As the Vatican reels from scandals involving priests molesting children in Germany and Ireland, the NY Times reports that the Vatican did not react to letters from Wisconsin church officials regarding a priest who molested hundreds of deaf boys. And when the church officials attempted to start proceedings that could have led to the priest's dismissal, the Vatican halted the trial.
The Times received documents between the church and Vatican, as well as other evidence, from lawyers for five men who are suing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. According to the Times, "In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger"—now Pope Benedict—"failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to [Rev. Lawrence] Murphy’s dismissal."
However, that was stopped after Cardinal Ratzinger received a letter from Murphy, "protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations." Murphy, who worked at the school from 1950 to 1974 before being moved to another parish (still able to work with children), wrote, "I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood. I ask your kind assistance in this matter." He died two years later.
Furthermore, the documents suggest that even though Murphy was accused of abuse, three successive Milwaukee archbishops, police and prosecutors neglected to act on the claims. It was only in 1996 that then-Archbishop Weakland tried to get him defrocked—and that was three years after Murphy, in an interview with a social worker, admitted to the abuse.
Last week, the Pope issued a letter expressing how sorry he was about the Catholic Church abuse scandal in Ireland and asked for an investigation. But NYC Catholics told NY1 that wasn't enough, "I mean, I commend him for even bringing it out in the open, but I think it should have been more specific and I think they should have taken more responsibility," and another person said, "I think it's horrible. I think they should be reprimanded and do a lot more than just a slap on the wrist. More needs to be done now."