Benedict XVI: Up to his neck in sex abuse scandals, & owing the Church’s victims his own resignation Print E-mail

 March 25 2010
Opinion

The Fallibility of the Infallible Pope

By Peter Wensierski
How much authority does Pope Benedict XVI still enjoy?(dpa)

Allegations that Pope Benedict XVI may have had detailed knowledge about instances of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church continue to mount. In 1996, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which he then led, decided not to punish the pedophile priest Father Lawrence Murphy. With his authority eroded, why does he even remain in office?

When is it time for a pope to resign? Margaret Kässmann, the former head of the Protestant Church in Germany, stepped down in February upon deciding that she no longer had the necessary moral authority for her office after being caught driving drunk. But how much authority does Pope Benedict XVI still enjoy?

These days, what is left is disappearing almost daily. Each new detail about the role he played in his church's handling of instances of sexual abuse erodes it further. But a pope doesn't just resign. He is not the CEO of a company, not the head of a political party -- he is the direct spiritual descendent of the Apostle Peter.

It is, in theory, possible according to church law. Canon 332, Paragraph Two, provides for a papal resignation, allowing the pope to step down whenever he wishes and without asking anyone for permission. But in the long history of the Catholic Church, it is extremely uncommon. Pope Celestine V was the most recent church leader to resign -- 700 years ago.

And even if numerous abuse victims have long been calling for Benedict to stand down, it is simply not papal to turn one's back on the papacy. Instead, the Vatican prefers to reject any accusations that have been made as being fully unfounded.

On Thursday, one could observe the reflex once again. In the case of the pedophile priest from the US, Father Lawrence Murphy, Vatican spokesman Federico Lomobardi insisted that before he became pope, Benedict, then known as Joseph Ratzinger, was in no way involved in a cover up. Given that "Father Murphy was elderly and in very poor health," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then led by Ratzinger, elected in 1996 to forego punishing him. Murphy, who had abused some 100 children, was allowed to remain a priest until his death.

'The Perpetrators First'
It seems doubtful that this explanation will reduce the pressure on the pope. The Church's motto has long seemed to be "the perpetrators first." They were taken good care of -- the victims, however, were left to their own devices.

Since 1982, Ratzinger had been responsible for that part of the Vatican which deals with cases of sexual abuse. Who, other than he, was responsible for the Church's path?

You can rename Razinger "Benedict," SPIEGEL wrote in the face of the euphoria over the German pope that spread here after his election to the papacy in 2004, but you can't take Ratzinger out of the pope. Since then, as pope, he has done more damage to his church than good. He has strained relations with Jews several times, he played with fire in relations between Christians and Muslims with his Regensburg address, he angered the indigenous people during his Latin America trip, he has alienated Protestants and he has shown himself to be conciliatory to Holocaust deniers.

Even loyal Catholics have been stunned by the course of action he has taken. And now, on top of all that -- one area where he has been consistent over the decades has been in his negligence in dealing with pedophiles within his own institution.

In Ireland or America, bishops have had trouble stepping down -- even in cases in which their cover-up had been uncloaked. And in Germany, not a single bishop has taken the fall for the serious mistakes made by the Catholic Church there.

Small Business Crisis Management
The reaction up until now has hardly gone further than the kind of crisis management one might see at a medium-sized company: issuing an apology, setting up a round table discussion to deal with the problem, establishing a hotline -- and not much more. So how are the perpetrators behind the perpetrators to be found? How are we supposed to eradicate the system of cover-ups, silence and reassigning pedophiles to other diocese in the Church? And who will force the Church to open its files to the public?

The experience of the victims in America and Ireland over the years has been bad. Will that experience now be repeated in Germany? What happened behind the facades of the Church is still far from being an open book. The fact that several bishops here in Germany helped to ensure the cartel of silence persisted is alone reason enough for them to resign. The alternative would be for them go public with their knowledge and actions, as painful and difficult as that might be.

