Avvenire: New York Times Contradicts Itself on the Wisconsin sexual abuse story

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This is the conclusion of an analysis by Riccardo Cascioli that appeared in today's edition of Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference.

According to The New York Times, "top Vatican officials -- including the future Pope Benedict XVI -- did not laicize a priest who had molested some 200 deaf boys, despite the fact that several American bishops repeatedly warned that the lack of decisive action in the matter could embarrass the Church."

"In reality, in fact, the whole documentation published by The New York Times on its site, contradicts this tendentious reading of facts regarding Father Lawrence Murphy, between 1950 and 1974, chaplain in a school for the deaf of the Diocese of Milwaukee," Cascioli clarified.

He added: "In fact, the documents state that the only ones to be concerned with the evil done by Father Murphy were top officials of the American diocese and of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while the civil authorities filed the case.

"In particular the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, entrusted with the issue only between 1996 and 1997, gave procedural indications in dealing with Father Murphy despite the distance of time of events which constituted an impediment to the norm of Canon Law."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

10 Comments
Posted March 27, 2010 at 6:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



2. Dan Crawford wrote:

On the other hand, the Vatican, and in particular, Pope John Paul II whom some refer to as “the Great”, has much to answer to in reference to the infamous founder of the Legionnaires of Christ.

March 27, 10:31 pm | [comment link]
3. Ad Orientem wrote:

I would not want to be the lawyer charged with defending the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of this sordid scandal. (We need a new word.  “Scandal” has become too common place and is not strong enough in this instance.)  As an institution I believe the RCC has failed monumentally in its moral, and yes, legal obligations.  Some of the bishops were guilty of playing shell games with a dozen or more of these creeps in collars.  It remains a source of amazement to me that not one bishop in the United States has been indicted (much less sent to prison) for aiding and facilitating child rape.  And of course Rome’s bizarre insistence on mandatory celibacy for the Latin Rite clergy can not have but served as an engraved invitation to sexual deviants looking for a safe place to hide in plain site, where no uncomfortable questions would be asked like"why doesn’t a good looking boy like you have a girlfriend?”

All of that said, I am having a pretty hard time connecting the dots to Ratzinger.  Did he drop the ball back in Germany during his brief tenure as a bishop with one (1) case that probably crossed his desk?  Yes.  In the broad context of things though it does look like people with a long history of antipathy to the RCC in general, and this Pope in particular, are taking advantage of the present situation to exact their pound of flesh.

The long knives are indeed coming out.

And that is a terrible shame.  Of all those in Rome over the last several decades I doubt there was anyone with a mitre who did more to expose and root out this disgusting corruption within the Roman Church than Joseph Ratzinger.  One can only hope that history is kinder to him than his many enemies are today.

March 27, 11:35 pm | [comment link]
4. billqs wrote:

#3- I think the liberals in RC see this as one of the last chances they have to prevent the cementing of the traditional shift of the RC that began with John Paul II.  They would use any and everything to attempt to demean Benedict, and a hostile humanist press gladly obliges them.

That being said, it appears at least in the US more heads should have rolled on account of tremendous mishandling of both the original errant, mostly homosexual and pederast priests, and then the covering up of information on the cases once they were discovered.

March 28, 11:46 am | [comment link]
5. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

#3 I find your comments regarding celibacy baffling. Do you suggest these monstrous men should have married? Do you suggest the many widows and single people in my church are deviant creeps likely to abuse? Are you suggesting the abusers were celibate? What is the point? That sex must be indulged for no man can possibly live without it? What then of saint Paul?

Celibacy freaks people out in our over sexualised society but it is no harder or weirder to practice than fidelity in marriage which also requires mastery of lust and pursuit of purity

March 28, 3:14 pm | [comment link]
6. Ad Orientem wrote:

Re # 5
rugbyplayingpriest,
Not at all.  I am suggesting that when you create a profession that is completely reserved to celibate men, it is going to become an attractive career choice for homosexual men.  This was especially true back before this particular vice gained a certain degree of social acceptance.  Many homosexuals would have entered the priesthood under the (obviously mistaken) assumption that this was God’s way of telling them what He wanted them to do in life.  In other cases it served as a convenient place for them to hide in plain sight without being questioned too closely about their non interest in women.

In no way does this mean every celibate suffers from this problem.  Celibacy is an extremely high calling in life.  Many are not able to handle it.  Some are.  In the Orthodox tradition monastacism is often referred to as the “angelic life.”  But even there we have had similar problems.  Care must be taken to root out those who are entering that calling either for the wrong reasons or under false pretenses.

