CNS: Vatican defends action in case of Wisconsin priest abuser

In case you didn’t see this, John Thavis, of the Rome office of CNS has this:

Vatican defends action in case of Wisconsin priest abuser

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said in a front-page commentary March 25 that the New York Times article was part of a media campaign against the pope.

It defended Pope Benedict, saying he had operated with "transparency, firmness and severity in turning a light on various cases of sexual abuse committed by priests and religious," as shown in his recent letter to Irish Catholics.

"But the prevailing tendency in the media is to ignore the facts and to strain interpretations, with the aim of depicting the Catholic Church as the only institution responsible for sexual abuse, an image that does not correspond to reality," it said.

This strategy, it said, reflects the "evident and shameful attempt to strike, at any cost, Pope Benedict and his closest collaborators."

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. doanli says:

    Journalists are going to have a lot to answer for to God.

  2. lofstrr says:

    It almost sounds like the Vatican press office is finally figuring out how to handle things.

    And leave it to the NYT to be completely wrong in at least half of its coverage and to grossly distort the other half.

  3. ghlad says:

    Thanks for posting this, Fr. Z. I knew there had to be some explanation, but the stories that are currently getting the most attention do a very good job of setting up guilt by amassing a very,very high amount of circumstantial evidence.

    Some are easier to refute a priori without knowledge of the particular facts, like when news stories report “Neither Pope JPII or then-Cardinal Ratzinger responded to letters sent.” Yeah? Well, I sent a letter to the Vatican also, and never got an answer back from JPII or then-Cardinal Ratzinger either.

    But other approaches to establishing guilt are much more insidious and difficult to refute among my friends and peers, so thanks again for posting this.

  4. Tom in NY says:

    NYT noted that plaintiffs’ lawyers afforded documents to the paper. They need to defend their clients’ interests; readers need to remember that fact. It’s possible the daily drip of news to the Boston Globe a few years ago was from the defendants’ counsel.

    Salutationes omnibus.

  5. Bornacatholic says:

    I read this new attack after reading this:

    The world’s shortest article on the U.S.-Israel imbroglio

    I don’t know what to say about the Obama administration’s extraordinary bullying and rudeness toward Israel over the past week, except that Obama is simply doing to Israel what he’s doing to America—treating it as an enemy. In conformity with Islamic strategy, he is waging war on both the Great Satan and the Little Satan. Posted by Lawrence Auster

    I have nothing other than a hunch but I would not be surprised to learn that operatives in the White House, at the behest of Obama, are goosing the Old Grey Lady ever onward in their attacks on Holy Mother Church.

    Islam is our mortal enemy and attacking the Catholic Church (after Obama divided and conquered it in America) would seem to fit right in with his waging war against the Great Satan and The Little Satan.

    In any event, Fr., God Bless you for your remarkable commentary yesterday. I found it profoundly wise and, I guarantee you, your anger was a real Blessing to read for those, like myself, who were victims of homosexual predators.

    As you probably know, most victims take a LONG time (some never get there)to feel anger over what happened to them (they feel guilt and think they caused it to happen)and so your response was absolutely fantastic.

    God Bless you.

  6. Dr. Eric says:

    When I first read about this latest attack against the Church I was really blankety-blank-blank. Then I took a breath, and realized I was reading a story from the Anti-Catholic media and knew that there was more to the story than what was printed. But, Father’s previous post is right on. As bad as this will get, everyone will be Judged by Christ Our God and we will all truly get what we deserve. So, like St. Maria Goretti, we should pray for these perverts that they convert in sack cloth and ashes and that God has mercy on them.

  7. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Prayers for the innocent and those whose innocence and trust was stolen, prayers for those falsely accused, and for their accusers, prayers for divine mercy for those that did sin, by commission or omission and have heartfelt repented.

  8. Serviam1 says:


    I have been dealing with righteous anger here in Boston since 2003. In this time,

    * Cardinal Law resigned.

    * The historic Cardinal’s Residence was sold to BC.

    * One priest (a Pastor, 48 years a priest) I personally know was FALSELY accused by two men. He immediately lost his parish and was thrown out on the street by a Boston Auxiliary Bishop with little or no recourse. His case was eventually (2 years later) thrown out of Civil Court when these “men” admitted to lying. They were motivated by the large sums of monetary settlement the Archdiocese was offering at the time, based on accusations. To date (5 years later), the hierarchy is just beginning to review his case, as it wound it way through the Roman bureaucracy. Meanwhile, he and many fellow priests (in Boston) remain in a form of limbo. There is NO ATTEMPT to rehabilitate the falsely accused by any authority Civil or Eccesial.

