NYT’s long paper trail on Rome, Ratzinger and abusive priest
The New York Times has unearthed a startling paper trail of 25 letters and memos documenting the way a U.S. priest known to have abused up to 200 deaf boys from about 1952 to 1974 was quietly moved to another diocese and the Vatican resisted attempts to defrock him. Their story on the case of Rev. Lawrence Murphy is here, the paper trail here and our story on the Vatican reaction here. Here’s another story from our Rome bureau on victims demanding that Benedict open all Vatican files on sex abuse cases and defrock all predator priests.
The official Vatican reaction (here in English) is interesting for what it doesn’t say. This is a response to a query from the Times about their story and we don’t know what the questions were. The answers, though, are very narrowly focused. Nowhere is there any reference to the most interesting of the many revelations in the paper trail, i.e. that Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger heading the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), got at least one letter about this case from the priest’s bishop but apparently didn’t answer it.
His CDF deputy Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, now the Cardinal Secretary of State (so once again Benedict’s deputy), first advised a secret trial for Murphy but later relented after the priest wrote directly to Ratzinger asking for clemency because he was old, ill and had already repented for his sins.
The Times got these letters from two lawyers representing five abuse victims suing the Milwaukee archdiocese. Laurie Goodstein, the NYT religion correspondent who wrote the story, told WNYC radio this morning that there must be many more such documents out there given the number of suits filed in the U.S. against predator priests.
These cases are very complicated and nobody has found a “smoking gun” cover-up document signed by Cardinal Ratzinger — at least not yet. But if today’s NYT scoop is anything to go by, we can probably expect more documents like this that jack up the pressure on bishops and ultimately on Benedict himself.
How much longer can this go on? Do you think Benedict has to take radical measures to deal with this? If so, which ones?