31 March 2010

Cardinal Levada on the lie of the New York Times

His Emminence William J. Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has responded to the lie of the New York Times regarding Pope Benedict XVI in the Catholic San Francisco.

The text of his editorial, titled "The New York Times and Pope Benedict XVI: How it looks to an American in the Vatican," follows with my emphases and comments:

In our melting pot of peoples, languages and backgrounds, Americans are not noted as examples of “high” culture. But we can take pride as a rule in our passion for fairness. In the Vatican where I currently work, my colleagues – whether fellow cardinals at meetings or officials in my office – come from many different countries, continents and cultures. As I write this response today (March 26, 2010) I have had to admit to them that I am not proud of America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, as a paragon of fairness [there are many here in the United States of America who feel the same].

I say this because today’s Times presents both a lengthy article by Laurie Goodstein, a senior columnist, headlined “Warned About Abuse, Vatican Failed to Defrock Priest,” and an accompanying editorial entitled “The Pope and the Pedophilia Scandal,” in which the editors call the Goodstein article a disturbing report (emphasis in original) as a basis for their own charges against the Pope. Both the article and the editorial are deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness that Americans have every right and expectation to find in their major media reporting [that seems a fair description].

In her lead paragraph, Goodstein relies on what she describes as “newly unearthed files” to point out what the Vatican (i.e. then Cardinal Ratzinger and his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) did not do – “defrock Fr. Murphy.” Breaking news, apparently. Only after eight paragraphs of purple prose does Goodstein reveal that Fr. Murphy, who criminally abused as many as 200 deaf children while working at a school in the Milwaukee Archdiocese from 1950 to 1974, “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.”

But in paragraph 13, commenting on a statement of Fr. Lombardi (the Vatican spokesman) that Church law does not prohibit anyone from reporting cases of abuse to civil authorities, Goodstein writes, “He did not address why that had never happened in this case.” Did she forget, or did her editors not read, what she wrote in paragraph nine about Murphy getting “a pass from the police and prosecutors” [a very fair question, and one I've also wondered about and pointed out. If the NYT were really concerned about sexual child abuse they would also be going those law enforcement officials who failed to prosecute Murphy]? By her own account it seems clear that criminal authorities had been notified, most probably by the victims and their families.

Goodstein’s account bounces back and forth as if there were not some 20 plus years intervening between reports in the 1960 and 70’s to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and local police, and Archbishop Weakland’s appeal for help to the Vatican in 1996. Why? Because the point of the article is not about failures on the part of church and civil authorities to act properly at the time. I, for one, looking back at this report agree that Fr. Murphy deserved to be dismissed from the clerical state for his egregious criminal behavior [I'm not aware of anyone who would disagree], which would normally have resulted from a canonical trial.

The point of Goodstein’s article, however, is to attribute the failure to accomplish this dismissal to Pope Benedict, instead of to diocesan decisions at the time [quite right]. She uses the technique of repeating the many escalating charges and accusations from various sources (not least from her own newspaper), and tries to use these “newly unearthed files” as the basis for accusing the pope of leniency and inaction in this case and presumably in others [accusations which are both baseless and uninformed].

It seems to me, on the other hand, that we owe Pope Benedict a great debt of gratitude for introducing the procedures that have helped the Church to take action in the face of the scandal of priestly sexual abuse of minors. These efforts began when the Pope served as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and continued after he was elected Pope. That the Times has published a series of articles in which the important contribution he has made – especially in the development and implementation of Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, the Motu proprio issued by Pope John Paul II in 2001 – is ignored, seems to me to warrant the charge of lack of fairness which should be the hallmark of any reputable newspaper [I wonder if the editors will respond to this].

Let me tell you what I think a fair reading of the Milwaukee case would seem to indicate. The reasons why church and civil authorities took no action in the 1960’s and 70’s is apparently not contained in these “newly emerged files.” Nor does the Times seem interested in finding out why [a most excellent point]. But what does emerge is this: after almost 20 years as Archbishop, Weakland wrote to the Congregation asking for help in dealing with this terrible case of serial abuse. The Congregation approved his decision to undertake a canonical trial, since the case involved solicitation in confession – one of the graviora delicta (most grave crimes) for which the Congregation had responsibility to investigate and take appropriate action.

Only when it learned that Murphy was dying did the Congregation suggest to Weakland that the canonical trial be suspended, since it would involve a lengthy process of taking testimony from a number of deaf victims from prior decades, as well as from the accused priest. Instead it proposed measures to ensure that appropriate restrictions on his ministry be taken. Goodstein infers that this action implies “leniency” toward a priest guilty of heinous crimes. My interpretation would be that the Congregation realized that the complex canonical process would be useless if the priest were dying. Indeed, I have recently received an unsolicited letter from the judicial vicar who was presiding judge in the canonical trial telling me that he never received any communication about suspending the trial, and would not have agreed to it. But Fr. Murphy had died in the meantime. As a believer, I have no doubt that Murphy will face the One who judges both the living and the dead.

Goodstein also refers to what she calls “other accusations” about the reassignment of a priest who had previously abused a child/children in another diocese by the Archdiocese of Munich. But the Archdiocese has repeatedly explained that the responsible Vicar General, Mons. Gruber, admitted his mistake in making that assignment [a point that is simply ignored but it doesn't fit the template of the "story"]. It is anachronistic for Goodstein and the Times to imply that the knowledge about sexual abuse that we have in 2010 should have somehow been intuited by those in authority in 1980. It is not difficult for me to think that Professor Ratzinger, appointed as Archbishop of Munich in 1977, would have done as most new bishops do: allow those already in place in an administration of 400 or 500 people to do the jobs assigned to them.

As I look back on my own personal history as a priest and bishop, I can say that in 1980 I had never heard of any accusation of such sexual abuse by a priest. It was only in 1985, as an Auxiliary Bishop attending a meeting of our U.S. Bishops’ Conference where data on this matter was presented, that I became aware of some of the issues. In 1986, when I was appointed Archbishop in Portland, I began to deal personally with accusations of the crime of sexual abuse, and although my “learning curve” was rapid, it was also limited by the particular cases called to my attention.

Here are a few things I have learned since that time: many child victims are reluctant to report incidents of sexual abuse by clergy. When they come forward as adults, the most frequent reason they give is not to ask for punishment of the priest, but to make the bishop and personnel director aware so that other children can be spared the trauma that they have experienced.

In dealing with priests, I learned that many priests, when confronted with accusations from the past, spontaneously admitted their guilt. On the other hand, I also learned that denial is not uncommon. I have found that even programs of residential therapy have not succeeded in breaking through such denial in some cases. Even professional therapists did not arrive at a clear diagnosis in some of these cases; often their recommendations were too vague to be helpful. On the other hand, therapists have been very helpful to victims in dealing with the long-range effects of their childhood abuse. In both Portland and San Francisco where I dealt with issues of sexual abuse, the dioceses always made funds available (often through diocesan insurance coverage) for therapy to victims of sexual abuse.

From the point of view of ecclesiastical procedures, the explosion of the sexual abuse question in the United States led to the adoption, at a meeting of the Bishops’ Conference in Dallas in 2002, of a “Charter for the Protection of Minors from Sexual Abuse.” This Charter provides for uniform guidelines on reporting sexual abuse, on structures of accountability (Boards involving clergy, religious and laity, including experts), reports to a national Board, and education programs for parishes and schools in raising awareness and prevention of sexual abuse of children. In a number of other countries similar programs have been adopted by Church authorities: one of the first was adopted by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in response to the Nolan Report made by a high-level commission of independent experts in 2001.

It was only in 2001, with the publication of Pope John Paul II’s Motu proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela (SST), that responsibility for guiding the Catholic Church’s response to the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clerics was assigned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This papal document was prepared for Pope John Paul II under the guidance of Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Contrary to some media reports, SST did not remove the local bishop’s responsibility for acting in cases of reported sexual abuse of minors by clerics. Nor was it, as some have theorized, part of a plot from on high to interfere with civil jurisdiction in such cases. Instead, SST directs bishops to report credible allegations of abuse to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is able to provide a service to the bishops to ensure that cases are handled properly, in accord with applicable ecclesiastical law.