    * I have seen a fiscal meltdown in the Archdiocese of Boston as a result of exposure to these settlements.

    * The resulting financial hemorrage resulted in 65 parishes suppressed or merged, including the historic Holy Trinity (German) Church [ ]in Boston’s South End and Blessed Sacrament in Jamaica Plain, significant parts of Boston’s Catholic architectural patrimony.

    While my heart goes out to true victims of this monstrous crime, we so little hear of the after affects suffered by faithful, who continue support the Church through prayer and tithe in Boston despite the enormity of this disaster. Boston is truly a “Ground Zero” in the culture war. This scandal just steps up the attacks by militant secularists.

  9. Genna says:

    I’d say there was an agenda here.
    Interesting reading.
    The former Archbishop was enthroned in 1977. It was in 1996 that he wrote to the CDF about the Murphy case. The head of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger put the matter into the hands of his deputy.
    In an interview on BBC radio this evening, Fr Weakland (on the basis of the NYT article) was prompted to confirm that Cardinal Ratzinger knew about the case but did nothing.
    Fr Weakland replied indirectly by saying the authorities should have acted sooner and that he himself should have acted sooner.
    But in his 1996 letter to Cardinal Ratzinger, he implies that he has just heard about the scandal. In which case, he couldn’t have acted any sooner.
    Who released the documents?

  10. xathar says:

    Anyone else notice that all of this started after the USCCB came out strong against healthcare? Coincidence?

  11. sejoga says:

    Like Genna, I feel like there’s more to this story about Rembert Weakland and Joseph Ratzinger.

    Some of the way details are presented here make it look like the venerable Weakland did his best but that awful Ratzinger just wants these pedophiles running rampant.

    I don’t think that’s the perspective of the CNS, but I’m waiting for that bias to start showing up in secular news outlets.

  12. I read this report from the NYT this morning, and thought to myself, “They are searching for any kind of stick to beat the h*** out of the Holy Father.”
    I didn’t buy it, at all.
    There are so many holes in this whole article, you could drive a semi through it (as we say in the Midwest).
    Dig up all the dirt you want, you secularist pigs in the media…God help you on your particular judgment day.

  13. shane says:

    Perception is everything. Unfortunately almost everybody who reads these reports will take them at face value. The abuse scandals sweeping Europe must be particularly painful for the Pope given that he has dedicated his pontificate to re-evangelizing the Continent. The most immediate political threat will come from bourgeois liberals (of both the ‘right’ and ‘left’ varieties) who will seek to exploit these scandals to undermine the temporal liberties of the Church and bring it under greater state control. Expect attacks on the secrecy of the confessional and church tribunals. When bishops speak out on controversial social issues, they will have these scandals rubbed in their faces. Attacks on churches are increasing.

    Most of this abuse is historic, and the Church can certainly recover and enhance her social prestige, but it will take decades. Thankfully Pope Benedict has taken the problem a lot more seriously than his predecessor and I hope (but don’t expect) that he will institute the necessary reforms.

  14. TJerome says:

    First of all, the NYT is not a credible news source for anything let alone Church issues. It is reflexively anti-Catholic. However,notice how it gives liberals like Cardinal Mahony a pass? If he were a conservative he would be doomed.

  15. Archbishop Weakland is no source of any kind of truth, I’m afraid.
    He can say whatever he wants.
    The “track record”…his book, the official record of the courts, etc., are not to be trusted.
    He has an agenda here; he’s pissed as hell that he was “put aside”; his own fault, the record is clear on this. The absolute hypocrite. God forgive me for saying this about an Archbishop.
    Why dredge up this whole thing when this priest is dead, they were acting under former protocol, whether its correct or not?
    Its, in my mind, to attack Pope Benedict.
    The stinkin’ rats.

  16. SimonDodd says:

    I barely dare say this, but I just find it so striking that we seem to constantly come back to what feels like the same problem in all sorts of situations recently? Inaction over abusive priests; inaction over apostate politicians; inaction over religious declaring independence from the Magisterium and supplying cover to said politicians; inaction over liturgical abuse… Always inaction. And doesn’t it always seem to be inaction on the part of the Bishops?

  17. chcrix says:

    “Perception is everything. Unfortunately almost everybody who reads these reports will take them at face value.”

    I don’t think so shane. More and more people are recognizing that the MSM are hopeless and are getting their information from – the internet. This trend will accelerate with time.

    The MSM is not reflexively anti catholic, rather they are reflexively anti-christian. Denominations that have renounced any taint of orthopraxis (hosting wiccan celebrations for example) are ok because they are no threat to the secular establishment.

