On August 21, 1998, Fr. Lawrence Murphy died. He had been ordained a priest in 1950, and was assigned to St. John's School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1950 to 1974. At the time of his death, he had had no pastoral assignment for nearly a quarter of a century, and was living in a family residence in the Diocese of Superior.
He was also the defendant in an ecclesiastical criminal case, in which he was charged with sexually abusing children, and with solicitation within the confessional.
Fr. Murphy's victim's reported his crimes to the police in the mid 1970s. Nothing came of this. In 1974, he was removed from the school for the deaf. Apart from the occasional Mass and retreat for the deaf, Fr. Murphy was effectively retired.
It was not until 1995 that Archbishop Rembert Weakland ordered a preliminary investigation into the allegations of abuse. It was not until 1996 that the Archbishop consulted Rome. Specifically, because there was a statute of limitations issue regarding the outrages in the confessional, the Archbishop consulted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had jurisdiction over canonical crimes related to the confessional. (It did not then have jurisdiction over cases of sexual abuse by priests, though it does now.) The CDF ultimately gave the Archbishop the green light to waive the statute of limitations and proceed against Fr. Murphy.
But Fr. Murphy died without being convicted of any crimes, either by Church or by State, and without being dismissed from the clerical state. It is apparently being reported that the trial was kiboshed. And since the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI was Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, his enemies seek to pin the rap on him.
Except for one small problem: there is no rap to pin on the Pope. Just ask Fr. Thomas Brundage, JCL, canon lawyer and ecclesiastical judge. Nobody in the drive-by media has ever thought to ask him anything; yet he was the presiding judge in the case against Fr. Murphy. A couple of samples from Fr. Brundage's article in Catholic Anchor Online responding to the media furor over the case (emphasis added):
...the fact is that on the day that Father Murphy died, he was still the defendant in a church criminal trial. No one seems to be aware of this. Had I been asked to abate this trial, I most certainly would have insisted that an appeal be made to the supreme court of the church, or Pope John Paul II if necessary. That process would have taken months if not longer.
...the competency to hear cases of sexual abuse of minors shifted from the Roman Rota to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith headed by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001. Until that time, most appeal cases went to the Rota and it was our experience that cases could languish for years in this court. When the competency was changed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in my observation as well as many of my canonical colleagues, sexual abuse cases were handled expeditiously, fairly, and with due regard to the rights of all the parties involved. I have no doubt that this was the work of then Cardinal Ratzinger.
Fourth, Pope Benedict has repeatedly apologized for the shame of the sexual abuse of children in various venues and to a worldwide audience. This has never happened before. He has met with victims. He has reigned in entire conferences of bishops on this matter, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland being the most recent. He has been most reactive and proactive of any international church official in history with regard to the scourge of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Instead of blaming him for inaction on these matters, he has truly been a strong and effective leader on these issues.
Read the rest of the story here.
When Pope Benedict was elected, nearly five years ago, I remember thinking that any Pope who gets as many salvos from the sewer as he got in about the first 30 seconds of his pontificate has got to be good. This present furor confirms me in this belief. Such a barrage from the forces of darkness is an extremely serious matter, calling for much prayer and penance. Yet, in a way, it is reassuring. It means the Holy Father must be doing something right.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.