Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Randy Sly

3/25/2010 (5 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A Wisconsin priest´s history of molestation lasted almost 25 years, from 1950 to 1974.

Fr. Lawrence Murphy, accused of abusing over 200 boys at a school for the deaf, died in 1998.

Fr. Lawrence Murphy, accused of abusing over 200 boys at a school for the deaf, died in 1998.

Highlights

By Randy Sly

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/25/2010 (5 years ago)

Published in Europe


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Laurie Goodstein, religion writer for the New York Times, wrote an article on Wednesday about the Vatican declining to defrock a priest, Father Lawrence C. Murphy, who molested as many as 200 boys at St. John School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The incidents took place between 1950 and 1974.

The Vatican, which had received the complaint more than twenty years after the fact, responded quickly to the story, particularly due to allegations that top officials intentionally downplayed the case to protect the Church.

The incidents were first uncovered in 1974, at which time Father Murphy was transferred to the Diocese of the Superior in Northern Wisconsin, where he served in various capacities, including a Juvenile Detention Center, until his death in 1998.

Three succeeding Archbishops were made aware of the charges but no reports were ever filed with civil authorities.

After complaints were continuing to be received about Murphy by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee almost twenty years later, Archbishop Rembert Weakland began an investigation in 1993. He brought in a social worker who interviewed the priest and, as Goodstein reported, stated that during four days of interviews the man admitted to the acts of abuse but showed no remorse.

According to documents obtained by the Times, the case was referred to the Vatican three years later.

In 1996, then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, did not respond to two letters from the archbishop concerning the case. Eight months later, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, Ratzinger´s assistant in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), then who contacted the Archdiocese and directed them to hold a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy´s dismissal. Bertone is now a Cardinal and serves as the Vatican Secretary of State.

Bertone later stopped the process after Cardinal Ratzinger received a letter from Father Murphy requesting that the proceedings be halted. The priest stated he had already repented, was in poor health and that the statute of Canonical limitations had passed.

Murphy was never tried. In addition, civil authorities failed to act on any reports they were given by victims.

Reportedly, Vatican officials were repeatedly warned by several American bishops that a failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The New York Times obtained these documents from attorneys Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, who had serves as the lawyers for five men bringing four lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Goodstein indicated that the documents "include letters between bishops and the Vatican, victims´ affidavits, the handwritten notes of an expert on sexual disorders who interviewed Father Murphy and minutes of a final meeting on the case at the Vatican."

The Wisconsin issue has been received particular interest after abuse allegations have surfaced in the Pope´s native Germany.

Vatican spokesman, Father Frederico Lombardi, issued a response to the Times article, providing a context for the actions by the CDF. The response was cited in the Goodstein´s article and appears here in its entirety:

"The tragic case of Father Lawrence Murphy, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, involved particularly vulnerable victims who suffered terribly from what he did. By sexually abusing children who were hearing-impaired, Father Murphy violated the law and, more importantly, the sacred trust that his victims had placed in him."

"During the mid-1970s, some of Father Murphy´s victims reported his abuse to civil authorities, who investigated him at that time; however, according to news reports, that investigation was dropped.

"The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was not informed of the matter until some twenty years later. It has been suggested that a relationship exists between the application of "Crimen sollicitationis" and the non-reporting of child abuse to civil authorities in this case. In fact, there is no such relationship. Indeed, contrary to some statements that have circulated in the press, neither Crimen nor the Code of Canon Law ever prohibited the reporting of child abuse to law enforcement authorities.

"In the late 1990s, after over two decades had passed since the abuse had been reported to diocesan officials and the police, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was presented for the first time with the question of how to treat the Murphy case canonically. The Congregation was informed of the matter because it involved solicitation in the confessional, which is a violation of the Sacrament of Penance. It is important to note that the canonical question presented to the Congregation was unrelated to any potential civil or criminal proceedings against Father Murphy.

"In such cases, the Code of Canon Law does not envision automatic penalties, but recommends that a judgment be made not excluding even the greatest ecclesiastical penalty of dismissal from the clerical state (cf. Canon 1395, no. 2). In light of the facts that Father Murphy was elderly and in very poor health, and that he was living in seclusion and no allegations of abuse had been reported in over 20 years, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested that the Archbishop of Milwaukee give consideration to addressing the situation by, for example, restricting Father Murphy´s public ministry and requiring that Father Murphy accept full responsibility for the gravity of his acts. Father Murphy died approximately four months later, without further incident."

