Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus: Accusations that Pope Complicit in Abuse Cover-Up Fall Flat
Posted on 03/30/2010 7:35:01 AM PDT by topher
Monday March 29, 2010
Accusations that Pope Complicit in Abuse Cover-Up Fall Flat
By James Tillman
March 29, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Since the New York Times attempted to connect Pope Benedict XVI with the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, pundits have not let up on the pressure on the pontiff. Christopher Hitchens wrote recently that Benedict XVI's "whole career has the stench of evil," joining a host of pundits that have attacked him over the abuse crisis, and even called for his resignation. Yet according to defenders of the pope, the noise caused by the three primary claims brought against Benedict is exceeded only by the paucity of the evidence for them.
The first claim, as stated by Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, is that then-Cardinal Ratzinger "ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys."
Father Lawrence C. Murphy left St. John's School for the Deaf in the Milwaukee Archdiocese in 1974, after accusations of sexual abuse. He was granted a "temporary sick leave" and moved by Archbishop William E. Counsins to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin. In 1993, then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee oversaw an investigation in which Fr. Murphy admitted to sexual contact with nineteen boys. He did not write to Cardinal Ratzinger, however, until 1996.
"Under canon law at the time," writes Fr. de Souza, "the principal responsibility for sexual-abuse cases lay with the local bishop. Archbishop Weakland had from 1977 onwards the responsibility of administering penalties to Father Murphy. He did nothing until 1996."
"It was at that point that Cardinal Ratzingers office became involved, and it subsequently did nothing to impede the local process."
Archbishop Weakland himself was, as de Souza writes, 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.
Despite its late start, preparation for Fr. Murphys trial continued through 1997. In January of 1998 Fr. Murphy wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger, asking that, in light of his poor health and recent stroke, he be permitted to end his days in peace. Cardinal Ratzinger's deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, suggested that the Bishop of Superior drop the judicial proceeding in favor of more pastoral measures, but his suggestion was rejected.
In August of 1998 the Archdiocese of Milwaukee ruled that it would abate the judicial process in favor of administrative action. The next month Father Murphy died.
"To repeat," writes Fr. de Souza, "the charge that Cardinal Ratzinger did anything wrong is unsupported by the documentation on which the story was based.
"He does not appear in the record as taking any decision. His office, in the person of his deputy, Archbishop Bertone, agreed that there should be full canonical trial. When it became apparent that Father Murphy was in failing health, Archbishop Bertone suggested more expeditious means of removing him from any ministry."
"The New York Times flatly got the story wrong, according to its own evidence. Readers may want to speculate on why."
The second major charge brought against the Pope involves Fr. Peter Hullerman from the German Diocese of Essen, who was accused of abusing boys in 1979. According to Christopher Hitchens, however, the "cleric was transferred from Essen to Munich for 'therapy' by a decision of then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, and assurances were given that he would no longer have children in his care." Tragically, Father Hullerman was later returned to the ministry and continued to abuse boys.
Debate has swirled over whether Archbishop Ratzinger knew that Father Hullerman was to be reassigned to pastoral work.
"It is certain that Archbishop Ratzinger knew that Hullerman had sexually assaulted children in Essen and that he was living in Church premises while undergoing therapy in Munich," writes Sean Murphy on the Catholic Education Resource Center website. "This would not have been out of order, since, at the time, it was believed that therapy could be effective in curing sex offenders."
But it was the Vicar-General of the Munich Archdiocese, Mgr. Gerhard Gruber, and not Cardinal Ratzinger, who permitted Father Hullerman to return to pastoral work. Mgr. Gerhard Gruber has stated that the pope was not aware of his decision.
The Vatican has confirmed this statement, saying that "the then archbishop [Ratzinger] had no knowledge of the decision to reassign Father H[ullerman] to pastoral activities in a parish."
"The then vicar general, Msgr. Gerhard Gruber, has assumed full responsibility for his own erroneous decision to reassign Father H[ullerman] to pastoral activity."
Some have argued that Archbishop Ratzinger must have been informed of the decision because he was close-copied on a memo informing him of the decision. Mgr. Gruber, however, has said that because the diocese was so large at the time, having many hundreds of priests and thousands of religious, Archbishop Ratzinger left many decisions to lower-level officials; there is no clear evidence to show he would have read the memo.
"The cardinal could not deal with everything, Mgr. Gruber said.
The third accusation, as raised by Hitchens, is that as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger forbade "the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests."
"Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden," Hitchens states. "Charges were to be investigated 'in the most secretive way ... restrained by a perpetual silence ... and everyone ... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office under the penalty of excommunication.'"
Yet the quotation Hitchens offers is not even from the May 2001 letter from the CDF, but rather from a 1962 directive, Crimen Sollicitationis. This document, as Sean Murphy writes, was so far from demanding the concealment of such crimes that it imposed "the automatic excommunication of anyone who knowingly failed to do so."
Many Catholic leaders and defenders of the pope have pointed out the irony that the accusations of such as Hitchens and the Times are directed against the man who has perhaps done more than anyone else to combat sexual abuse in the Church.
"No one has been more vigorous in cleansing the Church of the effects of this sickening sin than the man we now call Pope Benedict XVI," said Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York last Sunday.
"The dramatic progress that the Catholic Church in the United States has made documented again just last week by the report made by independent forensic auditors could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo."
George Weigel wrote similarly. The Times descent into tabloid sourcing and innuendo was ... offensive because of recent hard news developments that underscore Pope Benedicts determination to root out what he once described as the filth in the Church, he said.
It ought not be beyond the capacity of other media outlets to understand that much of the Times recent reporting on the Church has been gravely distorted, and to treat it accordingly.
NYTimes vs. Pope Benedict: Paper Seeks to Implicate Pope in Abuse Cases
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Unfortunately, once the media picks up the meme, the truth no longer matters. The left and the media will accept it as established truth and continue to repeat it for years. It will become part of the left’s institutionalized memory.
Setting the record straight in the case of abusive Milwaukee priest Father Lawrence Murphy
Long Applause for New York Prelate Who Defends Pope
NYT UNFAIRLY CITES POPE'S ROLE [Catholic Caucus]
The Pope and the Murphy case: what the New York Times story didn't tell you
Leftists couldn’t care less about justice or helping abuse victims. The only thing they care about is destroying institutions with conservatives values so they can enslave the world. They care about power above all else. Everything they do is a means to this end.
I'm sorry, but that's a really lame excuse.
Ratzinger hired Father Gruber as vicar genearl. He was his boss. He chose to delegate such decisions to him. That makes him ultimately responsible. Period.
And whatever happened to Father Gruber after this became known? Why wasn't he disciplined?
None of this makes the Holy Father a bad man, or any less fit to be pope. All managers make mistakes like this in their lives. What distinguishes those with honor is the willingness to own up.
The Holy Father needs to own up. Putting out lame excuses like the one above only serves to diminish his moral authority.