Evil has been perpetrated inside one of the highest moral authorities, one whose men have preached from the pulpit in the finest detail about what is right and what is wrong.

But the question begs asking: What moral authority remains upon which priests and bishops in Germany can draw to continue executing their offices and provide people with answers to life's difficult questions?

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 April 3 2010

More Evidence Emerges That Pope Benedict Helped Shield Pedophiles Before He Became Pope

The abuse cases of two priests in Arizona have cast further doubt on the Catholic church's insistence that Pope Benedict XVI played no role in shielding pedophiles before he became pope.

Documents reviewed by The Associated Press show that as a Vatican cardinal, the future pope took over the abuse case of the Rev. Michael Teta of Tucson, Ariz., then let it languish at the Vatican for years despite repeated pleas from the bishop for the man to be removed from the priesthood.

In another Tucson case, that of Msgr. Robert Trupia, the bishop wrote to then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who would become pope in 2005. Bishop Manuel Moreno called Trupia "a major risk factor to the children, adolescents and adults that he many have contact with." There is no indication in the case files that Ratzinger responded.

The details of the two cases come as other allegations emerge that Benedict – as a Vatican cardinal – was part of a culture of cover-up and confidentiality.

"There's no doubt that Ratzinger delayed the defrocking process of dangerous priests who were deemed 'satanic' by their own bishop," Lynne Cadigan, an attorney who represented two of Teta's victims, said Friday.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, called the accusations "absolutely groundless" and said the facts were being misrepresented.

He said the delay in defrocking Teta was caused by a hold on appeals while the Vatican changed regulations over its handling of sex abuse cases. In the meantime, he said, cautionary measures were in place; Teta had been suspended since 1990.

"The documents show clearly and positively that those in charge at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith ... have repeatedly intervened actively over the course of the 90s so that the canonic trial under way in the Tucson diocese could dutifully reach its conclusion," Lombardi said in a statement.

In the 1990s, a church tribunal found that Teta had molested children as far back as the 1970s, and the panel determined "there is almost a satanic quality in his mode of acting toward young men and boys."

The tribunal referred Teta's case, which included allegations that he abused boys in a confessional, to Ratzinger. The church considers cases of abuse in confessionals more serious than other molestations because they also defile the sacrament of penance.

It took 12 years from the time Ratzinger assumed control of the case in a signed letter until Teta was formally removed from ministry, a step only the Vatican can take.

Teta was accused of engaging in abuse not long after his arrival to the Diocese of Tucson in 1978. Among the eventual allegations: that he molested two boys, ages 7 and 9, in the confessional as they prepared for their First Communion.

Teta was removed from ministry by the bishop, but because the church's most severe punishment – laicization – can only be handed down from Rome, he remained on the church payroll and was working with young people outside the church.

In a signed letter dated June 8, 1992, Ratzinger advised Moreno he was taking control of the case, according to a copy provided to the AP from Cadigan, the victims' attorney. Five years later, no action had been taken.

"This case has already gone on for seven years," Moreno wrote Ratzinger on April 28, 1997, adding, "I make this plea to you to assist me in every way you can to expedite this case."

It would be another seven years before Teta was laicized.

Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Teta was ordered defrocked in 1997. But Teta appealed, and the appeal remained on hold until the new regulations took effect in 2001.

"Starting in 2001, all the appeals that were pending were promptly taken up, and Teta's case was one of the first to be discussed," Lombardi said.

But this still took time, he said, because the documentation that had been presented was "especially voluminous." The sentence was upheld and in 2004 Teta was laicized.

The case of Trupia shows the fragmented nature of how Rome handled such allegations before 2001, when Ratzinger dictated that all abuse cases must go through his Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Before then, files were sent to varied Vatican departments, as they were in the case of Trupia. Moreno suspended Trupia in 1992, but again faced delays from the Vatican in having him formally removed from the church.

