All Rights reserved
Newly unearthed Catholic Church documents show that Vatican officials including the future Pope Benedict XVI declined to defrock a Milwaukee priest accused of molesting as many as 200 deaf boys, despite warnings from several American bishops.
The documents, obtained by The New York Times, are part of a lawsuit brought by five men against the archdiocese of Milwaukee. The case involves the now-deceased Reverend Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974.
"The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal," reports the Times.
"Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church's own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.
"Instead of being disciplined, Father Murphy was quietly moved by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin in 1974, where he spent his last 24 years working freely with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention center. He died in 1998, still a priest."
A Vatican spokesman was asked about the situation by the Times. He called it a "tragic case" but said the Vatican was not forwarded the case until 1996, long after civil authorities had investigated the matter and decided to move on.