    Catholicism is the foremost voice of broadly orthodox Christianity. Therefore it will remain number one on the most wanted list.

  18. EXCHIEF says:

    I am not a conspiracy theorist but I tend to agree with bornacatholic. Obama’s style is to capitalize on any crack in his opponent’s armor. Obama and his Marxist handlers have to know that the only formidable obstacle they face in their global agenda is the Universal Catholic Church. Maybe not the Bishops in this country (although that may be changing) but the Holy See itself will oppose BO’s agenda. If he can neutralize the Church or put it continually on the defensive he has taken his main opposition out of play. He and his handlers are devious and cunning enough to do just that.

  19. EXCHIEF: I agree with you.
    We need to pray and do penance more than ever.
    This evil is so overwhelming…the Fatima prophecy comes to mind.
    Lots of rosaries, everyone. Reparation, penance, prayer.

  20. shane says:

    chcrix, I agree that the internet has done wonders, but only a tiny proportion of those reading the NYT article, and its widespread regurgitations elsewhere (including the BBC), will go to the bother of looking for refutations on the blogosphere. Most will come away with the impression that the Pope has covered-up abuse. That gravely imperils the social prestige of the Church.

    Personally I look forward to the day when these newspapers go bankrupt.

  21. sejoga says:

    SimonDodd is completely right. The inaction of the bishops and magisterium is what has gotten us into all sorts of messes. No one is EVER wrong:
    You’re a Catholic politician who supports abortion? Oh, well that’s unfortunate and maybe you might possibly rethink that position when you get around to it, if you want.

    You’re a priest who molests teenage boys? Well, that’s too bad, but say a few prayers and kiss the right rings and we’ll just overlook that.

    You’re a sister with a radical feminist agenda who hates the magisterium? At least you’ve “dedicated your life” to the Church, so we’ll let it slide.

    You’re a Catholic school administrator who allows the Church to be undermined in the classroom everyday? Okay, as long as everyone’s paying their tuition and you aren’t going bankrupt.

    You’re a liturgist who introduces songs from “Godspell” into the mass and invites “liturgical dancers” to parade around during the Eucharist prayer? I guess we just have to live with the fruits of “active participation”.

    You run the parish school of religion at your Church, but you don’t accept the Church’s teachings on contraception and sexuality? Well, I suppose we should be thankful the kids come to PSR at all! Carry on as usual.
    The complete inability of the leaders of our church to take any kind of action against anyone for any reason makes me half-wish for the days when dissidents and heretics got burned at the stake, frankly. The ones who didn’t deserve it usually got canonized in the end, so it all worked out for the best. And the ones who did deserve it, well… at least they weren’t made the head of the Catholic Health Association.

  22. Steve K. says:

    Right on, sejoga.

    In that vein, here is an article from the German newspaper Die Welt that says the Vatican needs a new Inquisition:

    It’s in German. I emailed Father and said I’d translate it and I will, unfortunately working late again tonight so it will have to wait until the weekend.

    The idea is basically correct – we do need the Inquisition. And the Inquisition should do for punishment what it did in the old days: turn the guilty over to secular authorities for punishment.

    A good start would be to change the name of the CDF back to its pre-Vatican 2 name, the Holy Office.

  23. catholicmidwest says:

    The Church has absolutely and simply got to figure out how to move faster. First we have the child abuse mess. We have the liturgical abuse mess and the translation quagmire. We have the defiance of doctrine far & wide. We have berserk speakers wandering the country (and other countries). We have anneagrams galore. We have nuns who lobby for abortion, etc etc etc. And NOTHING-NOTHING-NOTHING is done about any of it for decades at a time.

    Violations of identity and purpose of this magnitude would not be permitted by any other organization of any type–any type at all–not for days. let alone decades. It’s bizarre.

    Now, either someone in charget has to replace some of our bishops, or they have to apply some accountabilty requirements to them. They need their level of concern raised–it’s currently in the basement while they’re out telling jokes, golfing and going to pointless meetings. It this doesn’t happen, I”m not sure anyone is ever going to take the Church any seriously. As it is, a lot of our own people don’t take the Church seriously any more. Why would they the way things work?

  24. catholicmidwest says:

    For pete’s sakes, the Vatican can’t even get their website right. The state of Michigan (as well as other states) have it figured. Schools have it figured. Businesses have it figured. What is going on that the Vatican, the headquarters for the biggest Christian church in the world, the one with billions of members, can’t manage this either?

  25. catholicmidwest: Forgive me, everyone, but IT’S ITALIAN!…tomorrow, okay, maybe…whatever…

  26. MOP says:

    So many young faithful Catholic men, inspite of all the shame heaped on Mother Church, have shouldered her Cross and entered seminaries around the world in the last few years. Think of the strong calling they must have to follow this vocation today. Maybe that is the silver lining – a renewed priesthood.

