lawrence Murphy. Even though no decision was made by Cardinal Ratzinger himself, the implication is that he, as the ultimate authority on the question, was ultimately responsible in stopping this canonical trial. The New York Times article makes the following allegation:
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. (Source)
The New York Times article states that Archbishop Bertone “halted the process”. Yet, this statement is simply not true and represents a distortion and even fabrication of the events. There was never an order by the Vatican to stop the case at all. In April 1998, there was a recommendation by Archbishop Bertone, then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy, to implement pastoral measures to ensure Father Murphy had no ministry, but without the full burden of a penal process because of a number of extenuating circumstances, not the least of which was the frail health of Fr. Murphy. However, this was only a suggestion on the part of Bertone since the local bishop retained full control on the ultimate decision. In fact, the next month, the Bishop of Superior rejected Bertone’s suggestion for pastoral measures and began formal canonical proceedings against Murphy. The case was halted by the local bishop only when it became evident that Murphy was on his death bed i.e. a mere 2 days before Murphy’s death.
So, in other words, it was not the Vatican, Cardinal Ratzinger, or Archbishop Bertone who stopped the trial. It was death — the same death that is currently circling the credibility of The New York Times.
The real issue here is Pope Benedict’s determination to root out what he once described as the ‘filth’ in the Church. After Benedict is done with cleaning up our own backyard, perhaps His holiness can help us bloggers clean out the filthy lies and distortions in the main stream media as well.
Other Selected Reading on The New York Times’s Defamation of Benedict
A Response to the New York Times (Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, National Review Online)
Source of the NY Times story: The New York Times story had two sources. First, lawyers who currently have a civil suit pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. One of the lawyers, Jeffrey Anderson, also has cases in the United States Supreme Court pending against the Holy See. He has a direct financial interest in the matter being reported. The second source was Archbishop Rembert Weakland, retired archbishop of Milwaukee. He is the most discredited and disgraced bishop in the United States, widely known for mishandling sexual-abuse cases during his tenure, and guilty of using $450,000 of archdiocesan funds to pay hush money to a former homosexual lover who was blackmailing him.Archbishop Weakland had responsibility for the Father Murphy case between 1977 and 1998, when Father Murphy died. He has long been embittered that his maladministration of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee earned him the disfavor of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, long before it was revealed that he had used parishioners’ money to pay off his clandestine lover. He is prima facie not a reliable source.
The documents show that the canonical trial or penal process against Father Murphy was never stopped by anyone. In fact, it was only abandoned days before Father Murphy died. Cardinal Ratzinger never took a decision in the case, according to the documents. His deputy, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, suggested, given that Father Murphy was in failing health and a canonical trial is a complicated matter, that more expeditious means be used to remove him from all ministry.
The New York Times’s Smear on Pope Benedict: A Defense of the Church’s Conduct in the Murphy Case (John Pacheco, Socon or Bust):
“Did then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation follow the Church’s canon law at the time? Yes. Did then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation consider the specifics of the accused’s case i.e. his imminent death and the fact that the civil authorities did not prosecute? Yes. Did then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation prohibit Murphy from exercising public ministry? Yes. The only thing the future Pope didn’t do is strip him of his priestly faculties before his imminent death, but to do that Murphy would likely have been required to go through a canonical trial…and that’s really the only thing The New York Times and the rest of the anti-Catholic bigots have to complain about…a canonical trial, the nature of which they know little about. The anti-Catholic bigots wanted Joseph Ratzinger to personally wheel Father Murphy into the court on a bed, have the trial drag out and watch him die in front of everyone while the comotose priest offered his defense. This is the only thing the Pope was guilty of not doing. It was the “great day of justice” we were all deprived of, according to The New York Times.
Moreover, the Catholic Church is not the only institution which considers the age and health of the accused before deciding whether the accused should stand trial. Our secular courts do it all the time. Even notorious war criminals are given a pass on this front.