Documents show at least two Vatican offices – the Congregation for the Clergy and the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority of the Catholic Church – were involved in the case at least as early as 1995.

Moreno pleaded with the Congregation for the Clergy to do something, writing, "We have proofs of civil crimes against people who were under his priestly care" and warning Trupia could "be the source of greater scandal in the future."

Ultimately, the case landed in Ratzinger's office.

On Feb. 10, 2003, a day after the Arizona Daily Star reported that Trupia was living in a condo near Baltimore, driving a leather-seated Mercedes-Benz with a rosary hanging from the rearview mirror, Moreno wrote to Ratzinger again.

Sick with prostate cancer and the beginning stages of Parkinson's disease, Moreno was approved for early retirement by Pope John Paul II.

Before he was replaced, the bishop wrote Ratzinger yet again. Moreno's replacement, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, sent similar requests to Ratzinger and his subordinates.

"My experience – and as I've looked at the records in our serious cases – the Vatican actually was prodding, through the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and Cardinal Ratzinger, to try to get this case going," Kicanas said.

Finally, in August 2004, Trupia was laicized.

"The tragedy is that the bishops have only two choices: Follow the Vatican's code of secrecy and delay, or leave the church," Cadigan, the victims' lawyer, said Friday. "It's unfortunate that their faith demands that they sacrifice children to follow the Vatican's directions."

Trupia's former attorney, Stephen A. Shechtel of Rockville, Md., said Friday that he never dealt with the church on his client's behalf and that Trupia was aware he would be defrocked and didn't fight it.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Moreno's replacement, defended the Vatican's handling of the Arizona cases, citing the prolonged process of internal church trials that he acknowledged could be "frustratingly slow because of the seriousness of the concerns."

Kicanas said suggestions that Ratzinger resisted addressing the issues of sexual abuse in the church were "grossly unfair."

"Cardinal Ratzinger, as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was always receptive, ready to listen, to hear people's concerns," Kicanas said. "Pope Benedict is the same man."
___

Associated Press writers Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix and Ben Nuckols in Baltimore contributed to this report.
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March 25, 2010, page A1


Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys

The Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, with hands together, at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin in 1960.
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

Top Vatican officials ­ including the future Pope Benedict XVI ­ did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

Arthur Budzinski, at a cemetery behind St. John's School for the Deaf, says he was first molested in 1960 when he went to Father Murphy for confession. (Jeffrey Phelps for The New York Times)

Read shameful documents authenticating Cardinal Ratzinger's complicity HERE

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.

The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.

The Wisconsin case involved an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. But it is only one of thousands of cases forwarded over decades by bishops to the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led from 1981 to 2005 by Cardinal Ratzinger. It is still the office that decides whether accused priests should be given full canonical trials and defrocked.

In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy’s dismissal.

But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.

“I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood,” Father Murphy wrote near the end of his life to Cardinal Ratzinger. “I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.

The New York Times obtained the documents, which the church fought to keep secret, from Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, the lawyers for five men who have brought four lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The documents include letters between bishops and the Vatican, victims’ affidavits, the handwritten notes of an expert on sexual disorders who interviewed Father Murphy and minutes of a final meeting on the case at the Vatican.

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.

Even as the pope himself in a recent letter to Irish Catholics has emphasized the need to cooperate with civil justice in abuse cases, the correspondence seems to indicate that the Vatican’s insistence on secrecy has often impeded such cooperation. At the same time, the officials’ reluctance to defrock a sex abuser shows that on a doctrinal level, the Vatican has tended to view the matter in terms of sin and repentance more than crime and punishment.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, was shown the documents and was asked to respond to questions about the case. He provided a statement saying that Father Murphy had certainly violated “particularly vulnerable” children and the law, and that it was a “tragic case.” But he pointed out that the Vatican was not forwarded the case until 1996, years after civil authorities had investigated the case and dropped it.