  27. In the pagan world, this NYT stunt has a simple name: “pay back time for the Church’s objections to the health care plan.” Expect more and more of this.

    Rather than return hate for vicious hate, we need to imitate Christ in his Passion, esp. during the next Holy Week.

  28. catholicmidwest says:

    I’ve been to Italy a number of times. They can move when they want to. That’s an excuse. Make them want to. No workee, no eatee. Problem solved.

  29. catholicmidwest: Exactly.

  30. Consilio et Impetu says:

    The Church has a statute of limitations? Can someone, anyone, tell me about these statutes?

  31. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, I work in a large company with people from all over the world. Nothing wrong with Italians when they want something. They’re likely to be as efficient as anyone else then.

    Catholics, in general, often use excuses about things like this. Wounded healer, weak & wobbly instrument, and all that. Well, let me tell you, when it’s time for food & rewards, they show up like clockwork. Seen it over and over–used to teach in a Catholic school.

    I’m not siding with the NYT, because they’re not particularly competent either. In fact, they’re vipers. =) But that’s another matter.

  32. Consilio et Impetu: I believe the “statute of limitations” has to do with ten years after the 18th birthday of an accuser. I could be wrong about this; anyone correct me.
    The whole thing is that these accusations need to be brought before the proper authorities as soon as possible; this whole problem of accusations decades after the accused is either dead or elderly is problematic, because the witnesses or documentation is not present. Also, there is the difficulty of past memories, brought about by psychotherapy, that may not be accurate.

  33. catholicmidwest says:

    There is kind of a commonsense key to this whole situation, going forward. First of all, let me say that the sexual abuse of a child is always wrong and there are no excuses for it. Whatsoever.

    BUT, it’s also true that in a lot of cases, past and probably present, people seem to have a screw loose about prudence, particularly about priests and ministers for some reason.

    Look: A man who’s interested in children is unusual, priest or not, and he should be watched closely. The fact of the matter is that men out-abuse children by a factor of 100-to-1 in the general population. When these abuse cases occur, you always have to ask, “Where the heck was mom or dad?”

  34. catholicmidwest says:

    For clarity: Men are approximately 100 times more likely to sexually abuse children than women.

  35. I believe that the present situation in canon law is that a priest who abuses a child (a minor), confesses it, or there is concrete evidence that this is the case, is suspended “latae sententiae”, in other words, automatically (which is a rather recent development, which formerly was an imposed penalty, rather than automatic). And the CDF has been very proficient (re: Fr. Dale Fushek’s laicization) in dealing with priestly abuse of minors.
    The process is in place…the media just has to get their act together and quit looking for, digging up all kinds of everything in order to crucify Pope Benedict/the Church.
    These folks need to get real day jobs and lay off.
    The Church is doing Her job; how’s about cleaning up the public school system and the medical profession, not to mention the abuse that goes on in “homes”…esp. with “live in” boyfriends, step-dads, etc.
    The hypocrisy of all of this is just galling. Yeah, the leaders of the Church in many ways messed up. But not as badly as in your schools and homes, folks. Take a good look there before you malign Pope Benedictr.

  36. PostCatholic says:

    I agree that there seems to be an interest in personally connecting the Pope with the criminal scandals perpetrated by bishops and priests. On the few occasions that I met then-Cardinal Ratzinger (three, and brief) I took him for an affable, chuckling, gentle academic. Your statements that he concerned himself with policy and left administration ring very true to me.

    I’m no fan of the Pope, but I certainly can allow he’s a person of integrity between what he professes and how he behaves.

    And I appreciate your justified anger and your obvious concern for the victims, Rev. Zuhlsdorf. I wish more Catholic clergy would express that forthrightly rather than make excuses.

    For a long time, Bishops facing the problems these very dangerous clerics and sister created failed to act, conspired against both basic notions of justice and against victims, and in Weakland’s case even perpetrated a few crimes themselves. I am sure there are guilty fingerprints from the Vatican on these case files, too, and I am unsurprised to see that part of the story being exposed. In rebuttal I’d say that I’m grateful the fourth estate has been shedding sunshine on their secrets, and that the natural outrage people feel over obvious travesties of justice exposes those bishops and church administrators as people poorly qualified to be leaders in moral instruction. Good that they should go, as have many. If there are others of their ilk in positions of authority in Rome, may they go, too.

  37. catholicmidwest says:

    The media is just being the idiotic media. Members of the media need to sell papers or they get laid off work. And they’re spiteful too. But I think a lot of people know that already.

