Home > National News, Religion > Rant and Rave: The Vatican’s sex abuse scandal

Rant and Rave: The Vatican’s sex abuse scandal

Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, pictured above at St. John's School for The Deaf in Wisconsin (1960), was not defrocked for molesting as many as 200 deaf boys from 1950-1974. (Picture courtesy of the New York Times)

The Vatican has been under recent fire for its role in covering up cases of sex abuse. Last weekend, after a great deal of silence, Pope Benedict released a statement of apology to victims of sexual abuse in Ireland, reprimanding Irish bishops as well.

Yesterday, a New York Times article reported that the Vatican had neglected to defrock a Milwaukee priest who molested 200 boys. As far as the Times is concerned, the Vatican’s highest priority is “protecting the church from scandal.” But even I know that the Vatican is not omniscient. It completely relies on the bishops to keep it informed about suspected cases of abuse.

In this Milwaukee case, the bishops neglected to appeal to the Vatican for help. Though allegations against the priest were made in the early 70s, and the bishops did not inform the authorities (though the authorities did commence an investigation), and just quietly moved the priest around. Only in 1996 did the bishops appeal to the then Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), to suggest that the priest be defrocked.

Later in 1996, the CDF ordered the diocese to begin a canonical trial. But after the priest fell extremely ill and personally requested that he be allowed to die a priest, Cardinal Ratzinger decided to consider the priest’s newfound contrition as well as the fact that the Milwaukee authorities had dropped the charges. The priest died soon after.

Just like in Ireland, the Vatican was unable to act because it was kept uninformed. There is absolutely no excuse for the bishops to refrain from informing the authorities and simply move around a priest guilty of such a serious crime, waiting 20 years to appeal to the Vatican.

The problem here clearly lies with the bishops and their unwillingness to follow proper protocol. And frankly I’m not sure why the civil authorities did not handle this better. The man obviously deserved to be put away. Why is the focus here on the Church and not the incompetent Milwaukee law enforcement?

-Helen Lee

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