Father Lombardi emphasized that neither the Code of Canon Law nor the Vatican norms issued in 1962, which instruct bishops to conduct canonical investigations and trials in secret, prohibited church officials from reporting child abuse to civil authorities. He did not address why that had never happened in this case.

As to why Father Murphy was never defrocked, he said that “the Code of Canon Law does not envision automatic penalties.” He said that Father Murphy’s poor health and the lack of more recent accusations against him were factors in the decision.

The Vatican’s inaction is not unusual. Only 20 percent of the 3,000 accused priests whose cases went to the church’s doctrinal office between 2001 and 2010 were given full church trials, and only some of those were defrocked, according to a recent interview in an Italian newspaper with Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the chief internal prosecutor at that office. An additional 10 percent were defrocked immediately. Ten percent left voluntarily. But a majority ­ 60 percent ­ faced other “administrative and disciplinary provisions,” Monsignor Scicluna said, like being prohibited from celebrating Mass.

To many, Father Murphy appeared to be a saint: a hearing man gifted at communicating in American Sign Language and an effective fund-raiser for deaf causes. A priest of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, he started as a teacher at St. John’s School for the Deaf, in St. Francis, in 1950. He was promoted to run the school in 1963 even though students had disclosed to church officials in the 1950s that he was a predator.

Victims give similar accounts of Father Murphy’s pulling down their pants and touching them in his office, his car, his mother’s country house, on class excursions and fund-raising trips and in their dormitory beds at night. Arthur Budzinski said he was first molested when he went to Father Murphy for confession when he was about 12, in 1960.

“If he was a real mean guy, I would have stayed away,” said Mr. Budzinski, now 61, who worked for years as a journeyman printer. “But he was so friendly, and so nice and understanding. I knew he was wrong, but I couldn’t really believe it.”

Mr. Budzinski and a group of other deaf former students spent more than 30 years trying to raise the alarm, including passing out leaflets outside the Milwaukee cathedral. Mr. Budzinski’s friend Gary Smith said in an interview that Father Murphy molested him 50 or 60 times, starting at age 12. By the time he graduated from high school at St. John’s, Mr. Smith said, “I was a very, very angry man.”

In 1993, with complaints about Father Murphy landing on his desk, Archbishop Weakland hired a social worker specializing in treating sexual offenders to evaluate him. After four days of interviews, the social worker said that Father Murphy had admitted his acts, had probably molested about 200 boys and felt no remorse.

However, it was not until 1996 that Archbishop Weakland tried to have Father Murphy defrocked. The reason, he wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger, was to defuse the anger among the deaf and restore their trust in the church. He wrote that since he had become aware that “solicitation in the confessional might be part of the situation,” the case belonged at the doctrinal office.

With no response from Cardinal Ratzinger, Archbishop Weakland wrote a different Vatican office in March 1997 saying the matter was urgent because a lawyer was preparing to sue, the case could become public and “true scandal in the future seems very possible.”

Recently some bishops have argued that the 1962 norms dictating secret disciplinary procedures have long fallen out of use. But it is clear from these documents that in 1997, they were still in force.

But the effort to dismiss Father Murphy came to a sudden halt after the priest appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger for leniency.

In an interview, Archbishop Weakland said that he recalled a final meeting at the Vatican in May 1998 in which he failed to persuade Cardinal Bertone and other doctrinal officials to grant a canonical trial to defrock Father Murphy. (In 2002, Archbishop Weakland resigned after it became public that he had an affair with a man and used church money to pay him a settlement.)

Archbishop Weakland said this week in an interview, “The evidence was so complete, and so extensive that I thought he should be reduced to the lay state, and also that that would bring a certain amount of peace in the deaf community.”

Father Murphy died four months later at age 72 and was buried in his priestly vestments. Archbishop Weakland wrote a last letter to Cardinal Bertone explaining his regret that Father Murphy’s family had disobeyed the archbishop’s instructions that the funeral be small and private, and the coffin kept closed.