    People, including Catholics, need to take some responsibility all the way around for their children. It’s just commonsense to keep an eye on your kids and avoid foisting them off on someone else. Kids staying with priests and all–we’ve all read the articles–that was just asking for trouble and it was stupid then and it’s stupid now. People need to grow up.

    It’s true, nazareth priest, that more abuse–much more–goes on outside the walls of the church than within it. And much of it is in families. It’s said that almost all victims already know their perpetrators when sexual abuse occurs–often at the hands of family members, neighbors or teachers.

    But that’s not much of an excuse, all & all. The Church does have to move faster going forward, insist on more competence from its leaders and employees and avoid the appearance of this rampant evil. It creates scandal, which then the news media is more than happy to pick up and magnify. The old complacency just doesn’t fly anymore.

  38. catholicmidwest: I agree with you. No excuse, none at all.
    But just let me say first, that the hypocrisy in the media and in the “common wisdom” that the Church and Her leaders can be beat to death with the stick of “sexual abuse” when, in fact, the pandemic is in our midst, in public schools and families…we all need to get it together, repent, and clean up our act, corporately.
    To hold the Church and her Leaders to a higher standard, is, in fact, correct.
    Yet, priests, religious, and bishops live in the “depraved generation” are products of it, in fact.
    This is no excuse, none, believe me. It just is a “fact of life” and we have to admit this and move on; repent; make reparation, correct the abuses and “loopholes”, if you will, that somehow allowed the systemic, institutional abuse of minors (sometimes in horrific, violent ways) to go on.
    Sin will be with us always; sexual sins will never be “blotted out” until Jesus comes again and the whole creation will be made new in Him.
    But for bishops and priests to allow these horrid acts of defilement against women, children, the vulnerable and innocent, is just outrageous. We should be angry about it. But we should work to make sure this is not going to be repeated in the universal and systematic way it seems to have happenedn in the USA, Ireland, Germany, and God knows where else.

  39. MikeM says:

    Have you really encountered many excuse-making clergy? If so, were these men outside the Church administration? (Those in it, we have to recognize, sometimes aren’t at liberty to be as candid as they’d like). When the scandals were breaking in the US, I was still in high school, but both the priests at my school and at my parish came out and spoke candidly, forcefully, and their anger was detectable.

    Fr. Z,
    I’ll be praying for you and our other Priests. I’m sure that this sort of news is much rougher on you than we lay people tend to understand.

  40. shedrulejoachim says:

    I agree entirely that we must support the Holy Father and pray for him as he faces attack from a media that delights in sticking the boot into the Church at every opportunity. However, our primary concern should be to support victims of abuse and see that appropriate justice is meeted out to the perpetrators of such hideous crimes against children. I worry that in our rightly held loyalty and love for the Holy Father we sound dismissive of the genuine outrage felt by the abused. The Holy Father has given us a lesson in humility in his letter to the Irish Bishops. We could all do well to take that lesson to heart and seek forgiveness for the obvious shortcomings in dealing with these monstors in the past.

  41. PostCatholic says:

    Have you really encountered many excuse-making clergy?

    Yes. I would not make such an accusation without it.

    If so, were these men outside the Church administration? (Those in it, we have to recognize, sometimes aren’t at liberty to be as candid as they’d like).
    Both within and without. I don’t think it would be right of me to name names, so I will not do that.

    When the scandals were breaking in the US, I was still in high school, but both the priests at my school and at my parish came out and spoke candidly, forcefully, and their anger was detectable.
    I occasionally heard that, too, and I commend it. Most of what I heard, though, was tales of woe for church persecution and “you-have-to-understand-at-the-time” and so on and it frightened me that some could love their institution more than people. Perhaps I had an anomalous experience. In any case, I applaud forthright talk like Rev. Zuhlsdorf’s.

  42. Al says:

    So I was talking with my Baptist Brother-in-Law who is furious at this stuff…and I am more so than him. I would caution that pointing out, “Other Institutions have this kind of abuse and the press does not go after them” is a dangerous half truth. This is not the issue, what appears to be THE issue, is the institution covering up and hiding these abuses and not submitting the people responsible for it to the secular authorities. Not whether the abuse occurred at all. It appears that in most cases when abuse occurs in other institutions, schools, hospitals, etc..those people get exposed and prosecuted…and that is the end of that. There doesn’t appear to be an administrative conspiracy tied to the abuse where it looks like the institution is trying to hide it. I’m not saying that it “Doesn’t Happen” this way in other probably does to a certain extent but for the most part most institutions realize the cancer must be removed immediately. BTW: Last time I checked Souls can be saved in prisons as well, Christianity does not end outside of the church walls. I want the liberals responsible for the “Pedophile Button Button whose go the Button” game removed, for the life of me I don’t understand why there is no more robust and visible house cleaning going on…and there is no doubt the liberals in the church are responsible for “Goodbye Good Men: How Liberals brought corruption to the Catholic Church”.

