Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
April 25, 2010

Lies and Innuendo in a Once Great Paper

Not all of our nation's major papers have joined the New York Times in its campaign of mendacity against Pope Benedict. Wait a minute, you might say. Mendacity? Lies? Isn't that a bit too strongly put? Well, take a look at the kick-off statement (March 25th) in this new campaign. Written by Laurie Goodstein, the Times' leading specialist in Catholic scandals, the front-page report informed the world: "Father Lawrence C. Murphy [the Wisconsin priest and superlative fund-raiser who presided over a school for deaf boys for nearly a quarter of a century (1950-1974) and who has been shown to have been a serial seducer] was NEVER TRIED OR DISCIPLINED by the Church's own justice system .... the EFFORT TO DISMISS Father Murphy CAME TO A HALT AFTER THE PRIEST APPEALED TO CARDINAL RATZINGER for leniency."

Statement #1: Father Murphy "was NEVER disciplined".

In 1974, though far too belatedly, the Archbishop of Milwaukee compelled Fr. Murphy to retire at the age of 48 and to withdraw from active ministry. While I would agree with many that this was a disciplinary action that was way too mild, it did constitute disciplinary action, action that deflates Ms. Goodstein's charge that Father Murphy was "NEVER disciplined."

Statement #2: Father Murphy was "NEVER TRIED" by the Church's own justice system!

Again, though inexplicably far too late in the day, he was in fact the defendant in a formal Church trial, conducted in Milwaukee beginning in late 1996, and authorized by Cardinal Ratzinger, after Milwaukee's Archbishop Rembert Weakland had urgently requested such authorization. And it was ONLY AT THIS LATE DATE, in 1996, 22 years AFTER Father Murphy's forced retirement, that Cardinal Ratzinger LEARNED of Father Murphy's decades-old crimes and grievous sins.

Statement #3: "The effort to DISMISS Father Murphy came to a sudden HALT after the priest appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger." The sudden halt to what was a TRIAL came officially on August 19, 1998, when Archbishop Weakland issued a command to that effect. But what was suddenly brought to a halt in August of 1998 was no "effort to dismiss" Father Murphy, since he had already been dismissed i.e., suspended from public ministry, by his own archbishop nearly a quarter of a century earlier. What was brought to a halt was a TRIAL, which, had it issued in a verdict of guilty, would presumably have led to his total laicization, that is to say, his being solemnly forbidden, under pain of serious sin, to discharge priestly functions EVEN IN PRIVATE, except for an unlikely rare emergency involving the salvation of a person in imminent danger of death. One should note further that Ms. Goodstein's reference to the halt as coming "after the priest appealed to Cardinal Ratzingee" seems to imply that Cardinal Ratzinger had intervened to command the cessation of the proceedings. All that the Cardinal had done was to make a recommendation. The DECISION was left to Archbishop Weakland. The recommendation was made in view of Father Murphy's gravely impaired physical health-he had suffered a crippling stroke-and his age (72), taken together with his unconditional ADMISSION of guilt and his declaration of repentance, plus the allegation at least that he had been guilty of no subsequent lapse. Precisely two weeks after Archbishop Weakland brought the trial to an end, Father Murphy died (September 2, 1998).

       Statement #1- "Never any discipline."  FALSE
       Statement #2- "Never a trial", FALSE.
       Statement #3- "the "effort to dismiss"...-No "effort" was needed, since he had already been dismissed. "Came to a sudden halt": at the intervention of Cardinal Ratzinger, the implication being that Cardinal Ralzinger had COMMANDED that the trial be halted, whereas he had only RECOMMENDED the trial's discontinuance for the reasons stated. Statement #3 is, IF NOT FALSE, CERTAINLY MISLEADING.

More blatantly mendacious was the vituperation spewed against Pope Benedict by the Times ultra-left- wing columnist Maureen Dowd. Here are Ms. Dowd's words. "Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, nicknamed "God's Rotweiler" when he was the Church's enforcer on matters of faith and sin, IGNORED repeated warnings and LOOKED AWAY in the case of the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys."

Statement #1-Cardinal Ratzinger "ignored repeated warnings and looked away". As we have noted, Cardinal Ratzinger was not informed about Father Murphy's crimes until 1996, nearly a quarter of a century or more AFTER those disgusting acts had been committed. Statement #1 is THEREFORE AN OUTRAGEOUS AND DELIBERATE LIE!

Statement #2-Far from "looking away", once he had been informed about crimes and sins committed DECADES earlier, Cardinal Ratzinger authorized Archbishop Weaktand of Milwaukee to institute a formal Church trial for the perpetrator.


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Fortunately more temperate spirits are presenting their own assessments in other major papers. I am herewith attaching two such reports, one from the Washington Post, the other from the Wall Street Journal.

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Myths About the Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal
    By: David Gibson
    The Washington Post, Sunday April 18, 2010

Between 1981 and 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future pope, headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's office for doctrinal orthodoxy. A FEW abuse cases (some from the United States) came before him....[PRIOR to 2001 his office was charged with investigating allegations of clerical sexual abuse ONLY if they involved a presumptive DESECRATION OF THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE.]

In 2001, as the number of cases coming to light worldwide increased, Ratzinger convinced Pope John Paul II to let his office have jurisdiction over all of them....

There is just one case so far that can be traced directly to Ratzinger's tenure as a bishop, when he was head of the archdiocese of Munich in his native Germany. In that 1980 case, Ratzinger allowed a child abuser into his diocese for psychiatric treatment, and the priest was reassigned to a parish....