“In spite of these difficulties,” Archbishop Weakland wrote, “we are still hoping we can avoid undue publicity that would be negative toward the church.”

Rachel Donadio contributed reporting from Rome.
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 Berlin ~ March 22 2010

Sex Abuse Scandal

Did Archbishop Ratzinger Help Shield Perpetrator from Prosecution?

By Dietmar Hipp, Frank Hornig, Conny Neumann, Sven Röbel and Peter Wensierski

Back in 1980, Joseph Ratzinger -- pictured here in 1977 as the new archbishop of Munich -- played a role in the decision to handle a case of pedophiliac infractions committed by a priest internally (DPA)

After long delays, the Catholic Church finally appears to be taking responsibility for sexual abuse cases. But it is an uncomfortable process. The pope even failed to take the problem of child abuse seriously when he was the archbishop of Munich.

Peter H. simply cannot understand why allegations are being made against him now -- especially after all these years. "Why me of all people?" the priest asked during a phone conversation with his friend, the mayor of Garching, a town near his own, Bad Tölz, in Bavaria.

Yes, why him of all people? Especially when there are so many priests who have committed sins against children, and so many who have been treated leniently by the church. Back in 1980, even Joseph Ratzinger -- then the archbishop of Munich, and now Pope Benedict XVI -- had played a role in the decision to handle Peter H.'s pedophiliac infractions internally. No police, no state prosecutor, no trial. Therapy and brotherly love would bring this sinner back to the fold.

Events that linked Ratzinger and Peter H. decades ago are now causing their paths to cross once again. Last week, one of these two men, Peter H., was suspended from the priesthood, while the other, Pope Benedict XVI, signed a pastoral letter on clerical sexual abuse. The pope now wants to clear up these cases and aid the victims.

Is this a long-awaited turning point?
Finally, after much too much hesitation, there is now movement in the church -- at the lower level with Peter H. and at the higher level with the pope and the German Bishops' Conference. For the first time since the sex scandal erupted, church officials have indicated that they intend to tackle the problem seriously. In Bavaria, the Catholic Church now intends to report all such cases immediately to the authorities. "We all have to deal with the consequences of utter evil in the world and in the Church," says the current archbishop of Munich, Reinhard Marx. "This boil must be lanced. Everything must come out," his colleague in Bamberg, Ludwig Schick, adds. And the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, who has been engaged by the Bishops' Conference to handle abuse cases, openly criticizes the institutions of the Church, admitting that "there have been cover-ups in a wide range of cases."

Political Reaction May Lead to Official Enquiry
Politicians are also reacting. The German state of Hesse wants to make it mandatory for public and private schools to report all suspected cases of abuse and plans to launch a special investigation into all 33 boarding schools located in the state. Bavaria is calling for preventative therapy to be offered to any teachers or clergymen with pedophilic tendencies. And the German federal government has finally reached a decision on who will attend roundtable talks on the issue and what will be on the agenda. On Wednesday, the government plans to announce the appointment of an independent commissioner in Berlin to investigate the abuse cases across the country.

This collective toughening of attitudes is the result of weeks of mounting pressure. Germany's dioceses have been flooded with complaints and one of the first church officials entrusted with investigating cases of clerical misconduct has already resigned because he could not handle the work. Benno Grimm, from the diocese of Limburg, which covers territory in the states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate as well as the city of Frankfurt, said that he could no longer cope with the number of allegations and reports and that the accounts of abuse were getting under his skin.

Public prosecutors also have their work cut out for them. Up until now, they have had few opportunities to prosecute because the statute of limitations has usually expired for the alleged crimes. But investigations are currently being conducted into at least 14 clergymen on suspicions of sexual abuse. This figure emerged after a SPIEGEL survey of all 24 public prosecutors in Germany. Nine refused to comment. In addition, 11 secular teachers and tutors are being investigated, including three former educators at the prestigious Odenwald boarding school.

