Saturday, March 27, 2010

One More Time on Fr Murphy, Cdl. Ratzinger, Etc.

From Rome, a news story. We learn here that Rembert Weakland (laudably) wanted to yank Fr. Murphy's collar despite the Canon Law's statute of limitations.

We also learn that there was a LONG gap between the first complaint and a Canon Law proceeding against Murphy. At the same time, we learn that immediately following the first complaint, Murphy was sent into exile, (more or less.)

It all began on May 15, 1974, when a former student of St. John's School for the Deaf presented a denunciation on abuses done to him and to other boys by Father Lawrence Murphy between 1964 and 1970, but -- as has been reported -- after an investigation, the judge in charge filed the case. The Diocese of Milwaukee instead immediately removed Father Murphy, with a temporary permission for reasons of health (until November 1974) which, however, became definitive. A letter of the Diocese of Superior in 1980 explains that Father Murphy lived in Bounder Junction, Wisconsin, in his mother's house, continuing, however, to exercise his priestly ministry helping the local parish priest.

In 1974, Wm Cousins was Archbishop of Milwaukee. He retired in 1977.

In the meantime, however, the denunciations to the Diocese of Milwaukee multiplied and between July and December of 1993. Father Murphy was subjected to four long interrogations by those in charge of the archdiocese assisted by expert psychologists in pedophilia. A clinical picture emerged of a "typical pedophile," recommending psychological treatment for sexual obsessions and also pastoral/spiritual support, in addition to a restriction in his ministerial activity. Evident from the reports of the interrogations is that there were 29 denunciations of boys: Father Murphy admitted "contacts" only for 19 of the boys involved. Demonstrated in subsequent documents is that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee continued in its investigations seeking to speed up the reality and the breadth of the facts, and on July 17, 1996, Bishop Rembert Weakland wrote to the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, requesting help with the case of Father Murphy and of -- not connected -- another priest, accused of sexual and financial crimes.

Bishop Weakland made reference to the denunciation of 1974 and explained, however, that only recently had he come to the knowledge of the fact that certain sexual crimes occurred during the sacrament of confession, so he officially asked a priest of the diocese, Father James Connell, to conduct an in-depth investigation (the decree is of December 1995). An obstacle to ascertaining the facts -- said bishop Weakland -- was the understandable reticence of the boys and of the community of St. John's School to make public embarrassing circumstances. Bishop Weakland turned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to have clarification on the jurisdiction in this case of "crimes of solicitation" (canon 1387), whether it belonged to the diocese or to the congregation.

So. The first allegation is made in 1974, and a large number were made "between July and December 1993." Weakland apparently began a formal investigation in late 1995, and contacted Ratzinger's CDF in 1996. That contact with CDF was made because of a related crime, 'soliciting sex during the sacrament of confession', and Weakland's letter only inquired regarding a technical jurisdictional matter: who should prosecute the 'solicitation' offense.

This raises a question: what was going on between 1974 and 1995? We know that Murphy had been yanked from St John's School and sent to live with his mother in the Superior Diocese. What we do NOT know is if there was a civil/criminal complaint filed in 1974, or for that matter, in 1993, after the 'large number of complaints' to the Archdiocese.

From subsequent documents it would seem that the letter never arrived on Cardinal Ratzinger's desk and of the then Archbishop [Tarcisio] Bertone, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In any case, in the absence of a reply, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee went ahead and on Dec. 10, 1996, informed Father Murphy that on Nov. 22, ecclesiastical criminal proceedings were opened against him with a court-created ad hoc. The request of the accusation was the "destitution of Father Murphy from the clerical state."

(In other words, "defrock" the SOB.)

The problem that was posed, however, was that of the prescription of crimes committed, for which the norm of Canon Law would have impeded to proceed. [Statute of limitations.] But the archbishop of Milwaukee was determined to single out an exception to the canon taking into account the physical and psychological situation of the victims, an intention endorsed later by Archbishop Bertone in the letter of March 24, 1997. At the end of 1997, the process then passed to the Diocese of Superior, but the president of the court was the same as that of Milwaukee, Father Thomas Brundage. Evidenced clearly from the documents presented by The New York Times was the intention of the ecclesiastical authorities of Milwaukee and Superior to proceed in the most expeditious way possible to come to an act of justice and reparation for the victims and the community of St. John's School.

We learn above that Rembert wanted an exception to the Canonical SOL--a laudable move on his part!!!--and that CDF agreed to it. We do NOT know whether Ratzinger was informed on this move, which was endorsed by Bertone.

In the meantime, Father Murphy wrote a letter to Cardinal Ratzinger (Jan. 12, 1998), requesting the annulment of the process entrusted to him because the Instruction of 1962 provides for undertaking criminal action within a period of 30 days from the moment in which the accusation is presented. [One part of the SOL.] Father Murphy asserted, among other things, in addition to being repentant that he was gravely ill and in any case had been living in retirement for 24 years, for which he requested at least not to be reduced to the lay state.

On April 6, 1998, Archbishop Bertone wrote to Bishop Fliss of Superior, in the name of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explaining that -- after having examined the affair carefully -- there was no fixed period for criminal action as invoked by Father Murphy, so that the process could continue even if -- added Bertone -- it is right to take into account article 1341 of the Code of Canon Law according to which a criminal sanction must be commuted only after having verified that it is not "possible to obtain sufficient reparation for the scandal, the re-establishment of justice, the emendation of the offender" with other means.

IOW, CDF said "Go ahead with the trial, the SOL objection raised by Murphy (the 30-day requirement) does not apply in this case."

Bishop Fliss answered Archbishop Bertone on May 13, affirming that, in keeping with what the congregation indicated, there was the necessity of a prosecution of Father Murphy taking into account the gravity of the scandal and of the great pain inflicted on the Catholic community of St. John's School.

We arrive then at May 30 when there was a meeting in the Vatican between Archbishop Bertone, the undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Father Gianfranco Girotti, and the American prelates concerned with the case. Evident from the minutes of the meeting is that in the congregation there were doubts about the feasibility and opportuneness of the canonical process, given the difficulty of reconstructing the events that happened 35 years earlier, above all that which concerned the crime in the confessional, and given that no other accusations resulted for the period from 1974 onward. Hence Bertone, at the conclusion of the meeting, summarized the two essential lines to be held: a territorial restriction for the priestly ministry (in practice, Father Murphy had to stay in Superior) and decisive action to obtain the priest's repentance, including the threat of "resignation from the clerical state."

IOW, it was decided to keep Murphy in the Superior Diocese AND, if he did not repent, to threaten him with 'defrocking.'

The bishop of Milwaukee wrote again on Aug. 19 to Archbishop Bertone to update him on the measures taken to activate the lines indicated by the congregation, and to inform him of the fact that his diocese would continue to be responsible for the expenses to maintain the therapies for the victims of sexual abuses. In the end, Father Murphy died on Aug. 21, closing the case definitively.


RAG said...

Today's New York Times seems to lay more onus on Archbishop Cousins. If what is reported is true, it's a real eye opener.

Robert Doeckel said...

Ah, defending the tax-exempt child molestation industry. You stay classy Dad29!