A Papal Conversion (John Allen, NCR):
To understand that, it’s necessary to wind the clock back a decade. Before then, no Vatican office had clear responsibility for cases of priests accused of sexual abuse, which instead were usually handled — and often ignored — at the diocesan level. In 2001, however, Pope John Paul II assigned responsibility to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s all-important doctrinal office, which was headed by Joseph Ratzinger, then a cardinal. As a result, bishops were required to send their case files to Cardinal Ratzinger’s office. By all accounts, he studied them with care, making him one of the few churchmen anywhere in the world to have read the documentation on virtually every Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse. The experience gave him a familiarity with the pervasiveness of the problem that virtually no other figure in the Catholic Church can claim. And driven by that encounter with what he would later refer to as “filth” in the church, Cardinal Ratzinger seems to have undergone a transformation. From that point forward, he and his staff were determined to get something done.One crucial issue Cardinal Ratzinger had to resolve was how to handle the church’s internal disciplinary procedures for abusive priests. Early on, reformers worried that Rome would insist on full trials in church courts before a priest could be removed from ministry or defrocked. Those trials were widely seen as slow, cumbersome and uncertain, yet many in the Vatican thought they were needed to protect the due process rights of the accused. In the end, Cardinal Ratzinger and his team approved direct administrative action in roughly 60 percent of the cases. Having sorted through the evidence, they concluded that in most cases swift action was more important than preserving the church’s legal formalities. Among Vatican insiders, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith became the primary force pushing for a tough response to the crisis. Other departments sometimes regarded the “zero tolerance” policy as an over-reaction, not to mention a distortion of the church’s centuries-long legal tradition, in which punishments are supposed to fit the crime, and in which bishops and other superiors have great leeway in meting out discipline. After being elected pope, Benedict made the abuse cases a priority. One of his first acts was to discipline two high-profile clerics against whom sex abuse allegations had been hanging around for decades, but had previously been protected at the highest levels.
Keeping the record straight on Benedict and the crisis (John Allen, NCR):
“Ratzinger’s top deputy at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on sex abuse cases, Maltese Monsignor Charles Scicluna, recently gave an interview to an Italian Catholic paper in which he said that of the more than 3,000 cases eventually referred to Rome, only 20 percent were subjected to a full canonical trial. In some reporting, including the Thursday piece in The New York Times, this figure has been cited as evidence of Vatican “inaction.” Once again, however, those who have followed the story closely have almost exactly the opposite impression….The fear at the time was that the congregation would insist on trials in almost every case, thereby dragging out the administration of justice, and closure for the victims, almost indefinitely. In the end, however, only 20 percent were sent back for trials, while for the bulk of the cases, 60 percent, bishops were authorized to take immediate administrative action, because the proof was held to be overwhelming. The fact that only 20 percent of the cases were subjected to full canonical trial has been hailed as a belated grasp in Rome of the need for swift and sure justice, and a victory for the more aggressive American approach to the crisis. It should be noted, too, that bypassing trials has been roundly criticized by some canon lawyers and Vatican officials as a betrayal of the due process safeguards in church law. Hence to describe that 20 percent figure as a sign of “inaction” cannot help but seem, to anyone who’s been paying attention, rather ironic. In truth, handling 60 percent of the cases through the stroke of a bishop’s pen has, up to now, more often been cited as evidence of exaggerated and draconian action by Ratzinger and his deputies.”
The Myth of Pedophile Priests (Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Standing On My Head):
Penn State professor Philip Jenkins (who is not a Catholic) has written the most objective book on the subject, and he summarizes his arguments in this excellent article. In light of his work, we should remember some basic facts and principles:
- Priestly celibacy is not the issue – married men are more likely to abuse children than unmarried
- Most child abuse takes place within the home.
- All religious groups have pedophile scandals, and the Catholics (while the largest religious group) are at the bottom of the list statistically.
- Child abuse is prevalent in all areas of society: schools, youth organizations, sports, etc.
- Statistically, of all the professions, Christian clergy are least likely to offend. Doctors, Farmers and Teachers are the professions most likely to abuse children–not clergy.
- Among clergy offenders Catholic priests are least likely to offend. …
Scoundrel Time(s)(George Weigel, First Things):
The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000. According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).