At the same time, many Germans are leaving the Catholic Church, especially in the Catholic stronghold of Bavaria, where the faithful have been shocked by scandals surrounding the renowned Regensburger Domspatzen boys' choir and the monastery school in Ettal as well as the reportedly lenient treatment of the pedophile priest, Peter H., by the pope's own former archbishopric in Munich. Officials in the cities of Regensburg and Munich report that, for the first half of March, the number of people leaving the church is nearly double when compared to the same period in February. (Editor's note: In Germany, church taxes are collected by the government and members of the Catholic and Protestant churches register with the local authorities.)

People are unnerved because, for a long time, no one was able to credibly assure them that everything possible was being done to ensure that youth groups and schools were safe from sexual abuse. And their skepticism is understandable: The case of Peter H. is a prime example of how well the church's system to protect abusers works.

Young Priest Made 'Indecent Advances'
As a young chaplain in the diocese of Essen in 1979, H. forced an 11-year-old to engage in oral sex after a camp retreat. He reportedly had the boy drink alcohol before assaulting him. There were at least three more victims in Essen but their parents reportedly decided not to press charges to avoid putting their children through the ordeal. Instead they complained to H.'s immediate superior, the parish priest of St. Andreas. That priest's handwritten report to the head of church personnel and the vicar general of the diocese of Essen states that H. had made "indecent advances" toward the children during his work in the parish.

Church officials in Essen decided not to press charges and instead arranged for their brother to enter into therapy in Munich. In the letter of transfer, written to the Bavarian diocese that Ratzinger then led, there was a clear admission that the priest had sexually assaulted children in his former parish. Munich was not left in the dark about what kind of problem was on its way to them, the diocese of Essen said last week.

The Diocesan Council, chaired by Archbishop Ratzinger, dealt with the case in Munich on Jan. 15, 1980. According to the minutes of the meeting, "Point 5d" on the agenda saw the council discussing Peter H., who had requested "accommodation and support in a Munich parsonage for a while." The request also stated that "Chaplain H. will undergo psychological therapeutic treatment."

Ratzinger Knew Police Hadn't Been Informed
A policeman's son, Ratzinger was well aware that no one had notified the police and that everything had been handled by the Church internally. Neither he nor his diocese reported the case to the authorities. Instead, a brief, succinct statement concerning the chaplain's application was entered into the minutes: "The request is granted."

Barely two weeks later, H. had been assigned to pastoral duties again. Ratzinger allegedly knew nothing of this. But his office did receive a note from his vicar-general at the time, Gerhard Gruber, concerning the chaplain's placement in the Catholic parish of St. Johannes Evangelist in Munich. Did Ratzinger overlook the memo? Gruber now says that he alone was responsible.

In the town of Grafing near Munich, H. again sexually abused several pupils. In 1986, a local court in Ebersberg in Bavaria handed out an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a 4,000 deutsche mark fine to H. He was also convicted of distributing pornographic materials.

Priest 'Always Kissed Children on the Mouth'
Church officials then simply transferred the pedophile from Grafing to Garching -- but apparently without informing the parish there of his history. Once again, children at his new place of work complained that their priest always kissed them on the mouth -- a practice they found disgusting. Mothers complained to the parish council, but nothing happened. In 2008, the first of his victims in Essen came forward: Wilfried Fesselmann, 41, was 11 at the time of the alleged abuse. The priest was transferred again, this time to his current place of residence in the town of Bad Tölz. Once again no warning was issued to the new parish, where the priest was able to conduct church services with the young people of the area. And it was not until last week that H. was finally suspended from priestly service.

And that is precisely the focus of the current discussion. What responsibility do people with knowledge of what has been done bear? And what about about the perpetrators' superiors? How could they enable pedophile priests to continue working in the Church? And what has the current pope done during his career in the Church to combat a sex problem that he is well aware of?