-----
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online. He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2016
Universal:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Evangelization: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More Europe

'If Allah wills it': Algerian man nearly kills then rapes 25-year-old German student Watch

Image of The young woman (not pictured) was sprayed with pepper spray and beaten before being brutally raped in an alley (Wallpaperup).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The 37-year-old Algerian man, identified only as Rheda, was accused of following 25-year-old "Lara," as she walked home from a nightclub at 5 a.m. in Hannover, Germany. He beat her into submission, raped her while shouting "if Allah wills it," then asked if she enjoyed ... continue reading


Pope Francis in hot water? Pontiff receives angry call from German Chancellor Angela Merkel Watch

Image of Pope Francis's remark about Europe and barren women causes Merkel to respond ( L'Osservatore Romano/Getty Images Europe).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In 2014, Pope Francis delivered an address to European Parliament, in which he spoke of Europe's lack of connection among its people. He claimed the loneliness in the country led to an aging impression, like a grandmother who is no longer fertile. Now, two years later, ... continue reading


SCARY POLL: One in four Germans favors shooting illegal immigrants at borders Watch

Image of A political storm brewed last week after Alternative for Germany - or AFD party leader Frauke Petry [not pictured] advocated the right of border police to gun down migrants.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Growing weary of accommodating refugees from such trouble spots as Syria and Iraq, the German people have expressed a rather shocking sentiment in a recent poll. According to the survey - one in four Germans favors shooting illegal immigrants at their nation's ... continue reading


Seven suspects arrested in Spain for smuggling weapons to ISIS - disguised as humanitarian aid Watch

Image of Eighty-two suspects have been arrested in connection with suspected terrorist activities in Spain since the beginning of 2015.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Seven people have been arrested in Spain and North Africa on suspicion of supplying bomb-making equipment to Islamic State leaders in Syria and Iraq - under the phony pretense of sending humanitarian aid. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Six men were arrested ... continue reading


REVEALED: Pope Pius XII's secret efforts to overthrow Hitler Watch

Image of In the late 1990s, debate over whether Pius XII did enough to counter the Nazis reached a high point with the publication of the deeply controversial book,

By Kevin J. Jones, CNA/EWTN News

Pope Pius XII's secret support for the attempted overthrow of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler is the subject of a new book that draws on wartime documents and interviews with the American intelligence agent who wrote them. Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News) - "This ... continue reading


Germany cannot take in 'all the world's needy,' Catholic Church says Watch

Image of The anti-Islamic group Periga has encouraged fellow Europeans to join them in marches for

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Charity has limits, church officials in Germany say. Taking in the majority of the world's Syrian refugees, representatives from the Catholic Church now say that resources are being stretched to the limits, and new refugees must be controlled. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Remains of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Leopold Mandic arrive in Rome for Jubilee of Mercy Watch

Image of The relics of the two saints were welcomed to St. Lawrence with a large celebration and procession into the basilica (CNS/Reuters).

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

The partially incorrupt body of Padre Pio has arrived to Rome for the first time ever alongside that of another friar, St. Leopold Mandic, as a special initiative for the Jubilee of Mercy. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Urns containing the relics of Saint Padre ... continue reading


Seeking reconciliation, Pope Francis, and Russian Orthodox leader to meet in Cuba - for first time, ever Watch

Image of The meeting comes after years and decades of previous outreach efforts, which has prevented papal visits to Russia (AFP).

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In the hopes of repairing a schism within Christianity, that dates back as far as the 11th Century, Pope Francis will meet with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in Cuba. The two branches have been estranged because of disagreements over papal authority - as ... continue reading


Woman takes toddler to join ISIS Watch

Image of Tareena Shakil took her toddler to Syria to join ISIS (PA).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Twenty-six-year-old Tareena Shakil told her family she would be vacationing in Turkey with her 14-month-old son. The next time her family heard from her, Shakil and her son were in Syria - and had joined the terrorist organization ISIS. LOS ANGELES, CA (California ... continue reading


Evidence of the Yeti? Footprints in Himalayan snow said to be of abominable snowman Watch

Image of Among the most elusive of all crypto-zoological creatures, the Abominable Snowman has had several eyewitness accounts. Some Russian fans here pose with an elaborate mock-up of the snowy creature (Lenta).

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The abominable snowman, or Yeti, remains one of the world's most elusive crypto-zoological figures. There have been many eyewitness reports of the hairy giant throughout the mountain ranges of the Himalayas for many years. A British man, on vacation in Bhutan, ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Daily Readings for Friday, February 12, 2016
  • Is Valentine's Day...? (Take the quick survey!)
  • Daily Reading for Saturday, February 13th, 2016 HD Video
  • The Way of the Cross continues on
  • Daily Reading for Friday, February 12th, 2016 HD Video
  • St. Buonfiglio Monaldo: Saint of the Day for Friday, February 12, 2016
  • Can you answer these four challenging questions about Lent?

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 58:1-9
1 Shout for all you are worth, do not hold back, raise your voice like a ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 18-19
3 For I am well aware of my offences, my sin is constantly in ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 9:14-15
14 Then John's disciples came to him and said, 'Why is it that we and the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 12th, 2016 Image

St. Buonfiglio Monaldo
February 12: He was one of seven Florentines who had joined ... Read More