  43. SimonDodd says:

    PostCatholic, what sort of “excuses” have you heard from clergy? I take it that your criticism of “tales of woe for church persecution and ‘you-have-to-understand-at-the-time'” is a reference to those excuses, but can you give us more?

  44. mpm says:

    RE: “perception is reality”. Only in journalism. The Catholic Church is all about Reality itself; “managing” perception is what gets us into trouble.

    RE: statute of limitations. It was Cardinal Ratzinger, at the behest of John Paul II, who increased the number of years for the statute of limitations from the normal 3, to 10, and then made them applicable from the age of 18, rather than the date of the crime. That is what he did; what they ACCUSE him of doing was to “manage the abuse” from the Vatican.

    Catholics need to know and repeat the fact than Vatican II called for a reformulation of the Code of Canon Law. The commission that undertook that effort (took about 20 years, with lots of comment from the experts), decided that the issues dealt with by “Crimen solliciationis”, the solicitation of sex under pretext of the Sacrament of Confession (along with the 3 other crimes accorded equal treatment, namely 1) bestiality by the clergy, 2) abuse of minors by the clergy, and 3) homosexual sins by the clergy) were to be reformulated AFTER the Code was promulgated. The CIC was promulgated in 1983. Cardinal Ratzinger came on board the CDF in 1982. The first assignment he was given was to implement new protocols for dealing with “dissident” theologians, which took some time. Eventually he also oversaw the work to reformulate proper procedures regarding “Crimen sollicitationis”. Those new directives were approved by John Paul II in 2001-2, and issued under Cardinal Ratzinger’s signature in 2002. THAT is what they are now calling his “cover up”, in spite of what the new norms actually stipulate, and they do increase the number of years in the statute of limitations as mentioned above. There is no stipulation that such canonical crimes, are not to be handed over to the civil authorities for prosecution.

    Also, the “secrecy” issue is bogus. In moral theology there are “natural secrets” (such as attorney-client, or physician-patient, privileges), which are recognized even in US law. There is also the “seal of confession” (no exceptions, even in speaking to the pentitent himself). Then, there is confidentiality, which is sought in many US trials in order to protect one or another of the participants in the trial. Canon Law has such “secrets” also. That’s all there is to it. And the accuser and witnesses, and accused are no longer subject to any sort of oath under pain of excommunication (though the judges, and attorneys, and other court officials, are — i.e., “no leaking” to smear someone’s reputation).

    RE: reinstate the Inquisition. The tribunals of the CDF, and the Bishops which deal with the same matter, ARE the inquisition: “inquisitio” means “investigation” directed at determining the facts, the reality of what happened, rather than the “perception” of what happened which is what lawyers in the US criminal and civil justice systems do.

    I think it is weak-minded to think that the proponents of what we like to call the “culture of death” are merely misinformed. They are not misinformed, they are intentionally misinforming. It sells advertising, even if it doesn’t forward their agenda.

  45. irishgirl says:

    catholicmidwest and nazareth priest, I read all your posts and say ‘right on’!

    I am sooo tired of the secular media sniping at the Church. I am sooo tired of SNAP and their cohorts always shooting their yaps off.

    And as you said, catholicmidwest, ‘Where the heck was mom or dad?’ when these abuse cases happened?Where were the parents of these kids? It would have been better if they kept an eye on them.

    Heck, when I was a kid, I was ‘scared skinny’ of the priests in the parishes I was in!

    I sent an email to Fr. Z yesterday after his ‘vent’. I wanted to let him know that I shared his anger and disgust over what’s been going on, especially with the verbal attacks against the Holy Father.

    I hope and pray that the security guys in the Vatican keep their eyes open with Holy Week fast approaching. God help us if anyone tries to attack the Holy Father!

    OK, off my rant….I’m going over to EWTN and watch the noon Mass so I can calm down…

  46. mpm says:

    Comment by Al — 26 March 2010 @ 9:30 am


    Baptists do not comprise a single Church as we Catholics do. Catholics have a code of canon law, which is supposed to be followed in cases of “canonical crimes”, which are actually mortal sins that are also given the status of crimes under Canon Law. Of the relevant “canonical crimes” ONE is “homosexual acts by the clergy”. How would a Baptist deal with that “crime” when under US law “homosexual acts” are now constitutionally protected?