Here are some of the advances made by this new Church legislation (SST). It has allowed for a streamlined administrative process in arriving at a judgment, thus reserving the more formal process of a canonical trial to more complex cases. This has been of particular advantage in missionary and small dioceses that do not have a strong complement of well-trained canon lawyers. It provides for erecting inter-diocesan tribunals to assist small dioceses. The Congregation has faculties allowing it derogate from the prescription of a crime (statute of limitations) in order to permit justice to be done even for “historical” cases. Moreover, SST has amended canon law in cases of sexual abuse to adjust the age of a minor to 18 to correspond with the civil law in many countries today. It provides a point of reference for bishops and religious superiors to obtain uniform advice about handling priests’ cases. Perhaps most of all, it has designated cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics as graviora delicta: most grave crimes, like the crimes against the sacraments of Eucharist and Penance perennially assigned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This in itself has shown the seriousness with which today’s Church undertakes its responsibility to assist bishops and religious superiors to prevent these crimes from happening in the future, and to punish them when they happen. Here is a legacy of Pope Benedict that greatly facilitates the work of the Congregation which I now have the privilege to lead, to the benefit of the entire Church.

After the Dallas Charter in 2002, I was appointed (at the time as Archbishop of San Francisco) to a team of four bishops to seek approval of the Holy See for the “Essential Norms” that the American Bishops developed to allow us to deal with abuse questions. Because these norms intersected with existing canon law, they required approval before being implemented as particular law for our country. Under the chairmanship of Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and currently President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, our team worked with Vatican canonical experts at several meetings. We found in Cardinal Ratzinger, and in the experts he assigned to meet with us, a sympathetic understanding of the problems we faced as American bishops. Largely through his guidance we were able to bring our work to a successful conclusion.

The Times editorial wonders “how Vatican officials did not draw the lessons of the grueling scandal in the United States, where more than 700 priests were dismissed over a three-year period.” I can assure the Times that the Vatican in reality did not then and does not now ignore those lessons. But the Times editorial goes on to show the usual bias: “But then we read Laurie Goodstein’s disturbing report . . .about how the pope, while he was still a cardinal, was personally warned about a priest … But church leaders chose to protect the church instead of children. The report illuminated the kind of behavior the church was willing to excuse to avoid scandal.” Excuse me, editors. Even the Goodstein article, based on “newly unearthed files,” places the words about protecting the Church from scandal on the lips of Archbishop Weakland, not the pope [will Archbishop Weakland ever address this matter? Does he discuss the Murphy case in his biography?]. It is just this kind of anachronistic conflation that I think warrants my accusation that the Times, in rushing to a guilty verdict, lacks fairness in its coverage of Pope Benedict.

As a full-time member of the Roman Curia, the governing structure that carries out the Holy See’s tasks, I do not have time to deal with the Times’s subsequent almost daily articles by Rachel Donadio and others, much less with Maureen Dowd’s silly parroting of Goodstein’s “disturbing report.” But about a man with and for whom I have the privilege of working, as his “successor” Prefect, a pope whose encyclicals on love and hope and economic virtue have both surprised us and made us think, whose weekly catecheses and Holy Week homilies inspire us, and yes, whose pro-active work to help the Church deal effectively with the sexual abuse of minors continues to enable us today, I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on.

The New York Times persists in it's lie

In today's issue of the New York Times Maureen Dowd has an editorial in which she asks, "Should There Be an Inquisition for the Pope?" Apparently the NYT is persisting in its lie, despite the documentary evidence to the contrary on it's own web site.

Her text follows, with my emphases and comments:

It doesn’t seem right that the Catholic Church is spending Holy Week practicing the unholy art of spin [nor is it right that she persists in an unjust, unfounded, biased attack during Holy Week].

Complete with crown-of-thorns imagery, the church has started an Easter public relations blitz defending a pope who went along with the perverse culture of protecting molesters and the church’s reputation rather than abused — and sometimes disabled and disadvantaged — children [Facts? What facts? Dowd and company are so caught up in their attack against the Church that they refuse to accept the documented fact that their version of the story - with their oft-used template - simply is false and made up. If the facts don't fit the template they are simply ignored altogether and false "facts" touted across the globe].

The church gave up its credibility for Lent. Holy Thursday and Good Friday are now becoming Cover-Up Thursday and Blame-Others Friday [What utter rubbish! Nothing could be further from the truth! Perhaps Dowd hasn't yet read the Holy Father's letter to the Irish. Or Archbishop Listecki's homily. Or the recent annual audit. And we're supposed to accept Dowd and the New York Times as respected journalists?].

This week of special confessions and penance services is unfolding as the pope resists pressure from Catholics around the globe for his own confession and penance about the cascade of child sexual abuse cases that were ignored, even by a German diocese and Vatican office he ran [He has nothing to confess, as is clearly documented. If Dowd would simply do her journalistic homework without her biased and bigotted template she would see this].

If church fund-raising and contributions dry up, Benedict’s P.R. handlers may yet have to stage a photo-op where he steps out of the priest’s side of the confessional and enters the side where the rest of his fallible flock goes [Perhaps Dowd should do the same for the sins against the eighth commandment. I'm not sure if she's Catholic; it's just a suggestion].

Or maybe 30-second spots defending the pope with Benedict’s voice intoning at the end: “I am infallible, and I approve this message.” [Now she's simply being rather infantile and demonstrates she has no real understanding of papal infallibility.]

Canon 1404 states that “The First See is judged by no one.” But Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as my dad used to say. Somebody has to tell the First See when it’s blind — and mute — to deaf children in America and Italy. [And someone should tell Dowd the same. Oh, wait: we have been, but she refuses to listen. Besides, as Lawrence G. Wrenn notes in the New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, "While not a statement about impeccability or inerrancy, canon 1404 is a statement about the judicial immunity of the First See. It says that the Holy Father cannot be tried by a secular or religious court and, perhaps particularly, given the history of the question, a general council" (p. 1618). Even international law recogizes this fact because the Pope is a Head of State. Again, Dowd needs to do her journalistic homework.]

The Vatican is surprised to find itself in this sort of trouble [No, I don't think it is. Even if there are, since Dowd clearly isn't listening to them, how would she know?]. Officials there could have easily known what was going on all along; archbishops visiting Rome gossip like a sewing circle. The cynical Vatican just didn’t want to deal with it [Whose the cynical one here? A sewing circle? I think Dowd is the cynical one].

And now the church continues to hide behind its mystique. Putting down the catechism, it picked up the Washington P.R. handbook for political sins.

First: Declare any new revelation old and unimportant [Umm...that has not been done. The NYT and company continues to insist the Church is hiding something because what they are looking for hasn't been revealed. It hasn't been revealed because there is nothing true to the allegations of the NYT. It is simply a lie. What simply isn't, cannot be produced. It is time to stop living in their own imaginary world and for the NYT to accept reality].

At Palm Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York bemoaned that the “recent tidal wave of headlines about abuse of minors by some few priests, this time in Ireland, Germany, and a re-run of an old story from Wisconsin, has knocked us to our knees once again.”

A few priests? [Yes, Ms. Dowd. Look at the evidence. Look at the numbers. Do a bit of basic math.] At this point, it feels like an international battalion.

A re-run of an old story? So sorry to remind you, Archbishop, that one priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, who showed no remorse and suffered no punishment from “Rottweiler” Ratzinger, abused as many as 200 deaf children in Wisconsin [As true as this is, it is - in point of fact - an old story, more than ten years old. And it was covered in the press at the time].

Archbishop Dolan compared the pope to Jesus, saying he was “now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar,” and “being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.” [That seems a fair comparison to me, given the mockery and the lies being hurled at him by Dowd and others.]

Second: Blame somebody else — even if it’s this pope’s popular predecessor, on the fast track to sainthood [The evidence is available for all to see who was responsible in the Murphy case].

Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn defended Pope Benedict this week, saying that then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s attempt in 1995 to investigate the former archbishop of Vienna for allegedly molesting youths in a monastery was barred by advisers close to Pope John Paul II [And if that is true, how is Pope Benedict responsible for that? Now she's simply stretching for filler space].

Third: Say black is white.

In his blog, Archbishop Dolan blasted church critics while stating: “The Church needs criticism; we want it; we welcome it; we do a good bit of it ourselves,” adding: “We do not expect any special treatment. ...so bring it on.” Right [We want sincere and honest criticism, which Dowd refuses to give. Instead she resorts to mockery and cynicism.]

Fourth: Demonize gays, as Karl Rove did in 2004.

In an ad in The Times on Tuesday, Bill Donohue, the Catholic League president, offered this illumination: “The Times continues to editorialize about the ‘pedophilia crisis,’ when all along it’s been a homosexual crisis. Eighty percent of the victims of priestly sexual abuse are male and most of them are post-pubescent. While homosexuality does not cause predatory behavior, and most gay priests are not molesters, most of the molesters have been gay.” [Two things here: First, Bill Donohue is not the official spokesman for the Church. Second, he hasn't demonized gays, but has pointed out a simple fact. If Dowd would read his quotation which she offers us she would see this. But, wait. What Donohue said doesn't fit her template so she has to either ignore his words and force them into her template; neither of which work very well for her.]

Donohue is still talking about the problem as an indiscretion rather than a crime [I'm not sure how she can draw that conclusion; Donohue says no such thing]. If it mostly involves men and boys, that’s partly because priests for many years had unquestioned access to boys [and what of the same problem in the rest of society?].

Fifth: Blame the victims.

“Fr. Lawrence Murphy apparently began his predatory behavior in Wisconsin in the 1950s,” Donohue protested, “yet the victims’ families never contacted the police until the mid-1970s.” [Again, he's simply stating the facts; he is not blaming the victims.]

Sixth: Throw gorilla dust.

Donohue asserts that “the common response of all organizations, secular as well as religious,” to abuse cases “was to access therapy and reinstate the patient.” Really? Where in heaven’s name does that information come from? It’s absurd. [It's not absurd; it is the reality. In many cases in other institutions it is still the reality. Consult the facts, Ms. Dowd.]

And finally, seventh: Use the Cheney omnipotence defense, most famously employed in the Valerie Plame case. Vice President Cheney claimed that his lofty position meant that the very act of spilling a secret, even with dastardly intent, declassified it [No such claim has been made].

Vatican lawyers will argue in negligence cases brought by abuse victims that the pope has immunity as a head of state [which he does by international law] and that bishops who allowed an abuse culture, endlessly recirculating like dirty fountain water, were not Vatican employees [they aren't].

Maybe they worked for Enron.

Perhaps in the next few days Ms. Dowd could make these of Pontius Pilate her own: "What is truth" (John 18:38). We know the truth in these matters; Ms. Dowd, on the other hand, is quite content to ignore it.

Archbiship Listecki clarifies where mistakes were made

During his homily at the Chrism, His Excellency the Most Reverend Jerome Listecki, Archbishop of Milwaukee, stated that in the case of Lawrence Murphy mistakes were not made in Rome by then-Cardinal Ratzinger - as is clearly obvious from the evidence and documents readily available - but in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee itself:

Mistakes were made in the Lawrence Murphy case. The mistakes were not made in Rome in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The mistakes were made here, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the Church, by civil authorities, by Church officials, and by bishops. And for that, I beg your forgiveness in the name of the Church and in the name of this Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Rocco has more information at Whispers in the Loggia.

On the priestly ministry

Today, His Excellency the Most Reverend Mauro Piacenza, Titular Archbishop of Vittoriana and Secretary of the Congregation for Clergy, sent a letter to every priest in which he reflected on these words from the Rite of Ordination of Priests:

The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God; Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.
The text of his letter follows, with my emphases.

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood,

In these paschal days we will live the Mystery of our Redemption, and we will carry out actions and speak words that are truly found at the heart of our priestly existence. On Good Friday we will live that humble and prophetic action of prostration, just as we did on the day of our Ordination; in this way during the Sacred Triduum we will have the opportunity to welcome the gifts renewed by grace, begging the Divine Providence to be able to offer plentiful fruit for ourselves and for the Salvation of the world.

As the formula for the anointing with Chrism reminds us, we are clothed with the very power of Christ, with that potestas with which the Father consecrated His only Son in the Holy Spirit, and which has been given to us precisely to sanctify His People and to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Any contrary use of the sacramental power received in Sacred Order is illegitimate and dangerous, both for our salvation and for the good of the Church herself. As if calling to mind the absolute disproportion between the greatness of the Mystery and the smallness of the man, it is not by chance that the rite recalls: “Know what you are doing”. Although we will never be able to fully appreciate the great Mystery which has been placed in our hands, we are nevertheless called to a continuous striving after moral perfection, so as to live “the Mystery which is placed in our hands” to be “imitators of Christ”.

This is the extraordinary and undimmed daily newness of the Priesthood: the Mystery is placed in our hands! The Lord of time and history, he who made all that exists, from whom we come and to whom we return, the Author of life, makes some of his poor creatures participants in his own saving power, entrusting himself, like a defenceless sacrificial lamb, completely into their hands. May this entrustment never become a betrayal! May he keep awake the consciousness of the embrace of the predilection, of which we are the objects, and may he also lead us, especially in the time of testing, to repeat our total “yes”: a “yes” conscious of its own limits, but not held back by them; a “yes” free from all inferiority complexes; a “yes” conscious of history, but never intimidated in the face of it; “yes” which, beginning from that spoken by the Blessed Virgin Mary in the house of Nazareth has travelled down the centuries to become actual in the Saints and in the Today of our Christian existence.

A Priest aware of what he does, conforming his life to Christ, overcomes the world! This is the victory which is the real “proof” of the Resurrection of Christ.

Please, dear brothers and sisters, in these solemn days, pray for your priests, that we might model our lives ever more closely to that of Jesus Christ.

Beware

The Nazareth Priest reminds us that today is known as Spy Wednesday. Go have a read.

30 March 2010

A new media low

MSNBC has libelled Pope Benedict XVI. Matthew Achbold has the information, courtesy of the Catholic League.

Archbishop Dolan on the NYT

His Excellency the Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has a post on his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age, about the recent New York Times attacks on the Holy Father.

Here follows his text with my emphases and comments:

In some ways, Holy Week is hardly the time I would choose to make the following comments. Still, the matter is so pressing that I feel compelled to address it.

Last week I asked for some fairness in the seemingly unappeasable criticism of the Church over the catastrophe of clergy sexual abuse.

Not to my surprise, if anything, it has only gotten worse, especially in the interminable headlines about the Pope himself.

Last fall I wrote in this blog about anti-Catholicism in the New York Times and other media, providing a list of contemporary examples. A few tried to slap me back into place, suggesting that I stupidly believed the Church to be immune from scrutiny.

Baloney! The Church needs criticism; we want it; we welcome it; we do a good bit of it ourselves; we do not expect any special treatment…so bring it on [nobody says it quite like Dolan].

All we ask is that it be fair and accurate [but even that seems to be asking too much].

The reporting on Pope Benedict XVI has not been so.

The first reports were about a shameful priest in Germany three decades ago. I weighed in on that coverage last week.

The second story, sprayed all over the New York Times this week, and predictably copied by the world’s press, is groundless. (I am grateful for Father Raymond de Souza’s excellent piece posted at National Review Online which goes through the story point by point.)

The report accuses Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of preventing a priest whose sins and crimes can only be described as diabolical, one Lawrence Murphy, from facing proper penalties in the Church for the serial abuse of deaf minors.

While the report on the nauseating abuse is bitterly true, the insinuation against Cardinal Ratzinger is not, and gives every indication of being part of a well-oiled campaign against Pope Benedict.

