March 25, 2010
Posted: 10:00 PM ET
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi issued the statement Wednesday in response to a New York Times story alleging that top Vatican officials, including the future Pope Benedict XVI, failed to discipline or defrock the now-deceased Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy of Wisconsin, despite warnings from several American bishops.
"During the mid-1970s, some of Father Murphy's victims reported his abuse to civil authorities, who investigated him at that time," Lombardi said. "However, according to news reports, that investigation was dropped."
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become pope, "was not informed of the matter until some 20 years later," Lombardi said. The office is in charge of deciding whether accused priests should be given canonical trials and defrocked.
The New York Times story, published Wednesday, cites documents it obtained from attorneys for five men who have brought four lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The documents include letters between bishops and the Vatican, victims' affidavits, the handwritten notes of an expert on sexual disorders who interviewed Murphy and minutes of a final Vatican meeting on the case.
Murphy began as a teacher for St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin, in 1950, the newspaper said. He was promoted to run the school in 1963 even though students had warned church officials of molestation. Many of Murphy's victims were hearing-impaired, according to the Times.
Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case in 1996 from Milwaukee's then-archbishop, Rembert G. Weakland. After eight months, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who at the time was second-in-command of the doctrinal office and now is the Vatican's secretary of state, told Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial, according to the Times.
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