    This is not to make any excuses for not following the Canon Law; there are no excuses. What appears to have happened instead of following Canon Law, is that dioceses have acted AS IF they were Baptist congregations, and made it up as they went. So says the Pope to the people of Ireland (paragraph 11 to the hierarchy, first sentence).

  47. Nan says:

    Al, schools have a history of passing problem teachers to another school without taking action. If you read the paper, the boy scouts are in trouble for keeping a list of pedophile troop leaders who were passed around. This isn’t limited to the Church, the publicity is a function of society’s openness about formerly hidden things.

    Only recently have volunteers working with children been required to pass background checks, which only show convictions so the bad part is that it only rules out those who have been caught in bad behavior.

  48. Al says:

    MPM & NAN

    1. I am not interested in defending the Baptist church and am not concerned about how they organize and run their “Prayer Groups”(But do care about the people as fellow Christians) You will note I did not defend the Baptist Church, in context another Christian was asking me (A Committed Orthodox Catholic..daily failing but trying as best I can..usually) questions about Catholic Sex Scandals involving the sexual molestation of children by homosexual priests and the harboring and aiding of these low-lifes by the liberal catholic hierarchy and it might JUST be possible that “The Baptist” is asking the right questions, questions centered in objective truth. I try, God Willing, to never reject the truth when it is being presented to me, no matter who I am in dialogue with. I will stand and face it like a man.
    2. You will note, I did not say other institutions do NOT have corruption…you will also note that I am open to the possibility that they do…however many institutions do, do the right thing…it is clear with these scandals the church did not, in many cases. You have to face that….. not whine or look for excuses or signs of media corruption in relation to other groups…they are not the church….”Two wrongs do not make a right”…blah blah Get it?! I don’t care how the secular media is salivating at their chance to take a shot at the Pope…did you expect something else to occur?
    3. It would seem in this case the celebrated “Slow-Moving Bureaucracies” of the church, which many people think is a positive, actually “Enabled” the abuse to occur.
    4. If you ask me…I think the Orthodox should rise up and like the post Vatican 2 liberals..change the culture of the church in a relatively short period of time, back to Orthodoxy as quick as possible and broom these corrupt bishops and other enablers quickly. Strike while the Iron is hot.

    Of course this will not happen. Instead I will put up with more Metrosexual Men in the pulpit, Jesuit-Run University Institutions harboring “Sex Week” etc, Metro-sexual men playing bad james taylor music on piano in the front of the church, nuns with bongos, altar girls who do not represent “The Sacrifice”, nuns enabling abortion, catholic politicians who vote for gay marriage/abortion and bishops that look the other way…you know the crowd that created the infrastructure that enabled this abuse in the first place. Of course, I say “Bring It”, I will come down on the side of Orthodoxy and the Church Militant. Come get me liberals/secularists…

    St Jude pray for us

  49. mpm says:


    I’m sorry you took my words as an attack on you or your Baptist brother-in-law (probably my fault for how I worded my post).

    I’m on your side, I was just pointing out that where Canon Law was not complied with properly, whether in the USA or Ireland, or anywhere else, we wind up with these scandalous subterfuges, and then the media blames “the Pope” or “Cardinal Ratzinger”.

    In fact, Archbishop Weakland, a practicing homosexual, has implied that the CDF did not handle his inquiry about Fr. Murphy “quickly enough”. However, AB Weakland, by being a practicing clerical homosexual, was himself committing a canonical crime, which was supposed to be handled using the same procedures which he is asserting were not followed properly in the case of Fr. Murphy! Later on, AB Weakland was found out, because he paid blackmail to his ex-partner.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but, the fox was guarding the hen-house.

  50. robtbrown says:

    In the pagan world, this NYT stunt has a simple name: “pay back time for the Church’s objections to the health care plan.” Expect more and more of this.

    A doctor friend, religious but not a Catholic, said the same thing to me today.

    Unfortunately, the Church’s internal problems, mostly ignored for 40 years, weakens her message of moral teaching.

    Rather than return hate for vicious hate, we need to imitate Christ in his Passion, esp. during the next Holy Week.
    Comment by Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P.

    And the pace of reform of the Church must accelerate.

  51. robtbrown says:


    I agree that there has been a lot of excuse making, mostly by conservative priests who refuse to see that the vernacular Church is intrinsically dysfunctional.

    When the US scandals broke a few years ago, a pastor here, a good man and not unintelligent, said in a homily that the problems were being exaggerated by the secular media. Within a few weeks the story broke that a former pastor of another parish (not a liberal and well liked by the members) had been suspended because of past incidents with young men. Thus endeth the finger pointing.