Here’s a summary of the key points:

• The New York Times relied on tort lawyers who currently have civil suits pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Holy See, who are aggressively supporting the radical measure right now before the Wisconsin legislature to abrogate the statute of limitations on civil cases of abuse, and who have high financial interest in the matter being reported. Hardly an impartial source…

• The documentation that allegedly supports these sensational charges is published on the website of the New York Times; rather than confirming their theory, the documents instead show that there is no evidence at all that Cardinal Ratzinger ever blocked any decision about Murphy. Even a New York Times columnist, Ross Douthat, calls this charge “unfair” in his column of March 29.

• We also find on the website a detailed timeline of all the sickening information about Murphy, data not “uncovered” by any reporter but freely released by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee a number of years back, and thoroughly covered at that time by the local media in Milwaukee. One wonders why this story, quite exhaustively reported in the past, rose again this very week [I suspect we already know the answer to that]. It is hardly “news.” One might therefore ask: Why is this news now? The only reason it is news at all is because of the implication that Cardinal Ratzinger was involved. Yet the documentation does not support that charge, and thus they should have no place in a putatively respectable newspaper.

Nothing in this non-news merits the tsunami of headlines, stories, and diatribes against the Church and this Pope that we have endured this past week.

There was legitimate news last week that should have received much more attention than it did. It was the annual independent audit report on American dioceses on compliance with our own tough Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. For those who profess to be so interested in the welfare of the young, the news should have been trumpeted as stunning progress [I've been saying something very similar]. Catholics deeply disturbed by lurid tales of wicked behavior twenty or thirty years ago might have been surprised to discover:

• The Church has had in place strict protocols and preventative measures to stop this from happening again. Last week’s audit reported that six million children in our schools and religious education programs underwent safe environment training – that’s 96% of the children in our care. Background evaluations were completed on two million priests, deacons, seminarians, educators, employees and volunteers.

• Last week’s audit reported that there were six (6) credible allegations of sexual abuse of current minors for the entire year, in a Church of more than 60 million members. Though one would be too many, the percent is dramatically lower than experts tell us is the sad national average, and is only known because the Church is transparent in reporting.

In the spirit of no good deed goes unpunished, the false allegations of last week have obscured the good work that the Cardinal Ratzinger did at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and as Pope. Beginning in 2001, as ably described by respected journalist John Allen, and also mentioned recently by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Cardinal Ratzinger brought about a profound change in how sexual abuse cases were handled. The details are many, but the effect was clear. It became easier to remove priests who have committed these crimes from ministry very quickly, and often, dismissed from the priesthood altogether. Since his election, Pope Benedict has repeatedly demonstrated that even high-ranking priests are to be held accountable, and has not minced words about the failures of his brother bishops – both here in the United States and just last week, in his letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

This failure to report in similar detail today’s successes and yesterday’s failures suggests the bias I wrote about last fall. This is also about simply telling the truth, or more to the point, about peddling falsehoods to destroy the Holy Father’s good name. It needs to be called what it is – scandalous.

Let me be upfront: I confess a bias in favor of the Church and her Pope.

I only wish some others would admit a bias on the other side.

A blessed Holy Week.

The end of fasting?of

The question was recently raised on my Facebook page about when the Lenten fast ends.

Technically, the Lenten fast ends just before the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper when the sacred Triduum begins and at which time the Easter fast begins.

In Paschale solemnitatis, the circular letter concerning the preparation and celebration of the Easter feasts, Mother Church reminds us of the following:

The Easter fast is sacred on the first two days of the Triduum, in which, according to ancient tradition, the Church fasts "becasue the Spouse has been taken away." Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence; it is also recommended that Holy Saturday be so observed, so that the Church, with uplifted and welcoming heart, be ready to celebrate the joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection (39).

Just as we must avoid the temptation to celebrate Christmas during Advent, we must avoid the temptation to celebrate Easter before it has arrived. We are Catholic, afterall.

A question from a reader

Reader Melody wrote in with the following question:

I love to give our parish priests gifts for holidays and holy days the same way I would give tokens of affections to all members of my family. They are my spiritual fathers and also brothers in Christ so we never forget them. The difficulty is knowing what to get for a priest one does not know well or one who has very few known needs or hobbies/known interests. Spiritual bouquets and Masses are always given but I'm looking for ideas to be given along with the spiritual gifts. Christmas and Easter (for example) are great times to do a little extra pampering. What can priests use on a regular basis that they must purchase themselves? We've given books but acknowledge we may be duplicating or giving something of no interest. Gift certificates? Stationary? Subscriptions? Can you help us out?

Certainly; I'm happy to help.

A couple of years ago I put such a list together around Christmas time and I've updated it a bit since then. Although the list was originally intended for Christmas, I think it would work for most any occasion.

Further exposing the lie of the New York Times

This morning Fr. John Zuhlsdorf directs out attention to a piece in the Catholic Anchor written by Fr. Thomas Brundage, the canon lawyer who presided over the canonical trial of Fr. Lawrence Murphy.

You will recall that the New York Times has accused Pope Benedict XVI of approving the transfer of Fr. Murphy after he was accused of sexually abusing nearly 2oo boys, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Fr. Brundage now is telling his side of the story and provides additional proof of the lie of the New York Times. His text follows, with my emphases and comments:
To provide context to this article, I was the Judicial Vicar for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee from 1995-2003. During those years, I presided over four canonical criminal cases, one of which involved Father Lawrence Murphy. Two of the four men died during the process. God alone will judge these men.

To put some parameters on the following remarks, I am writing this article with the express knowledge and consent of Archbishop Roger Schwietz, OMI, the Archbishop of Anchorage, where I currently serve. Archbishop Schwietz is also the publisher of the Catholic Anchor newspaper.

I will limit my comments, because of judicial oaths I have taken as a canon lawyer and as an ecclesiastical judge. However, since my name and comments in the matter of the Father Murphy case have been liberally and often inaccurately quoted in the New York Times and in more than 100 other newspapers and on-line periodicals, I feel a freedom to tell part of the story of Father Murphy’s trial from ground zero.

As I have found that the reporting on this issue has been inaccurate and poor in terms of the facts [surprise, surprise], I am also writing out of a sense of duty to the truth.

The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself [how's that for thorough research and fact gathering? If a history major attempted the same for a thesis the professor would certainly reject it out of hand].

My intent in the following paragraphs is to accomplish the following:

To tell the back-story of what actually happened in the Father Murphy case on the local level;

To outline the sloppy and inaccurate reporting on the Father Murphy case by the New York Times and other media outlets;

To assert that Pope Benedict XVI has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured;

To set the record straight with regards to the efforts made by the church to heal the wounds caused by clergy sexual misconduct. The Catholic Church is probably the safest place for children at this point in history.

Before proceeding, it is important to point out the scourge that child sexual abuse has been — not only for the church but for society as well. Few actions can distort a child’s life more than sexual abuse. It is a form of emotional and spiritual homicide and it starts a trajectory toward a skewed sense of sexuality. When committed by a person in authority, it creates a distrust of almost anyone, anywhere.
As a volunteer prison chaplain in Alaska, I have found a corollary between those who have been incarcerated for child sexual abuse and the priests who have committed such grievous actions. They tend to be very smart and manipulative. They tend to be well liked and charming. They tend to have one aim in life — to satisfy their hunger. Most are highly narcissistic and do not see the harm that they have caused. They view the children they have abused not as people but as objects. They rarely show remorse and moreover, sometimes portray themselves as the victims. They are, in short, dangerous people and should never be trusted again. Most will recommit their crimes if given a chance.

As for the numerous reports about the case of Father Murphy, the back-story has not been reported as of yet.

In 1996, I was introduced to the story of Father Murphy, formerly the principal of St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee. It had been common knowledge for decades that during Father Murphy’s tenure at the school (1950-1974) there had been a scandal at St. John’s involving him and some deaf children. The details, however, were sketchy at best.