It's unclear whether Ratzinger personally signed off on the assigrunent .... [The assignment without restrictions was made by the Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, who has stated for the public record that the decision to assign WITHOUT restrictions was his own decision and NOT THAT OF CARDINAL RATZINGER.]

As pope, Benedict .... has moved more aggressively against abusers than [did] John Paul II, his predecessor, who tried to stop defrocking priests [ i.e., laicizing them, that is to say, forbidding them even the PRIVATE discharging of priestly functions]  ....

During the 2000s, as Ratzinger came to realize the scope of the abuse, he expedited the defrocking of abusive priests and reopened the Maciel case, which had been closed under John Paul. [The late Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Mexican priest who founded the Legionnaires of Christ, has recently been shown to have been a sexual predator.] "We realize that it's necessary to repent,"[more precisely, to do penance] Benedict said in a homily on Thursday....

Sexual abuse of minors is not the province of the Catholic Church alone. About 4 percent of priests committed an act of sexual abuse on a minor between 1950 and 2002, according to a study being conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. That is roughly consistent with data on many similar professions.

An extensive 2007 investigation by the Associated Press showed that sexual abuse of children IN U. S. SCHOOLS was "widespread," and most of it was never reported or punished. [A MORE RECENT STUDY CONDUCTED UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA puts the number of reported cases in the decade from 1991 to 2000 at nearly astronomical levels]. And in Portland, Oregon, last week, a jury reached a $1.4 million verdict against the Boy Scouts of America in a trial that showed that since the 1920s, Scouts officials kept "perversion files" on suspected abusers but kept them secret.

"We don't see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else," Ernis Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told Newsweek. "I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others."

Part of the issue is that the Catholic Church is so tightly organized and keeps such meticulous records --- many of which have come to light voluntarily or through court orders-that it can yield a fairly reliable portrait of its personnel and abuse over the DECADES. Other institutions, and most other religions, are more decentralized and harder to analyze-or prosecute.

Still, it is hardly good news that the Church appears to be no different from most other institutions in its incidence of abuse. Shouldn't the Catholic Church and other religious institutions hold to a HIGHER standard? [YES].

The Church and the Pope do receive major media attention, and with reason. The Pope is a world leader as well as the temporal head of one of the world's most storied religious traditions. There are more than 1.1 billion Catholics on the planet and the Catholic Church is the largest denomination in the United States, with more than 65 million baptized members. In the media, holidays such as Christmas and Easter tend to be dominated by Catholic images.

The pope also makes news with his pronouncements on a range of topics, and his travels are media events. Pope John Paul II's death and funeral in April 2005 produced wall-to-wall coverage for weeks, generating some of the most favorable press the church has ever had.

The annual survey of religion in the news conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that in 2008-the year Benedict traveled to Washington and New York--coverage of the pope and of the Catholic Church accounted for more than half of all news stories about religion, and the majority were positive or explanatory.... "

When the initial revelations of widespread sexual abuse by clergy emerged in 2002, many believed that Catholics would abandon the Church en masse, or at least send the institution toward insolvency by withholding donations. But then, as now, American Catholics turned out to be an unpredictable lot. Though critical of the bishops and the Vatican, Catholics tend to love their local parishes and priests. And even if they don't heed all Church mandates, they don't easily shed all the cultural and sacramental markers of their faith.

A 2007 Pew survey of the religious landscape in America found that among Catholics who had LEFT the Church, the abuse crisis ranked LOW on the list of reasons-well BEHIND Church teachings on homosexuality, the role of women, abortion and contraception. And a 2008 poll by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate showed that even the bishops had enjoyed a rebound in approval, with satisfaction with the hierarchy growing from 58 percent in 2004 to 72 percent in 2008.

Still, Catholic leaders can't be complacent. Some 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics, and without immigrants, the number of American Catholics would be falling, not growing slightly. In a competitive marketplace, it's not smart to put your customers' loyalty to such a test.
[Emphasis added].

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Pope Vows to Bring Abusive Priests to Justice
      By: Stacy Meichtry
      From: The Wall Street Journal
      Date: Monday, April 19, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI met privately Sunday with a group of clerical-sex-abuse victims in Malta, pledging to bring sexually abusive priests to justice and to implement measures to protect children from abuse.

The meeting was Benedict XVI's first encounter with sex-abuse victims since a wave of clerical abuse allegations washed across Europe this year, roiling his papacy. He previously met with abuse victims during visits to the U.S. and Australia.

The eight Malta victims, who received phone calls from local church officials inviting them to the meeting, said the pope's eyes welled with tears as he met with them individually and then prayed with them as a group. "Everybody was crying," said Joseph Magro, 38, one of the abuse victims who met the pope. "I told him my name was Joseph [as is Pope Benedict's baptismal name] and he had tears in his eyes," Mr. Magro told Associated Press Television News.

The pope "was deeply moved by their stories and expressed his SHAME AND SORROW over what victims and theirfamilies have suffered," the Vatican said.

Sunday's meeting came at the end of a two-day papal trip to Malta that had been planned to mark the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck on the Mediterranean island.

His meeting with victims on Sunday, held behind closed doors inside the Vatican's embassy in Malta, was planned with similar reserve. Lawrence Grech, who is suing the church for alleged sex abuse by priests, praised the pope's gesture as "something big," according to the AP. He said Benedict XVI told the victims he was "very proud of you for having come forward to tell your story," according to the AP.

The Vatican said the pope told the victims it would do everything possible to protect young people and to ensure justice for perpetrators....
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