The National Catholic Review

Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, has responded to articles criticizing Pope Benedict XVI Ithen Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) for his handling of the case of an abusive priest in Milwaukee, particularly as detailed in The New York Times last week in a rare interview with the Times here, and an extraordinary and excoriating 2,400-word commentary, in which he calls the Times' coverage, by Laurie Goodstein, "deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness." 

As a full-time member of the Roman Curia, the governing structure that carries out the Holy See’s tasks, I do not have time to deal with the Times’s subsequent almost daily articles by Rachel Donadio and others, much less with Maureen Dowd’s silly parroting of Goodstein’s “disturbing report.” But about a man with and for whom I have the privilege of working, as his “successor” Prefect, a pope whose encyclicals on love and hope and economic virtue have both surprised us and made us think, whose weekly catecheses and Holy Week homilies inspire us, and yes, whose pro-active work to help the Church deal effectively with the sexual abuse of minors continues to enable us today, I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on.

Laurie Goodstein has, in effect, replied with this article outlining the Times's coverage of the case in question. 

The case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, accused of molesting as many as 200 deaf boys at a school in Wisconsin, stands out among the cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests because of the number and vulnerability of the victims, and the availability of documents revealing how church officials handled the matter.  Father Murphy died in 1998, still a priest, despite documents showing that a priest had informed church officials as early as the mid-1950s that deaf children had complained that Father Murphy was molesting them. The police and prosecutors in Wisconsin were also informed by the victims and their advocates, but failed to act.  The documents show that during the mid-1990s, Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee, facing the threat of lawsuits and hearing wrenching testimony from deaf adults who said they had been abused by Father Murphy, concluded that Father Murphy should be removed from the priesthood.


America Test | 7/14/2010 - 11:33am
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Igor Driker | 7/9/2010 - 1:26pm
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Philip Williams | 7/8/2010 - 1:32pm
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Carolyn Disco | 4/3/2010 - 5:39pm
As to Ratzinger's possible role and influence over his secretary Bertone:
Ratinger had received a request five months earlier from Murphy for mercy due to health, and not answered it. The letter was full of lies, indicating remorse where there was none, particularly since Murphy was pleading not guilty in the trial, despite admitting guilt earlier. A minimal amount of due diligence by Ratzinger or Bertone would have revealed those facts.
Weakland and Brundage wanted a trial no matter the state of Murphy's health as a matter of principle, and to prevent him from being buried as a priest in good standing - something the deaf community felt very strongly about.
Come the big May 30 CDF meeting, Bertone says remorse is neccesary to call off a trial, OTHERWISE one should proceed. Weakland tells Bertone outright, there is no remorse, but Bertone is tone deaf to the point. Bertone violates his own terms by then not authorizing continuation of the trial. It's crazy-making, and Weakland is distraught.
I believe the following: Bertone was so worried about secrecy and scandal, he did not want a trial, period. The die was cast before the meeting began.
Assuming Bertone does not act contrary to Ratzinger’s guidelines as his superior, I speculate, reasonably speculate IMHO, that Ratzinger and Bertone agreed directly or indirectly that the way to avoid the problematic issue was not to face it.
Conveniently, there is a letter seeking mercy. What better way to proceed than direct that other measures/precepts be pursued instead? No trial, no worries about secrecy and scandal, and Ratzinger comes out with a compassionate image. Just let the clock run out on Murphy's health, which is what happened.
Hands off, it keeps the Vatican out of it, and leaves the pastoral consequences to  the archbishop to handle. Anyone objects, there’s perfect cover. Where does the buck stop? At the top, one rung down, or both? The Vatican has shown great deftness in deflecting blame elsewhere, anyplace but at Rome. Are bureaucracies known to function in that manner?
Carolyn Disco | 4/3/2010 - 5:16pm
Levada needs to get his facts straight:
''The point of Goodstein’s article, however, is to attribute the failure to accomplish this dismissal to Pope Benedict, instead of to diocesan decisions at the time.''
The trial was stopped at the May 30, 1998 meeting between Weakland and the CDF's Bertone, Ratzinger's aide. The minutes note Bertone saying:''there are not enough elements to instruct a canonical trial '' and specify his objections as the possible loss of strict secrecy and the fear of scandal.
Bertone ends the meeting with his instructions: ''the two central points TO BE FOLLOWED'' (not ''may be followed'' or ''should be followed'' or ''suggested''), neither of which refers to continuation of a trial, It's simply, ''1) the territorial restriction of the celebration of the Eucharist and 2) the needed remorse and reform of the priest.'' THAT'S IT.
The judicial vicar Thomas Brundage, who made such a ruckus, has been proven completely wrong in his assertion the trial was ongoing at the time of death, saying he never saw Weakland's letter to that effect.
It turns out it was Brundage himself who wrote the draft for Weakland that says, ''
“First, I have instructed my Judicial Vicar to formally abate the judicial process that had begun against Father Murphy.” See the documents at
From David Nichol on dotCommonweal:
''Brundage, who has insisted, “Never once was I told to – to stop the case or to do anything less than to proceed to its conclusion,” nevertheless drafts a response to Bertone saying the trial is being abandoned.
If Bertone’s communications were mere suggestions to Weakland pointing out the downside of continuing with a trial, and it was still Weakland’s decision to continue or discontinue the trial — and we have every reason to believe Weakland did want to continue the trial — why does Brundage’s “suggested response” to Burtone say the trial is being formally abated?
The only plausible explanation, it seems to me, is that the communications from Bertone in effect ordered the trial to be abated. Brundage drafted the only plausible response to Burtone: “We’re doing what you told us to do.”
The fact that Brundage did not complete the formal paperwork for cessation of the trial until September is moot, since the decision had been made in Rome May 30, 1998 and nothing went forward on a trial after that date. (Murphy died late August.)
On seeing his own writing, Brundage admits to being confused.
James Lindsay | 4/1/2010 - 12:23pm
We need to quit calling the reporting on decades old abuse a crisis. While some are having a crisis of faith, which may lead to a financial crisis as people renounce in order to cut off their support of the Church through a church tax, there is no evidence of ongoing abuse. If we stop discussing in crisis mode we can possibly bring a bit of perspective to the situation and report on what is different now (and why people should not be tempted into leaving the Church over it and instead work for reform because of it and because reform is necessary for its own reasons).

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