Courageous advocacy on behalf of the victims (and often their wives), led the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to revisit the matter in 1996. In internal discussions of the curia for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, it became obvious that we needed to take strong and swift action with regard to the wrongs of several decades ago. With the consent of then-Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland, we began an investigation into the allegations of child sexual abuse as well as the violation of the crime of solicitation within the confessional by Father Murphy.

We proceeded to start a trial against Father Murphy. I was the presiding judge in this matter and informed Father Murphy that criminal charges were going to be levied against him with regard to child sexual abuse and solicitation in the confessional.

In my interactions with Father Murphy, I got the impression I was dealing with a man who simply did not get it. He was defensive and threatening.

Between 1996 and August, 1998, I interviewed, with the help of a qualified interpreter, about a dozen victims of Father Murphy. These were gut-wrenching interviews. In one instance the victim had become a perpetrator himself and had served time in prison for his crimes. I realized that this disease is virulent and was easily transmitted to others. I heard stories of distorted lives, sexualities diminished or expunged. These were the darkest days of my own priesthood, having been ordained less than 10 years at the time. Grace-filled spiritual direction has been a Godsend.

I also met with a community board of deaf Catholics. They insisted that Father Murphy should be removed from the priesthood and highly important to them was their request that he be buried not as a priest but as a layperson. I indicated that a judge, I could not guarantee the first request and could only make a recommendation to the latter request.

In the summer of 1998, I ordered Father Murphy to be present at a deposition at the chancery in Milwaukee. I received, soon after, a letter from his doctor that he was in frail health and could travel not more than 20 miles (Boulder Junction to Milwaukee would be about 276 miles). A week later, Father Murphy died of natural causes in a location about 100 miles from his home.

With regard to the inaccurate reporting on behalf of the New York Times, the Associated Press, and those that utilized these resources, first of all, 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. In an October 31, 1997 handwritten document, I am quoted as saying ‘odds are that this situation may very well be the most horrendous, number wise, and especially because these are physically challenged , vulnerable people. “ Also quoted is this: “Children were approached within the confessional where the question of circumcision began the solicitation.”

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. As a college freshman at the Marquette University School of Journalism, we were told to check, recheck, and triple check our quotes if necessary. 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.

Additionally, in the documentation in a letter from Archbishop Weakland to then-secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone on August 19, 1998, Archbishop Weakland stated that he had instructed me to abate the proceedings against Father Murphy. Father Murphy, however, died two days later and the fact is that on the day that Father Murphy died, he was still the defendant in a church criminal trial. No one seems to be aware of this. Had I been asked to abate this trial, I most certainly would have insisted that an appeal be made to the supreme court of the church, or Pope John Paul II if necessary. That process would have taken months if not longer.

Second, with regard to the role of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), in this matter, I have no reason to believe that he was involved at all. Placing this matter at his doorstep is a huge leap of logic and information.

Third, 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.

Fourth, 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.

Finally, over the last 25 years, vigorous action has taken place within the church to avoid harm to children. Potential seminarians receive extensive sexual-psychological evaluation prior to admission. Virtually all seminaries concentrate their efforts on the safe environment for children. There have been very few cases of recent sexual abuse of children by clergy during the last decade or more.

Catholic dioceses all across the country have taken extraordinary steps to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. As one example, which is by no means unique, is in the Archdiocese of Anchorage, where I currently work. Here, virtually every public bathroom in parishes has a sign asking if a person has been abuse by anyone in the church. A phone number is given to report the abuse and almost all church workers in the archdiocese are required to take yearly formation sessions in safe environment classes. I am not sure what more the church can do.

To conclude, the events during the 1960’s and 1970’s of the sexual abuse of minors and solicitation in the confessional by Father Lawrence Murphy are unmitigated and gruesome crimes. On behalf of the church, I am deeply sorry and ashamed for the wrongs that have been done by my brother priests but realize my sorrow is probably of little importance 40 years after the fact. The only thing that we can do at this time is to learn the truth, beg for forgiveness, and do whatever is humanly possible to heal the wounds. The rest, I am grateful, is in God’s hands.

Here are a few related links for your reading:

  • The Anchoress offers her own comments - which are excellently stated - on this article and also traces the history of the media's attempt to debunk Christianity each Holy Week in recent years.
  • Fr. Jay Toborowski speculates as to why the NYT published the story or why Goodstein wrote it.

29 March 2010

The mind of a foe

It isn't very often that I receive a nasty comment or e-mail from a reader. I try to keep these pages peaceful and calm, but it seems when I defend the Holy Father from false accusations - and point readers to those more skilled than I at doing so - it brings out the trolls.

Here is the original text of an e-mail I received this morning, without alterations:
Your web site smells of large ego and lack of insite into the appalling state of the Church today.

I pray everyone involved in the current sex issue is brought to justice including the Pope who is as guilty as any of the Bishops he's accepted resignation from!!!

I speak as a normal human being who is disgusted by the church cover up.

Jesus said suffer little children to come unto me....then we have this disgusting scenario....get a life and get real!!!!

I hope we are witnessing the final stages of Roman catholism.
Now, I have never denied being a proud and selfish man; while I am not as arrogant as others, I am certain not as humble as perhaps I should be. Every day I ask from the Lord the grace to be more charitable, more giving and less concerned with myself. At these words I take no offense, for the writer speaks true, but the truth of his or her comments end here.

The e-mail contained neither a greeting nor a salutation, which is not quite the respectable way to address an e-mail; the only way I know the commenter's name is that it is included in the sent line. I do not believe I know this person and there is no reason to make his or her identity known here. I bring this up only to demonstrate the thought of those who seek to destroy Pope Benedict XVI.

We might well ask: Who is the more egotistical, the one who makes facts known or the one who ignores them to suit his or her own agenda? Clearly, it is the second and so of this first charge it might be said I am not guilty (at least as far as the commenter's reason for insinuating I have a large ego).

With the commenter, I, too, hope that those involved in sexual abuse will be brought to justice. However, I also desire that those who are innocent of false charges be brought to justice. It is a matter of the truth.

Numerous writers have demonstrated clearly that Pope Benedict XVI is plainly innocent of the charges the New York Times has levelled against him and they have used the New York Times' very own documents made available on its web site.

It takes a very arrogant person indeed to ignore such facts.

I, too, am disgusted at the cover-up that certain Churchmen have encouraged, fostered and defended. However, Pope Benedict XVI has done nothing to cover-up such horrendous news, as a simple, honest and sincere review of the documents and his recent Letter to the faithful of Ireland clearly shows. He has even called for those responsible to be brought before tribunals.

I have nothing to say the childish words by which the commenter tells me to "get a life and get real," because I am not quite sure what he or she means, except to say that he or she should take an honest look at the documents.

I can, however, assure our commenter that we are not witnessing the end of the Church but a purification of her members.

Please, dear readers, pray for Pope Benedict XVI. Pray for those who have suffered sexual abuse by a cleric. Pray for those clerics guilty of such abuse. Pray for those wrongly accused of such abuse. Pray for those who wish to destroy the Church. Pray for those who wish to honestly make known what has tragically occurred so as to help purify the Church. Above all, pray.

Let us pray for the Pope

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf reminds us of the words of Pope Benedict XVI during the homily at his inaugural Mass as Bishop of Rome:

My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may
learn to love the Lord more and more.

Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other
words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together.

Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.

Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will
learn to carry one another.

Yes, let us pray for the Pope.

Weigel on the scandal

George Weigel has an excellent piece concerning the way the media is construing the sexual abuse scandal throughout the world.

His text follows, with my emphases and comments:

The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000. According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).

Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog’s behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down—and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy. For if the Church is a global criminal conspiracy of sexual abusers and their protectors, then the Catholic Church has no claim to a place at the table of public moral argument [he has summarized their goal quite well].

