At least during the Inquisition, they had, like, trials and evidence and stuff. But Benedict's detractors have given the Pope only a quick trial in a court no respectable kangaroo would set foot in. Their evidence against him consists mostly of a New York Times hit piece that distorts and exaggerates the Pope's actual involvement in what is admittedly a sorry affair.
This mob of torch-bearing atheists, fresh from the village, is battening on the doors of the Vatican and charging that the Pope was "personally involved in a case involving a Wisconsin priest who raped 200 deaf kids -- and that he made sure the priest was not defrocked," to quote one pitchfork wielding atheist, Ed Brayton, who is apparently under the impression that the Pope personally visited Wisconsin to make sure that pedophile priests had a plenteous supply of young boys to molest.
Brayton is either ignorant or he's lying. Or he could just be an idiot, a theory to which the title of his recent post on the matter lends some credence: "Wisconsin priest molests 200 deaf boys; Pope defends him." But he can get out of the nasty little dilemma he's put himself in by producing the evidence that Ratzinger "personally involved in the case" and that he "made sure the priest was not defrocked." It's not in the documentation of the case, so where is it?
Brayton cites a New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein to the effect (Brayton's words, not Goodstein's) that "American bishops prevailed on the Pope, when he was still Joseph Ratzinger, to do something about it and he refused." In fact, Brayton seems completely confused on what actually happened. Of course the Times story, which was misleading at best, didn't help the situation.
Here is what Goodstein said:
This week, they [Murphy's victims] learned that CardinalSmelling the smoke from over in the , now Pope Benedict XVI, received letters about Father Murphy in 1996 from Archbishop of Milwaukee, who said that the deaf community needed “a healing response from the Church.” The sat on the case, then equivocated, and when Father Murphy died in 1998, he died a priest. Times newsroom, Maureen Dowd got in on the action as well:
Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed “God’s Rottweiler” when he was the church’s enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.What Goodstein and Dowd and Brayton and the Associated Press, which also contributed to the rhetorical bonfire (not to mention the increasingly moralistic Richard Dawkins), doesn't tell readers is that it was Weakland, who reportedly archdiocese funds to pay for his homosexual lover and who Goodstein treated with kid gloves in an earlier story, sat on the case for 22 years before even informing the Vatican about it.
Oh wait. Did I say that? That the person who was the chief impediment to prosecuting Murphy was a homosexual priest? And did I say that Murphy was himself a homosexual? That his victims were primarily post-pubescent teenage boys and that he gave one person a list of gay bars in different cities? And did I mention that 81 percent of all the victims of priest sexual abuse cases are boys?
I did? I am so sorry. I take it all back. Shame on me for mentioning it. What was I thinking?
Anyway, back to Weakland ... when he did finally send a letter to the Doctrine of the Congregation of Faith, the arm of the Vatican overseen by Ratzinger in 1996, it was for advice only, since the Congregation did not become responsible for such cases until 2001. There is literally no evidence that Ratzinger even saw the letter, since his deputy, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, was the one who responded to Weakland.
The worst thing you can say about the incident from the perspective of the Vatican, is that they didn't send a letter back for 9 months. A slightly less than efficient bureaucracy. Imagine that. And when Bertone did respond, it was to suggest that the archdiocese use pastoral measures to resolve the situation rather than penal procedures. That was only a suggestion on limited information and was probably made because that was the fastest way, given the longer trial process, of taking away his ministry so he wouldn't be a danger to anyone.
In fact, neither Ratzinger nor the Vatican hindered the judicial process on Murphy, but the process was never slowed down at all. "The documents," Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, show that the canonical trial or penal process against Father Murphy was never stopped by anyone."
The Pope's detractors got off on a bad foot when they took the information uncritically from attorneys suing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee who have several pending cases against the Catholic Church in the U. S. Supreme Court--and from Milwaukee Archbishop Weakland who had control of the case from 1974 to 1996--a period of time in which, other than move the priest away from the vicinity of boys, he did precisely nothing.
Too bad the anti-Catholic media show trials don't allow cross examination of witnesses.
Then it went from bad to worse. The quotes Goodstein attributed to the judge in the case, Fr. Thomas Brundage, were someone else's account of what the judge said:
I was never contacted by any of these news agencies but they felt free to quote me. Almost all of my quotes are from a document that can be found online with the correspondence between the Holy See and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee ... The problem with these statements attributed to me is that they were handwritten. The documents were not written by me and do not resemble my handwriting. The syntax is similar to what I might have said but I have no idea who wrote these statements, yet I am credited as stating them ... I was never contacted by anyone on this document, written by an unknown source to me. Discerning truth takes time and it is apparent that the New York Times, the Associated Press and others did not take the time to get the facts correct.The facts are not facts and the quotes are not quotes. But the Times has had its problems with journalistic integrity in the past, now hasn't it? When I was a journalist, I got my quotes from the actual person who was supposed to have said them, not from someone else's notes. Sheeez.
I went to the trouble of reading the documents myself: de Souza and Brundagre are right. There is no evidence Ratzinger ever saw any of the correspondence on the case. In fact, not only did Ratzinger not hinder sex abuse cases, but, according to Brundage (who was in a lot better position to know about the situation than any of the Pope's detractors), when Ratzinger became responsible for these cases, he handled them quite well:
... 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.The handling of the Murphy case was completely bungled--while Archbishop Weakland had responsibility over it. It was only in 1996 when others got involved--Brundage and the Vatican--that it began to be handled properly.
In fact, Brundage is profuse in his praise for Ratzinger involvement in these issues:
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.The Pope did none of the things his detractors said he did--and had already done what his detractors demanded he do before they even asked it: namely, apologize for the Church's past handling of the problem--despite the fact that he was not personally involved. And despite the fact that he has done more to deal with the problem than any of his predecessors--and more about it than any of his critics.
The Murphy case is a terrible tragedy. Weakland should be run out of town for sitting on it for 22 years. But the people who are out trying to ignite a fire under Benedict for it ought to get a life.