Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Randy Sly

3/25/2010 (4 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 (4 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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Europe

Massive Viking treasure horde discovered HOW?!? Watch

Image of A 47-year-old British man uncovered one of the largest Viking artifact hordes ever discovered, which has over hundreds of artifacts.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A British man has found the largest collection of Viking artifacts ever in Scotland, using-of all things--a metal detector. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Derek McLennan found the trove on land belonging to the Church of Scotland in the area of Dumfries and ... continue reading


Pope Francis Makes Another Impassioned Plea for Christian Unity Watch

Image of Divisions among us, but also divisions among the communities: evangelical Christians, orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, but why divided? We must try to bring about unity. Let me tell you something, today, before leaving home, I spent 40 minutes more or less, half an hour, with an evangelical pastor. And we prayed together, seeking unity. But we Catholics must pray with each other and other Christians. Pray that the Lord gift us unity! Unity among ourselves! How will we ever have unity among Christians if we are not capable of having it among us Catholics, in the family, how many families fight and split up? Seek unity, unity builds the Church and comes from Jesus Christ. He sends us the Holy Spirit to build unity! - Pope Francis

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Dear friends, let us therefore proceed towards full unity! History has separated us, but we are on the path towards reconciliation and communion! And this is true! And we must defend it! We are all on the path toward communion. And when the goal seems too ... continue reading


'Titanic of the Ancient World' yielding priceless, new treasures Watch

Image of In their assessment of the ship's size, the team also brought up several new artifacts including tableware and an enormous bronze spear, pictured below, that's believed to have been part of a giant statue.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The ancient Antikythera shipwreck, a Greek vessel that sank more than 2,000 years ago in the Aegean Sea has long captivated archaeologists. Since sponge divers discovered it in 1900, researchers have long referred to it in order to understand a foregone ... continue reading


Belgium strikes back against leaders of national Islamist group Watch

Image of Fouad Belkacem alias Abu Imran, the spokesman for the Sharia4Belgium Islamist group, and one of those put on trial.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Belgium has started its largest-ever terrorism trial in the port city of Antwerp. Here, 46 members of the Sharia4Belgium Islamist group are being charged with recruiting scores of young Muslims to fight for the Islamic State. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Catholic Church must use power to protect Christians against radical Islam, bishop says Watch

Image of The Pakistan-born bishop, an outspoken defender of Christian rights in his native land before coming to United Kingdom, says that the time is nigh for Rome to take a stand.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Catholic Church must use its global power to protect Christians threatened by Islamic militancy and secularism. That was the message delivered by prominent Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali. The Pakistan-born bishop, an outspoken defender of Christian ... continue reading


Ebola cases spreading through Europe deemed 'unavoidable' by health official Watch

Image of While European health workers were most at risk of becoming infected, but added that

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With the news of a Spanish nurse infected with the Ebola virus, World Health Organization European Director Zsuzsanna Jakab has declared that the spread of Ebola across Europe is "quite unavoidable." She assures the world that Europe is still at low risk and ... continue reading


Extraordinary Synod on the Pastoral Care of the Family Begins. Stop Fighting and Start Praying Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Too much of the back and forth online concerning the Extraordinary Synod on the Pastoral care of the family has only fanned the fires of fear among God's people. It has also given those who oppose the Church, and her liberating message of truth, fodder for their ... continue reading


Discovered artwork asks -- Was Jesus Christ clean-shaven? Watch

Image of Throughout history, the Messiah has been depicted in a variety of ways through holy art -- bearded, clean shaven, light skin, olive skin, long hair, short -- each interpretation reflecting the prevalent society's ideas regarding Him.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The popular depiction of Jesus Christ in Western art usually shows him with flowing, long blond hair and beard. This depiction may not necessarily be the case. Archaeologists in Spain say they have found one of the world's earliest known images of Jesus ... continue reading


Euthanasia takes mounting toll in the Netherlands Watch

Image of Euthanasia in the Netherlands is

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Since legalizing euthanasia seven years ago, the Netherlands has seen a dramatic spike in the number of people who have elected to medically terminate their lives. Intended to ease the suffering of those with terminal cancer, a growing number of patients ... continue reading


Is Pope Francis a Charismatic? Yes, But In the Fullest Sense of the Word Watch

Image of Pope Francis is a good pastor, who wants to ensure that participants in all of these ecclesial movements not fall prey to the danger which enthusiastic movements often face, turning inward or becoming, to use one of his favorite words of warning to the whole Church, self-referential.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

A charism is a grace, a gift lavished by God the Father, through the action of the Holy Spirit. And it is a gift that is given to someone, not because he is better than others or because he merited it: it is a gift that God makes so that, with the same ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents Of David] I rejoiced that they ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 25th, 2014 Image

St. Daria
October 25: There is very little known about them. Chrysanthus was an ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter