01 April 2010

New York Times interviews Cardinal Levada

In what may well prove to be a rare turn of events (we can hope so, at least), His Emminence William J. Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave an interview to the New York Times.

Rachel Donadio used the interview to write her article, "Vatican Official Defends Pope's Handling of Case," [already in the headline we see nothing has changed; the NYT is sill holding to their lie]to which Daniel J. Wakin contributed. The text of the article follows, with my emphases and comments:

VATICAN CITY — A top Vatican official issued a detailed defense of Pope Benedict XVI’s handling of sexual abuse cases and extensively criticized The New York Times’s [shouldn't a reporter for a famous newspaper know the appropriate use of apostrophes?]coverage, both in its news and editorial pages, as unfair to the pope and the church.

In a rare interview and a 2,400-word statement posted Wednesday on the Vatican Web site, the official, Cardinal William J. Levada, an American who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, praised Pope Benedict for vigorously investigating and prosecuting sexual abuse cases. He said The Times’s coverage had been “deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness.”

Cardinal Levada singled out several Times reporters and columnists for criticism, focusing particularly on an article describing failed efforts by Wisconsin church officials to persuade the Vatican to defrock a priest who had abused as many as 200 deaf boys from 1950 to 1974 [when will the NYT accept that the blame lies with these officials - as has been repeatedly said in the pages of the NYT and not with the current Pope?]. The pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office when the case was referred there, in 1996.

He said the article wrongly “attributed the failure to accomplish this dismissal to Pope Benedict, instead of diocesan decisions at the time.” On Wednesday, the archbishop of Milwaukee said the pope should not be held responsible for mistakes that were made in Wisconsin, according to The Associated Press [And?].

The Times article drew [falsely] on documents obtained from lawyers suing the church that showed that Vatican officials had at first ordered a secret [for the protection of both the victims and the accused until guilt or innocence could be established by law; remember: innocent until proven guilty (I am by no means claiming Murphy was innocent, not am I defending him; I am simply pointing out a point of law, also present in civil law] canonical trial, then asked the archdiocese to suspend it [because the Congregation knew it would be too lengthy of a process and Murphy would likely die before the completion of a formal trial] after the priest pleaded for leniency to Cardinal Ratzinger. Wisconsin church officials protested the suspension, but followed it. The priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, died a few months later [the Congregation was correct].

News coverage of the abuse has clearly touched a nerve in the Vatican [and elsewhere, as the Times likely intended]. As the church grapples with abuse cases that have come to light in several European countries, Benedict has come under scrutiny for how he and his subordinates [that really should only be his subordinates] handled sexual abuse allegations against priests while he served as an archbishop in Germany as well as when he was the Vatican’s top doctrinal enforcer [remember, the top doctrinal enforcer was not in charge of abuse cases until 2001; the NYT hasn't quite realized this yet].

In 1980, when the pope was archbishop of Munich and Freising, he approved the transfer of a priest who had abused boys to therapy and was copied in on a memo saying that the priest had been allowed to resume pastoral duties shortly after his therapy began [the man below him as already accepted full responsibility for the tragedy]. The priest was later convicted of molesting other boys.

“This is different, because it’s the pope and because it’s a pope who is most self evidently beyond accusation, particularly in this area,” said a senior Vatican official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly.

Cardinal Levada said he believed that “the evidence is clear” that Father Murphy represented an “egregious case” and deserved to be defrocked.

But he also said he was not second-guessing the decision to suspend the trial. He said a canonical trial would be “useless if the priest were dying.” “Have you ever been to a trial? Do you know how long they take?” he said. “If the man had had a miraculous recovery and doctors said he’d live another 10 years, I’m sure a letter would say fine, ‘Start the trial.’ ”

Sitting in a receiving room at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with a view of Saint Peter’s out the window and an oil portrait of Cardinal Ratzinger on the wall, Cardinal Levada expressed pain at the case of Father Murphy.

“I think the evidence is clear from the documents that he was a serial abuser of children, helpless children often times, he had no respect for the sacrament of confession, even using that to accomplish his abuse,” he said. “It’s one of the saddest and the most egregious cases I’ve seen.”

At that point a canon lawyer who sat in on the interview but declined to speak on the record intervened about the nuances of the unfinished trial [nuances which the media refuses to even try to understand], effectively deflecting questions about why it had been suspended [had a trial been started, no justice could have been done since he died so soon afterward it would have begun].

Cardinal Levada said that although Father Murphy never faced judgment in a criminal or canonical court, the priest had not evaded it altogether.

“As a believer,” he wrote in his statement, “I have no doubt that Murphy will face the One who judges both the living and the dead.”

Cardinal Levada said Benedict had played a “very significant role” as the “architect” of the Vatican’s 2001 norms that sent sexual abuse cases directly to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and streamlined procedures for bishops to report sexual abuse cases. Those norms ushered in a flood of abuse trials, many of which are still unresolved [many, yes, but not most].

In a related letter in 2001, the future pope reminded bishops to adhere to secrecy in ecclesiastical trials [for the protection of the victimes and the accused; even in civil trials those involved do not speak publicly about the matters involved and are, hence, being secretive], which caused some confusion about whether clerics should report abuse to the civil authorities [I think that's been rather clear]. In recent weeks, Benedict and the Vatican have emphasized that the clergy should report evidence of crimes to the civil authorities.

“He was prefect when the church put into place a very important standard and practice for helping bishops deal with these cases,” said Cardinal Levada.

In light of media reports that have questioned what Benedict knew about abuse cases, Cardinal Levada said, “Anyone can say, ‘Why didn’t you do this?’ ‘You could have done this better.’ That’s part of life, but certainly it’s not the case to say that he is deficient,” Cardinal Levada said. “If anything, he was the architect of this step forward in the church and I think he deserves his credit.”

Benedict named Cardinal Levada, a theologian, a former archbishop of Portland and San Francisco, and a former chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to succeed him as prefect after he became pope in 2005.

A full 80 percent of the abuse cases to come through the congregation in the past decade are from the United States, according to the head of the internal tribunal that handles abuse cases, Msgr. Charles Scicluna [but that has now shifted and recent accusations are very small in number, thanks be to God].

Cardinal Levada said that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had a staff of about 45 and devoted about a third of its time to disciplinary issues.

“I would say it’s an increasing amount of the work of the congregation,” he said, adding that he anticipated having to expand its staff.

He said it should not be seen as leniency that some 60 percent of the abuse cases that the congregation had considered since 2001 did not result in trials. In cases of “moral certitude” trials aren’t necessary, he said, and other disciplinary measures can be taken, while murkier cases requiring more evidence might require trials.

“A canonical trial is an instrument appropriately used, but it would not be the normal procedure,” he said.

The senior Vatican official said that the pope himself was “serene” in the face of news reports but probably upset on behalf of Catholics. “I can’t imagine he wouldn’t be troubled that the faithful are troubled,” he said.
It doesn't seem anything has changed after all.

Capello tip to Rocco.

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