It was not only in Munich, but also later in Rome that Ratzinger missed countless opportunities to vigorously tackle the issue. For over 23 years -- until his election as pope -- he headed the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, meaning that he was also responsible for dealing with reports of sexual abuse. From 1981, Cardinal Ratzinger exercised this power from a fortress-like palace in the Vatican, where he passed through heavy iron-studded gates every morning and every evening. Above the gates, the walls are still emblazoned with the coat of arms of the Holy Office, also known as the Inquisition, which held Galileo Galilei under arrest here and sentenced Giordano Bruno to death as a heretic.

For decades, Ratzinger accepted the fact that little attention was paid to the problem of sexual abuse. Instead he focused on reprimanding Latin American church activists who advocated liberation theology, a movement that defines the teachings of Jesus Christ differently, as well as feuding with controversial critics of the Catholic Church such as Eugen Drewermann and Hans Küng. His rare public statements during this period were dedicated to pet topics like "faith and reason."

A Parallel World of Murky Legality
It wasn't until 2001, after a sexual abuse scandal had rocked the Catholic Church in the US, that Cardinal Ratzinger took action. He decreed that the local churches now had to report all such suspected cases to his offices of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome -- but under strict secrecy.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna currently serves as the church's Promoter of Justice, making him, in effect, the Vatican's internal prosecutor. Between 2001 and 2010, he investigated over 3,000 accusations lodged against members of the clergy who had allegedly violated their vows of celibacy.

In dealing with such cases, Church officials operate in a parallel world of murky legality. Clergymen play the roles of judge and prosecutor, files are kept secret and witnesses are questioned, but never informed of the purpose of the interrogation.

In 300 cases, the defendants were found guilty and given the mandatory maximum penalty: dismissal from the clergy. In another 300 cases, the defendants anticipated that they would be thrown out of the church and preempted this by asking to be dismissed. This group includes priests who had been caught with pornographic images of children. And around 1,800 priests only received a relatively mild punishment due to their advanced age: They were banned from performing the sacrament.

No Complaint, No Plaintiff, No Judge
All the while, state prosecutors remained relatively powerless to counter the church's leniency -- mainly because they know nothing about the offenses committed. When there is no plaintiff, there is no judge. As long as church officials do not file official complaints and succeed in persuading the victims' families not to report offenses to the authorities, then the Catholic Church can continue to act within its own realm, and beyond the reach of secular laws. Up until now, nobody from the outside world has been able to do anything about it.

So far, there are no known cases in which bishops or vicar generals have been prosecuted for protecting pedophile subordinates or because they allowed them to continue to work with young people -- as in the case with the priest Peter H.

Nevertheless, as the policies of the official body of the Protestant Church in Germany (the Evangelical Church of Germany, or EKD) clearly demonstrate, it is actually possible to crack down on sexual offenders in the clergy. "As soon as initial suspicions arise," says EKD spokesman Reinhard Mawick, "they are reported to the police so the state prosecutor can investigate."

The Evangelical Church of Westphalia, for example, has had a 64-page manual on how to deal with sexual assault for a long time. These guidelines provide detailed information on how to recognize perpetrators and it also lists possibilities for best supporting victims. The Church has to take "active and clear steps to prevent sexual assault," it says in the publication.

In response to a request from SPIEGEL, the EKD has checked how many cases of abuse have come to light. Results have come in from nine of the 22 district churches across Germany. Over the past 10 years, there have been exactly 11 cases within those churches -- and only one had to do with pedophilia. Any clergymen or deacons involved were removed from the service of the church.

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen
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 London ~ Thursday March 25 2010

Pope 'failed to discipline US priest' who abused deaf children

Pope declined to defrock Father Lawrence Murphy while head of church's doctrinal enforcement institution, US newspaper claims

Stephen Bates, and John Hooper in Rome

The pope faces questions about his handling of the case of Father Lawrence Murphy while in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)

The Vatican today faces an allegation that the pope failed to take action against a dying US priest who admitted molesting deaf children.