The Church itself is in some measure responsible for this. Reprehensible patterns of clerical sexual abuse and misgovernance by the Church’s bishops came to glaring light in the U.S. in 2002; worse patterns of corruption have been recently revealed in Ireland. Clericalism, cowardice, fideism about psychotherapy’s ability to “fix” sexual predators—all played their roles in the recycling of abusers into ministry and in the failure of bishops to come to grips with a massive breakdown of conviction and discipline in the post-Vatican II years. For the Church’s sexual abuse crisis has always been that: a crisis of fidelity. Priests who live the noble promises of their ordination are not sexual abusers; bishops who take their custody of the Lord’s flock seriously protect the young, and recognize that a man’s acts can so disfigure his priesthood that he must be removed from public ministry or from the clerical state. That the Catholic Church was slow to recognize the scandal of sexual abuse within the household of faith, and the failures of governance that led to the scandal being horribly mishandled, has been frankly admitted—by the bishops of the United States in 2002, and by Pope Benedict XVI in his recent letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland. In recent years, though, no other similarly situated institution has been so transparent about its failures, and none has done as much to clean house. It took too long to get there, to be sure; but we are there.

These facts have not sunk in, however, for either the attentive public or the mass public. They do not fit the conventional story line. Moreover, they impede the advance of the larger agenda that some are clearly pursuing in these controversies. For the crisis of sexual abuse and episcopal malfeasance has been seized upon by the Church’s enemies to cripple it, morally and financially, and to cripple its leaders. That was the subtext in Boston in 2002 (where the effort was aided by Catholics who want to turn Catholicism into high-church Congregationalism, preferably with themselves in charge). And that is what has happened in recent weeks, as a global media attack has swirled around Pope Benedict XVI, following the revelation of odious abuse cases throughout Europe. In his native Germany, Der Spiegel has called for the pope’s resignation; similar cries for papal blood have been raised in Ireland, a once-Catholic country now home to the most aggressively secularist press in Europe.

But it was the New York Times’ front page of March 25 that demonstrated just how low those determined to bring the Church down were prepared to go.

Rembert Weakland is the emeritus archbishop of Milwaukee, notorious for having paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to satisfy the demands of his former male lover. Jeff Anderson is a Minnesota-based attorney who has made a substantial amount of money out of sex abuse “settlements,” and who is party to ongoing litigation intended to bring the resources of the Vatican within the reach of contingency-fee lawyers in the United States. Yet these two utterly implausible—and, in any serious journalistic sense, disqualified—sources were those the Times cited in a story claiming that, as cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF], Joseph Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, had prevented sanctions against Father Lawrence Murphy, a diabolical Milwaukee priest who, decades before, had abused some 200 deaf children in his pastoral care. This was simply not true, as the legal papers from the Murphy case the Times provided on its Web site demonstrated (see here for a demolition of the Times’ case based on the documentary evidence it made available). The facts, alas, seem to be of little interest to those whose primary concern is to nail down the narrative of global Catholic criminality, centered in the Vatican.

The Times’ descent into tabloid sourcing and innuendo was even more offensive because of recent hard news developments that underscore Pope Benedict’s determination to root out what he once described as the “filth” in the Church. There was, for example, the pope’s March 20 letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland, which was unsparing in its condemnation of clerical sexual offenders (“. . . you betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals”) and unprecedented in its critique of malfeasant bishops (“grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred . . . [which have] undermined your credibility and effectiveness”). Moreover, the pope mandated an Apostolic Visitation of Irish dioceses, seminaries, and religious congregations—a clear indication that dramatic leadership change in Ireland is coming. In framing his letter to Ireland so vigorously, Benedict XVI succeeded in overcoming the institutional Vatican preference for the subjunctive in dealing with situations like this, and the pleas of Irish bishops that he cut them some slack, given the intense pressures they were under at home. That the pope rejected both curial and Irish opposition to his lowering the boom ought to have made clear that Benedict XVI is determined to deal with the problem of sexual abuse and episcopal misgovernance in the strongest terms. But for those obsessing over whether a pope had finally “apologized” for something (as if John Paul II had not spent a decade and a half “cleansing the Church’s historical conscience,” as he put it), these unmistakable signals were lost.

Then there was the March 25 letter from the leadership of the Legionaries of Christ to Legionary priests and seminarians and the Legion-affiliated movement, Regnum Christi. The letter disavowed the Legion’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel, as a model for the future, in light of revelations that Maciel had deceived popes, bishops, laity, and his brother Legionaries by living a duplicitous double life that included fathering several children, sexually abusing seminarians, violating the sacrament of penance, and misappropriating funds. It was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger who, as prefect CDF, was determined to discover the truth about Maciel; it was Pope Benedict XVI who put Maciel under virtual ecclesiastical house arrest during his last years, and who then ordered an Apostolic Visitation of the Legion of Christ that is currently being concluded: hardly the acts of a man at the center of a conspiracy of silence and cover-up.

While the Vatican has been far quicker in its recent response to irresponsible media reports and attacks, it could still do better. A documented chronology how the archdiocese of Munich-Freising handled the case of an abusing priest who had been brought to Munich for therapy while Ratzinger was archbishop would help buttress the flat denials, by both the Vatican and the archdiocese, that Ratzinger knowingly reassigned a known abuser to pastoral work—another charge on which the Times and others have been chewing. More and clearer explanations of how the canonical procedures put into place at CDF several years ago have accelerated, not impeded, the Church’s disciplining of abusive clergy would also be useful.

So, of course, would elementary fairness from the global media. That seems unlikely to come from those reporters and editors at the New York Times who have abandoned any pretence of maintaining journalistic standards. But it ought not be beyond the capacity of other media outlets to understand that much of the Times’ recent reporting on the Church has been gravely distorted, and to treat it accordingly.

A book well worth the read

Some weeks ago I picked up another gem from the treasure trove that is Ignatius Press: Simon, Called Peter: In the Company of a Man in Search for God by Mauro-Giuseppi Lepori, O.Cist.


The Abbot of the Swiss abbey of Hauterive provides us with the rich fruit of his reflections on the person of Saint Peter, whom he has found to be "a companion to walk ahead of me" because it is Peter who "always leads us to Jesus, he unites us to Jesus, because he never permitted his own fragility to separate his heart from Christ" (15).


The book is composed of fifteen short chapters, each one a reflection on the words of Saint Peter, on what Jesus says to Peter, or, in the case of chapter fourteen, an action of Peter. Taking three chapters a day, this book would be a excellent book for a priest to use on a private retreat.


Each chapter follows from the previous one and leads you into the next, providing an intimate portrait of Peter, in such a way that putting the down is difficult, unless for a moments of prayer and additional reflection.


Consider this passage from chapter thirteen on the passage, "I do not know the man" (Matthew 26:72):
Now Peter would have really given his life for the Lord. Now he understood that he was willing to lose everything for him. And in that endless instant - which will never end - Simon asked Jesus, with his eyes, if he could die for him. And in that endless instant, the Lord answered with his eyes, Not now! Later! And in that endless instant, Peter did not object; he accepted the gift of powerlessness, the gift of being unable to do anything, the gift of the failure of his will, the grace of the powerlessness of his love. Simon, called Peter, accepted the wound of seeing Jesus with no one to love him and felt the bitterness well up inside of him (105-106).

If you are looking for a readable book to help you read and understand the Scriptures better, to help you pray and to deepen your faith, this is the book for you. I highly recommend it. I suspect it will be one that I read on a regular basis.


You can even download an E-Book or an audio book.

Update: Carl Olson has posted the introduction to the book at the Ignatius Scoop.

28 March 2010

Around the blogosphere

From the Deacon's Bench, comes this three-year old article from the Associated Press around sexual abuse in the public school system that the New Year Times won't tell you about.

At St. Paul's Corner, the Daughters have posted a few photographs from Palm Sunday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.

His Hermenueticalness points us to an excellent and thorough article by Andrew Brown in which he asks why journalists refuse to treat the Pope fairly.

Over at Mulier Fortis, Mac directs to a video that shows how to make a cross from palms brought home today from church.

de Souza takes on the NYT in defense of Pope

Father Raymond J. de Souza takes on the New York Times over their shameful and false claims concerning Pope Benedict XVI in his "A Response to the New York Times." His text follows, with my emphases:
The New York Times on March 25 accused Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, of intervening to prevent a priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, from facing penalties for cases of sexual abuse of minors.