The Roman Church for many many years did not exercise that care.  And worse covered up for and permitted these deviants to remain in orders after being discovered for what they were.

March 28, 5:55 pm | [comment link]
7. Anglicanum wrote:

#5: Indeed.  Surely we all remember how the sexual abuse perpetrated by teachers and Cub Scout leaders evaporated once they lifted the mandatory celibacy laws.  [snark off] 

I fail to understand how changing celibacy would make things better.  The problem is not with celibacy.  The problem is with the human heart.  I was an Episcopalian for twenty years, and in that time, I had *not one rector or vicar* who wasn’t involved in some sort of sexual affair with a parishioner.  Not *one.*  The chaplain of the college ministry where I was confirmed, the rector and assistant at the parish I attended out of college, the rector of the parish that sent me to seminary, the vicar of the mission where I worked as a secretary, the rector and assistant at the church where I did my internship, the two parishes I worked in after ordination.  Every priest I worked with *had* had or *was having* an affair.  In every one of them, people in the parish knew and did nothing.  The bishop knew and did nothing. 

Let’s stop pretending like celibacy is the problem.  Celibacy isn’t the problem.  The human heart is the problem.

March 28, 6:01 pm | [comment link]
8. Ad Orientem wrote:

Re # 6
You are correct in part.  Celibacy is not the problem.  And yes the passions are a part of this problem too.  But so is mandating celibacy.  Celibacy does not fall into the same category as a dress code at work.  It is a calling that many (indeed most) people are not meant for.  Rome has for years insisted that celibacy was integral to the priesthood and yet they permit Eastern Rite clergy to marry.  This position has never worked.  It is irrational to suggest that only celibate men are called to Holy Orders and it is inconsistent with the discipline of the early church.

I think we need to stop pretending that mandating celibacy is not going to create problems.  And pretending that it has not served as an attractive cover for gay men is simply silly.

On this note I observe that we are wandering far off the topic of this thread.  I suggest that we agree to disagree on this point.

Under the mercy,
John

March 28, 6:16 pm | [comment link]
9. Ad Orientem wrote:

My previous should be Re # 7…

March 28, 6:17 pm | [comment link]
10. Agast wrote:

It’s interesting, AO, that Catholics don’t think you Orthodox should require celibacy, which we can do because Catholics don’t, in fact, believe that celibacy is integral to the priesthood. Some Catholics do, of course, but the Church teaches that it’s a discipline. Our Eastern Rite priests can marry, and, of course, Episcopalians turned Latin Rite priests can continue in the married state.

Something between 20% and 50% of priests violate their vows. Something between 20% and 50% of married men commit adultery.

Sorry I can’t be more specific: obviously, neither stat lends itself to honest self-reporting and, as seen in these recent threads, stats are used as tools for promoting an agenda, not seeking truth. What struck me, though, was the similarity in the figures as I googled around. Another interesting stat comes from a survey some years back. 70% of middle-aged priests express some level of satisfaction with their lives. Based on anecdotal evidence, I would suggest it compares pretty well with middle-aged men in general?

The fact is, celibacy works quite well in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.  Of course, the Catholic Church as a whole is about 6 times larger than Orthodoxy, and about 16-17 times larger than Anglicanism. The Latin Rite is the largest, most widespread Church among those Rites and the mobility and freedom of priests to respond to need has to be part of that.

Yes, a small percentage (3-4%) of priests have committed offenses against underage children. This is comparable to, or less than, the rate of offense among all persons with access to children, including protestant ministers. As noted above, school teachers are notorious for molesting kids;  I don’t think scout leaders are too bad (though it has happened). The Episcopal Church is not without offenders: Bennison and Bauman come to mind, as well as that guy in New York. 

It’s probably true that something around 20% of Catholic priests have a homosexual orientation (one source claims 50%, but he’s generally discounted), which is not the same as saying they are actively “gay”. We should always remember C.S. Lewis’ comment that he knew many homosexual priests who bore that cross bravely and did wonderful priestly ministry. Perhaps we don’t need to buy the homosexualist argument that orientation is a given and determinative of one’s identity, if not one’s personhood. Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions about sexuality, in general. But that’s another discussion.

So while people are entitled to their religious opinions contra celibacy, those opinions simply are not supported by facts.

March 28, 8:54 pm | [comment link]
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