31 March 2010

Coming to the defence of Pope Benedict - and of the truth

New York Times published an article on 25 March under the headline Vatican Refused to Unfrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys. The story has been reported in the media around the world. The article suggests that Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, was negligent in dealing with such cases, particularly with that of Fr Lawrence Murphy in the NYT article.

There have been a number of vigorous responses to the NYT article.

One is the message of Archbishop Jerome Listecki, the new archbishop of Milwaukee, to which the late Father Murphy belonged, at the end of the Chrism Mass. Archbishop Listecki noted the following (editor's emphasis here and in the following item):

This past week our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has come under criticism for the way he has handled past cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors, including a case here involving Lawrence Murphy. The allegations against him, as well as the facts supporting him, are widely available.

The Holy Father does not need me to defend him or his decisions. I believe, and history will confirm that his actions in responding to this crisis, swiftly and decisively and his compassionate response to victims/surviovrs, speak for themselves. The Holy Father has been firm in his commitment to combat clergy sexual abuse; root it out of the Church; reach out to those who have been harmed; and hold perpetrators accountable. He has been a leader, meeting with victims/survivors and chastising bishops for their lack of judgment and leadership.

Mistakes were made in the Lawrence Murphy case. The mistakes were not made in Rome in the 1996, 1997 and 1998. The mistakes were made here, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the Church, by civil authorities, by Church officials, and by bishops. And for that, I beg your forgiveness in the name of the Church and in the name of this Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Fr Thomas Brundage JCL, (in photo) who was the presiding judge for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for the canonical trial of Fr Murphy writes in the Catholic Anchor, under the headline Setting the record straight in the case of abusive Milwaukee priest Father Lawrence Murphy:

As I have found that the reporting on this issue has been inaccurate and poor in terms of the facts, I am also writing from a sense of duty to the truth.

Thefact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself.

My intent in writing this column is to accomplish the following:

To tell the back-story of what actually happened in the Father Murphy case on the local level;

To outline the sloppy and inaccurate reporting on the Father Murphy case by the New York Times and other media outlets;

To assert that Pope Benedict XVI has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured;

To set the record straight with regards to the efforts made by the church to heal the wounds caused by clergy sexual misconduct. The Catholic Church is probably the safest place for children at this point in history.

Before proceeding, it is important to point out the scourge that child sexual abuse has been — not only for the church but for society as well. Few actions can distort a child’s life more than sexual abuse. It is a form of emotional and spiritual homicide and it starts a trajectory toward a skewed sense of sexuality. When committed by a person in authority, it creates a distrust of almost anyone, anywhere.

As a volunteer prison chaplain in Alaska, I have found a corollary between those who have been incarcerated for child sexual abuse and the priests who have committed such grievous actions. They tend to be very smart and manipulative. They tend to be well liked and charming. They tend to have one aim in life — to satisfy their hunger. Most are highly narcissistic and do not see the harm that they have caused. They view the children they have abused not as people but as objects. They rarely show remorse and moreover, sometimes portray themselves as the victims. They are, in short, dangerous people and should never be trusted again. Most will recommit their crimes if given a chance.

As for the numerous reports about the case of Father Murphy, the back-story has not been reported as of yet.

You can read the full article here.

Other relevant articles are those by John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter, Keeping the Record Straight on Benedict and the Crisis, and one by Canadian priest and columnist, Fr Raymond de Souza, A Response to the New York Times.

Please pray for all who have been absued as children by priests; pray for the repentance of those who have abused; pray for Pope Benedict that he may have strength to always do what is right and that he may not be maligned for the neglicence and sins of others.