The story is false. It is unsupported by its own documentation. Indeed, it gives every indication of being part of a coordinated campaign against Pope Benedict, rather than responsible journalism.

Before addressing the false substance of the story, the following circumstances are worthy of note:

• The New York Times story had two sources. First, lawyers who currently have a civil suit pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. One of the lawyers, Jeffrey Anderson, also has cases in the United States Supreme Court pending against the Holy See. He has a direct financial interest in the matter being reported.

• The second source was Archbishop Rembert Weakland, retired archbishop of Milwaukee. He is the most discredited and disgraced bishop in the United States, widely known for mishandling sexual-abuse cases during his tenure, and guilty of using $450,000 of archdiocesan funds to pay hush money to a former homosexual lover who was blackmailing him. Archbishop Weakland had responsibility for the Father Murphy case between 1977 and 1998, when Father Murphy died. He has long been embittered that his maladministration of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee earned him the disfavor of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, long before it was revealed that he had used parishioners’ money to pay off his clandestine lover. He is prima facie not a reliable source.

• Laurie Goodstein, the author of the New York Times story, has a recent history with Archbishop Weakland. Last year, upon the release of the disgraced archbishop’s autobiography, she wrote an unusually sympathetic story that buried all the most serious allegations against him (New York Times, May 14, 2009).

• A demonstration took place in Rome on Friday, coinciding with the publication of the New York Times story. One might ask how American activists would happen to be in Rome distributing the very documents referred to that day in the New York Times. The appearance here is one of a coordinated campaign, rather than disinterested reporting.

It’s possible that bad sources could still provide the truth. But compromised sources scream out for greater scrutiny. Instead of greater scrutiny of the original story, however, news editors the world over simply parroted the New York Times piece. Which leads us the more fundamental problem: The story is not true, according to its own documentation.

The New York Times made available on its own website the supporting documentation for the story. In those documents, Cardinal Ratzinger himself does not take any of the decisions that allegedly frustrated the trial. Letters are addressed to him; responses come from his deputy. Even leaving that aside, though, the gravamen of the charge — that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office impeded some investigation — is proven utterly false.

The documents show that the canonical trial or penal process against Father Murphy was never stopped by anyone. In fact, it was only abandoned days before Father Murphy died. Cardinal Ratzinger never took a decision in the case, according to the documents. His deputy, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, suggested, given that Father Murphy was in failing health and a canonical trial is a complicated matter, that more expeditious means be used to remove him from all ministry.

To repeat: The charge that Cardinal Ratzinger did anything wrong is unsupported by the documentation on which the story was based. He does not appear in the record as taking any decision. His office, in the person of his deputy, Archbishop Bertone, agreed that there should be full canonical trial. When it became apparent that Father Murphy was in failing health, Archbishop Bertone suggested more expeditious means of removing him from any ministry.

Furthermore, under canon law at the time, the principal responsibility for sexual-abuse cases lay with the local bishop. Archbishop Weakland had from 1977 onwards the responsibility of administering penalties to Father Murphy. He did nothing until 1996. It was at that point that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office became involved, and it subsequently did nothing to impede the local process.

The New York Times flatly got the story wrong, according to its own evidence. Readers may want to speculate on why.

Here is the relevant timeline, drawn from the documents the New York Times posted on its own website.

15 May 1974

Abuse by Father Lawrence Murphy is alleged by a former student at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee. In fact, accusations against Father Murphy go back more than a decade.

12 September 1974

Father Murphy is granted an official “temporary sick leave” from St. John’s School for the Deaf. He leaves Milwaukee and moves to northern Wisconsin, in the Diocese of Superior, where he lives in a family home with his mother. He has no official assignment from this point until his death in 1998. He does not return to live in Milwaukee. No canonical penalties are pursued against him.

9 July 1980

Officials in the Diocese of Superior write to officials in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee about what ministry Father Murphy might undertake in Superior. Archbishop Rembert Weakland, archbishop of Milwaukee since 1977, has been consulted and says it would be unwise to have Father Murphy return to ministry with the deaf community. There is no indication that Archbishop Weakland foresees any other measures to be taken in the case.

17 July 1996

More than 20 years after the original abuse allegations, Archbishop Weakland writes to Cardinal Ratzinger, claiming that he has only just discovered that Father Murphy’s sexual abuse involved the sacrament of confession — a still more serious canonical crime. The allegations about the abuse of the sacrament of confession were in the original 1974 allegations. Weakland has been archbishop of Milwaukee by this point for 19 years.

It should be noted that for sexual-abuse charges, Archbishop Weakland could have proceeded against Father Murphy at any time. The matter of solicitation in the sacrament of confession required notifying Rome, but that too could have been done as early as the 1970s.

10 September 1996

Father Murphy is notified that a canonical trial will proceed against him. Until 2001, the local bishop had authority to proceed in such trials. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is now beginning the trial. It is noteworthy that at this point, no reply has been received from Rome indicating that Archbishop Weakland knew he had that authority to proceed.

24 March 1997

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, advises a canonical trial against Father Murphy.

14 May 1997

Archbishop Weakland writes to Archbishop Bertone to say that the penal process against Father Murphy has been launched, and notes that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has advised him to proceed even though the statute of limitations has expired. In fact, there is no statute of limitations for solicitation in the sacrament of confession.

Throughout the rest of 1997 the preparatory phases of penal process or canonical trial is underway. On 5 January 1998 the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee says that an expedited trial should be concluded within a few months.

12 January 1998

Father Murphy, now less than eight months away from his death, appeals to Cardinal Ratzinger that, given his frail health, he be allowed to live out his days in peace.

6 April 1998

Archbishop Bertone, noting the frail health of Father Murphy and that there have been no new charges in almost 25 years, recommends using pastoral measures to ensure Father Murphy has no ministry, but without the full burden of a penal process. It is only a suggestion, as the local bishop retains control.

13 May 1998

The Bishop of Superior, where the process has been transferred to and where Father Murphy has lived since 1974, rejects the suggestion for pastoral measures. Formal pre-trial proceedings begin on 15 May 1998, continuing the process already begun with the notification that had been issued in September 1996.

30 May 1998

Archbishop Weakland, who is in Rome, meets with officials at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, including Archbishop Bertone but not including Cardinal Ratzinger, to discuss the case. The penal process is ongoing. No decision taken to stop it, but given the difficulties of a trial after 25 years, other options are explored that would more quickly remove Father Murphy from ministry.

19 August 1998

Archbishop Weakland writes that he has halted the canonical trial and penal process against Father Murphy and has immediately begun the process to remove him from ministry — a quicker option.

21 August 1998

Father Murphy dies. His family defies the orders of Archbishop Weakland for a discreet funeral.
Is that clear enough now? The Holy Father is innocent of the charges leveled against him.

Capello tip to reader William.

Archbishop Nichols defends Pontiff

His Excellency the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, recently defended His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI against unjust media claims in an editorial to The Times:

The child abuse committed within the Catholic Church and its concealment is deeply shocking and totally unacceptable. I am ashamed of what has happened.

That shame and anger centres on the damage done to every, single abused child. Abuse damages, often irrevocably, a child’s ability to trust, to fashion stable relationships, to sustain self-esteem. When it is inflicted within a religious context, then it damages that child’s relationship to God. It rightly attracts deep anger. Today, not for the first time, I express my unreserved shame and sorrow for what has happened to many in the Church.

My shame is compounded, as is the anger of many, at the mistaken judgements made within the Church: that reassurance from a suspect could be believed; that credible allegations were deemed to be ‘unbelievable’; that the reputation of the Church mattered more than the safeguarding of children. These wrong reactions arise whenever and wherever allegations of abuse are made, whether within a family or a Church. We have to insist on the importance of the Paramouncy principle: the safety of the child comes first because the child is powerless.

There have been serious mistakes made within the Catholic Church. There is some misunderstanding, too.

