I am angry and sad about this new round of exposure of sins and crimes

I have been struggling through the day with this post.  I haven’t known precisely what to do about my anger.

The online edition of Hell’s Bible, in its relentless hectoring of the Catholic Church (ignoring the prosecuted sins of other groups) has a story about a priest who abused many children decades ago and about the way he was dealt with by the hierarchy.  This recent round deals with a monstrously sick priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee (where one of the great liberals of the USA was in command, Archbp. Weakland) but who resided in the Diocese of Superior (where another great liberal, Bp. Fliss was in charge).  The priest has since gone to his eternal, I repeat eternal, reward.

Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.


But Cardinal Bertone [then just Archbishop and the Secretary of the CDF] 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.

“I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood,” Father Murphy wrote near the end of his life to Cardinal Ratzinger. “I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.

The New York Times obtained the documents, which the church fought to keep secret, from Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, the lawyers for five men who have brought four lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The documents include letters between bishops and the Vatican, victims’ affidavits, the handwritten notes of an expert on sexual disorders who interviewed Father Murphy and minutes of a final meeting on the case at the Vatican.

Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.


I will not post the lurid details, which surely indicate a profound pathology.   I am too disgusted by both the details and the Times for posting them.

And I am filled with anger right now at the harm that was done by those sick and surely wicked people.  I just want to …

Thanks a lot you wicked bastards.  Enjoy your eternal reward.

Have a nice Year of the Priest.

And God help me for these thoughts.

But I have to make a few more observations.

The NYT article makes the point that civil authorities also gave this abuser "a pass".

It is reprehensible that the bishops in that time, informed of what was going on, especially due to the extent of what the abuser was doing, did not act to put it to an end.  It is hard to understand this.  I cannot explain it in any terms that satisfy my anger… our anger.

Insofar as the CDF was involved, I must press the fact that the official who put an end to the administrative dimension in Rome was then Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, who is now the Cardinal Secretary of State.  People will accuse the Holy Father Pope Benedict, who was then Prefect, of personally trying to cover up what that deeply sick priest was doing.  But Card. Ratzinger, Pope Benedict, is the ultimate delegator, the diametrical opposite of a micro-manager.  And he hasn’t also been the best at selecting his delegates.  His strengths don’t lie in the administrative realm, but rather the theological and spiritual.  Someone is to blame here, don’t get me wrong.  But while there is plenty of blame to go around, the responsibility lies mostly on the US side of the pond, with bishops who blew the case back in the day. 

I wonder if Pope Benedict implemented this Year of the Priest because he knew what was coming around the bend.

Another aspect of my anger comes from the tension between my loathing of priests who harm children and the conviction that there is no sin that any infinite human being can commit which is so bad that an infinite and loving, merciful God cannot and will not forgive.  Provided, of course, that we sincerely beg for mercy. 

The sins this man and others like him deserve eternal hell.  Bishops who mishandled cases this severe probably deserve the same.  The fallen part of my humanity cries out for something worse than the rack for these men.  I have to remind myself constantly that God is the final judge, and He can neither deceive nor be deceived.  I even get mad at myself, .. how diabolical this all is… when I catch myself hoping they didn’t somehow obtain God’s mercy. 

But Hell really is too terrible to wish on someone.  We should never do that.

The Times article might talk about the "priest predator who got away".  He didn’t get away from God.  He might have escaped our earthly bloodlust, but He didn’t escape God.  And I shudder for him.  Imagine the what someone, some damned soul, experiences in his first few seconds of Hell.

We are going to see another wave of reports of these cases, with more attacks, justified and unjustified, on the Church. 

I don’t know how many of the Church’s attackers are really interested in helping victims obtain anything like peace or even justice in respect to those who harmed them.  I suspect many attackers have motives apart from the good of the victims.  Others?  They maybe were personally harmed and maybe they are sincere advocates for victims.  Either way the whole thing is just ugly and sad.

I am also torn because I hate seeing the Church so hectored, so singled out, as if these crimes are only committed by Catholics.   That’s just plain wrong. 

I know that Holy Catholic Church in its human dimension has to undergo this purification.  It simply has to happen.  The Church will always be attacked from without and within, as part of a constant purification.  And I would be inconsistent indeed were I not to apply what I constantly mention to those going through a harsh purification.  St. Augustine said about Christ, Physician of the soul, who corrects us sometimes with nearly unbearable means:

"The doctor doesn’t stop cutting just because the patient is screaming for him to stop."

We are going to have another long and lurid round of exposure of sins and failures.  It will be worse this time, because more regions of the world will start producing evidence of the same.  The Enemy of the soul, the devil and the fallen angels, will use earthly agents to wreak havoc in the spiritual realm.  As always.

So, God help us all.  We must pray for solace for the victims of this crisis, and for lots of forgiveness, even as we pray for Holy Mother Church.

To a certain extent we are going to have to lie here and be kicked by anyone who walks by… until they decide that kicking someone else gets them what they want…  that and must continue to revitalize our worship of Almighty God, who alone can see us through to the other side.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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