The claim, made by the New York Times, is the latest in a wave of child abuse scandals to hit the Catholic church and its leaders, and brings the storm closer to the pontiff himself. At the weekend he issued an unprecedented apology and an admission of institutional errors.

The latest charge relates to a case when Benedict – in his previous incarnation as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – was in charge of the church's doctrinal enforcement institution, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the late 1990s. The New York Times obtained papers relating to the case which it says church officials had tried to keep private.

The newspaper alleges that Vatican officials including the future pope declined to discipline or defrock the priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, who was a teacher at a school for deaf children in Wisconsin for 24 years and was suspected of sexually abusing up to 200 boys.

The officials overruled pleas from US diocesan bishops and apparently dropped an instruction by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then Ratzinger's deputy at the Congregation and now the Vatican's secretary of state, that the local bishops should initiate a secret canonical trial.

The Vatican appears to have accepted Murphy's plea, in a letter to Ratzinger in 1998, that he was dying, had repented and that the offences had occurred many years before and so were out of time. "I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood," Murphy wrote. "I ask your kind assistance in this matter." The files contain no indication of a response; Murphy died a few months later.

The latest case is one of thousands forwarded over decades by bishops to the Congregation, which Ratzinger headed from 1981 to 2005. It is still the office that decides whether accused priests should be given full canonical trials and defrocked.

The documents that the church allegedly wanted to keep secret include letters between bishops and the Vatican, victims' affidavits, the handwritten notes of an expert on sexual disorders who interviewed Murphy, and minutes of a final meeting on the case at the Vatican.

Local police and prosecutors also ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents. During Murphy's time at the school, between 1950 and 1974, three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that he was sexually abusing children, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.

Instead of being disciplined, Murphy was quietly moved by the archbishop of Milwaukee, William Cousins, to the diocese of Superior, in northern Wisconsin, in 1974, where he worked freely with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention centre, until his death.

The Vatican told the newspaper that Murphy had certainly violated "particularly vulnerable" children and the law, and that it was a "tragic case", but added that it was not informed about the case until 1996, years after civil authorities had investigated the case and dropped it.

It was not until 1996 that Cousins's successor as Milwaukee archbishop, Rembert Weakland, tried to have Murphy defrocked. After getting no response from Ratzinger, Weakland wrote to a different Vatican office in March 1997 saying the matter was urgent because a lawyer was preparing to sue, the case could become public and "true scandal in the future seems very possible".

Weakland, who resigned in 2002 after a scandal involving his relationship with a man and the disclosure that church money had been used to pay him a settlement, said that in 1998 he had failed to persuade Cardinal Bertone and other doctrinal officials to grant a canonical trial to defrock Murphy. He told the newspaper: "The evidence was so complete and so extensive that I thought he should be reduced to the lay state, and also that that would bring a certain amount of peace in the deaf community."

After Murphy died aged 72Weakland wrote a last letter to Bertone explaining his regret that Murphy's family had disobeyed his instructions that the funeral be small and private, and the coffin kept closed. Weakland wrote: "In spite of these difficulties, we are still hoping we can avoid undue publicity that would be negative toward the church."

In a statement rushed out by the Vatican's press office, Benedict's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, stressed that the allegations had previously been investigated by the civil authorities and that the future pope's decision only concerned a possible trial under canon law.

The Vatican said: "It is important to note that the canonical question presented to the Congregation was unrelated to any potential civil or criminal proceedings against Father Murphy." Since he was "elderly and in very poor health, and … was living in seclusion and no allegations of abuse had been reported in over 20 years, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested that the archbishop of Milwaukee give consideration to addressing the situation by, for example, restricting Father Murphy's public ministry and requiring that Father Murphy accept full responsibility for the gravity of his acts. Father Murphy died approximately four months later, without further incident."

It added that neither that directive "nor the code of canon law ever prohibited the reporting of child abuse to law enforcement authorities".