Within the Catholic Church world-wide, there is a legal structure, its Canon Law. It is the duty of each diocesan bishop to administer that law. Certain serious offences against that law have to be referred to the Holy See to ensure that proper justice is administered. This was again clarified in 2001. Some of these offences are not criminal in public law (such as profanation of the Sacraments), others are (such as offences against children). The role of the Holy See is to offer guidance and advice so as to ensure that proper procedures are followed, including the confidentially needed for the protection of the good name of witnesses and victims, and for the accused until the trial is completed. It is part of a responsible legal procedure.

This ‘secrecy’ is nothing to do with the confidentiality, or ‘seal’ of the Confessional, which is protected for reasons of the rights of conscience.

The relationship between the administration of Church law and the criminal law in any particular state is a point of real difficulty and misunderstanding. Nothing in the requirement of Canon Law prohibits or impedes the reporting of criminal offences to the police. Since 2001, the Holy See, working through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has encouraged that course of action on dioceses which have received evidence of child abuse and which the diocesan authorities are responsible for pursing. This is a diocesan responsibility. The Canonical procedure is best put on hold until the criminal investigation is complete, right through to its due outcome, whatever that may be. This is what is needed. That this is has not consistently happened is deeply regrettable.

In England and Wales, since 2001, the agreed policy followed by the bishops has been to report all allegations of child abuse, no matter from how far back in the past, to the police or social services. By doing so, and by having clear protection procedures in place in every parish as well as independent supervision at diocesan and national level, we have built up good relationships with those authorities in these matters, including, in some areas, cooperation in the supervision of offenders in the community.

What of the role of Pope Benedict? When he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he led important changes made to Church law: the inclusion in canon law of internet offences against children, the extension of child abuse offences to include the sexual abuse of all under 18 years of age, the case by case waiving of the statue of limitation, and the establishment of a fast-track dismissal from the clerical state for offenders. He is not an idle observer. His actions speak as well as his words [those who seek to viciously malign him conveniently ignore all of this].

Every year since 2002 the Catholic Church in England and Wales has made public the exact number of allegations made within the Church, the number reported to the police, the action taken and the outcome. As far as I know, no other body or organisation in this country does this. This is not a cover-up; it is clear and total disclosure. The purpose of our doing so is not to defend the Church. It is to make plain that in the Catholic Church in England and Wales there is no hiding place for those who seek to harm children. On this we are determined.

One more fact. In the last forty years, less than half of 1% of Catholic priests in England and Wales (0.4%) have had allegations of child abuse made against them. Fewer have been found guilty. Do not misunderstand me. One is too many. One broken child is a tragedy and a disgrace. One case alone is enough to justify anger and outrage. The work of safeguarding, needed within any organisation and within our society as a whole, is demanding but absolutely necessary. The Catholic Church here is committed to that work.
Well done, Your Excellency!

A birthday potluck

In honor of my birthday yesterday, my parishioners decided to throw a potluck dinner following Mass this evening.

Three cakes were provided, the two smaller cakes being chocolate and the larger cake being strawberry. They even had Hawaiian flowers placed on top of the large cake:

It was enjoyable evening with good people and tasty food. Thank you, all!

27 March 2010

Homily - 28 March 2010

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (C)
At the Mass

Dear brothers and sisters,

“Lord,” said Peter to Jesus, “I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you” (Luke 22:33). These words are in keeping with Peter’s strong and impulsive personality and he must have spoken them with a clear memory of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem as a great and conquering King.

Jesus has indeed come to Jerusalem, the city of kings, to claim his kingship. He does so not with power and swords, but with humility and mercy. He ascends the throne of his Cross to draw all people to himself (cf. John 12:32).

When the Lord first predicted his Passion to his disciples, it was Peter who took him aside, saying, “God forbid, Lord” (Matthew 16:22)! And Peter heard in answer those dreadful words: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Matthew 16:22-23).

Peter did not understand which war the Lord had come to win and how he intended to achieve his victory. Even so, when he said, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you,” he meant those words with every fiber of his being.

Such strong words to demonstrate his loyalty, his love, and his devotion to Jesus; he would follow him anywhere, and yet but a short time later Peter fell asleep as Jesus agonized in the garden (cf. Luke 22:46).

What happened that he did not keep them, that the words of Jesus, “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me,” rang true (Luke 22:34)? How those words must have stung!

Peter was able to fall asleep at that hour because he did not fully realize what was happening; he did not yet realize that Jesus had to suffer and die so as to enter into his glory (cf. Luke 24:26).

Even so, after Jesus was taken in the garden, Peter followed him still, though “at a distance” (Luke 22:54). Having fallen asleep, Peter was unwilling to abandon Jesus, but he also found he could not keep his earlier words: “I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.” In actuality, he was not prepared for either because he did not follow the words of Jesus when he said, “Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test” (Luke 22:46).

In this moment Peter learned a most valuable and transforming lesson:
The school of faith is not a triumphal march but a journey marked daily by suffering and love, trials and faithfulness. Peter, who promised absolute fidelity, knew the bitterness and humiliation of denial: the arrogant man learns the costly lesson of humility. Peter, too, must learn that he is weak and in need of forgiveness (Pope Benedict XVI, Wednesday General Audience Address, 24 May 2006).
This is the lesson that you and I must also learn again and again.

We, with Peter, must recognize our weakness and our need of forgiveness. With Peter, we, too, must go out and weep bitterly over our infidelity to the Lord even as we beg the grace to remain faithful to him (cf. Luke 22:62).

Let us devote ourselves wholeheartedly to learning this lesson during these sacred days. Let us pray that by experiencing the Passion of the Lord we will know, too, the joy of his forgiveness and the glory of his Resurrection. Let us pray that we, with Peter, having known the bitterness and humiliation of denial, might now remain faithful to the Lord. Amen.

Illinois "Reproductive Health and Access Act" is dead

We have great news today from Eric Schiedler of the ProLife Action League, with my emphases:

For the third year in a row, pro-lifers across the state worked together to defeat the so-called "Reproductive Health and Access Act," dubbed "Illinois FOCA" for its likeness to pernicious the Freedom of Choice Act in the federal Congress.

The Illinois FOCA bill would have:

* FORCED taxpayers to pay for thousands of abortions,
* IMPOSED "condom training" sex ed on our school kids and
* ESTABLISHED Illinois permanently as the abortion capital of the Midwest.

Weeks of phone calls, e-mails, prayer vigils, protests and personal meetings with legislators paid off. Yesterday's deadline for the passage of new legislation came and went without the Illinois FOCA bill ever coming up for a vote.

That means the bill is effectively dead for this year.

What's more, our enemies at Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the ACLU poured everything they had into getting this bill passed. And they failed utterly.

Join me in celebrating this great pro-life victory -- a victory not just for Illinois but for the entire nation.

Congress turned a deaf ear to the people in passing the pro-abortion Obamacare package. But in Illinois legislators listened and decided against this radical abortion expansion bill.

Thanks be to God!

Homily - 28 March 2010

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion(C)
At the Blessing of Palms

Dear brothers and sisters,

With these sacred rites we have entered into the most holy and solemn week of the year as we commemorate the Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The crowds welcomed Jesus into the city of Jerusalem with great joy and gladness, crying out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38). Today we make these cries our own and acknowledge Jesus as our King and pledge our loyalty to him by carrying palms and laying down our cloaks before him.

The palm has been, from ancient days, a symbol of victory and triumph. We carry them today in honor of the Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and to honor him as the conquering King of glory.

We prepare the way before him by spreading our cloaks on the road. We spread not physical cloaks but the cloaks of our pride, that the Lord might trample them and clothe us with himself.

Ages ago, the Psalmist exclaimed: “Lift up, O Gates, your lintels; reach up you ancient portals, that the king of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7)!

Today, my friends, the king of glory, Christ Jesus, has come to enter into our gates, to enter into our hearts. Let us heed the cry of the Psalmist and lift up the gates of our hearts to the Lord this Holy Week. Let us fling wide the doors of our hearts by casting aside our pride that we might know and be known by him who is peace in heaven and glory in the highest. Amen.