  52. PostCatholic says:

    RobtBrown: I remember a story like that in the Archdiocese of Washington. I also personally know a priest in Boston who was falsely accused and suspended while he was undergoing open heart surgery. There have been a lot of misfires in this saga.

    The truth will out, though. being honest and forthright, and expressing sorrow and contrition and anger, is the right policy. Complaining about the media hating Catholics (maybe they do, but that’s beside the point) or diluting horror one should have over even a single incident with statistics of sexual misconduct in other professions (shouldn’t we be horrified whenever it happens, wherever?), or pleas for understanding how the times were different (they were, but why does that excuse endangering children and teens?) are the sort of things of which I’m tired of hearing.

  53. catholicmidwest says:

    “And the pace of reform of the Church must accelerate.”

    On this we agree, robtbrown. It’s time to straighten up and get things done and stop playing golf and telling stupid jokes for days, months, years on end.

    Either we have a purpose in this world or we don’t. IF we do, then we’d better start acting like it or no one–no one–is going to believe it.

    Lots of places to start:

    -Clean up the liturgy–translations, music, lay ministers, the works. While they’re at it, they need to retranslate the LOH too because it’s eating away at our clergy.

    -Stop funding wacky nuns–and this means no more donations for those retired religious appeals til they clean up their act!

    -Strip back the lives of bishops til it is clear to them what their mandate and vocation is. Those not interested in that life need to leave the chancery, the sooner the better. I propose that be made very clear in terms that no one can miss–accountability & $$$$$.

    -Priests who embezzle need to be relieved of duty immediately and put on 25% pay until they work in the world and pay it back while they think about what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

    -Priests with a honey on the side (male or female) need to be relieved of duty and put on 25% pay for at least 2 years, while they work in the world and think about what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

    -Priests who’ve ever abused anyone-incest, rape, statutory rape–either gender–need to be immediately defrocked, period. The sooner the better. Priests shouldn’t be criminals and criminals shouldn’t be priests.

    That’s just the starter.

    And I propose that when church employees whine about all this, we ignore them. Things are tough all over. Competency is important and they’re no damn exception.

  54. catholicmidwest says:

    Sorry about the strike-throughs. This comment box doesn’t like them, even when used as bullet points. My comments are not struck. I meant to say them.

  55. Sam Schmitt says:

    Good analysis of the sources used fort the New York Times March 25 story here:

  56. catholicmidwest says:

    The reason that the child abuse thing seems so outrageous to so many people appears still to be missed by those who run the church. It’s this:

    IF someone-anyone-in lay life abuses a child, it’s considered an awful anti-social crime. Not a misdemeanor, but a felony. Now, it’s true that some of it goes on in families and gets under the radar, but some of it is also caught and punished as it all should be. Part of the punishment is jail time; part of the punishment is ending up on a child-abuser list on the internet and in the courthouse; part of the punishment is having your business and social life ruined–for life. It’s damned serious.

    But for some reason, the church still doesn’t comprehend this. But I don’t know why.

  57. catholicmidwest says:


    Priests who’ve been falsely accused have their child-abusing brothers to blame–not the rest of society. The only reason this flag was ever raised in the first place was that people have it on their minds now, after what they’ve seen against their own wills. What happened in Boston and around this country was a travesty, and you can’t blame people for being shocked by it.

    If the bishops had acted like bishops in the first place and dealt with it like rational and honorable men, it never would have been this bad and people wouldn’t be getting falsely accused.

  58. catholicmidwest says:

    When the bishops treated it like a crapshoot, it became a crapshoot. And they have no one to blame but themselves for that.

  59. PostCatholic says:

    catholicmidwest I’m happy to say I agree with you entirely.

  60. catholicmidwest says:

    Well, Post Catholic,

    You know, I have a philosophy degree and one of my most memorable professors was a Unitarian Universalist. His nickname was “the Saint,” not because he was likely to be canonized, no. But because he was the most vanilla gentleman, a wonderful guy, to whom no one could object–with a perfect life from the get-go. Never a hitch.

    This guy made a point of believing that everyone contains somewhere in their gut the best of everything and that people are not capable of real evil–isn’t that a riot??? What’s even funnier is that his specialty was moral philosophy. Although he agreed on paper that evil might exist because it’s philosophically necessary, of course he didn’t mean it except theoretically. It can only happen in philosophy, folks. =)

    He was the kind of guy that the devil might grant every wish to–except winning the lottery–because it might just be big enough to bring something out of him other than moral vanilla pudding. Thanks for reminding me of him. A robust smile is a good thing.

  61. catholicmidwest says:

    In some world views, all women are blond, all days are sunny and all children are above average.

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