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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Saturday, April 3, 2010
Canon judge appears to have drafted Weakland letter; SNAP responds
Statement by David Clohessy of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), 314 566 9790
It's troubling that an Alaska priest who quickly rallied to defend top Catholic officials in a clergy sex abuse and cover up case now faces controversy over discrepancies in his story.
We hope this priest's uncomfortable situation will be a sobering warning to other Catholic staffers who are tempted to "protect the boss" instead of protecting the flock. We hope he will publicly answer questions about these discrepancies. Finally, we also hope the Anchorage Catholic newspaper will issue a correction.
Canon judge appears to have drafted Weakland letter
By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel Posted: April 2, 2010
The canon judge who said he was never told to end the Catholic church trial of a priest accused of molesting as many as 200 deaf boys appears to have drafted the 1998 letter sent by then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland to a Vatican official outlining those plans, according to a document obtained by the Journal Sentinel.
Father Thomas Brundage, a canon lawyer now working in the Diocese of Anchorage, drew national attention this week for an essay in the diocese's newspaper in which he defended the Vatican's handling of the case against Father Lawrence Murphy and disavowed any knowledge of the plans to end the tribunal.
Brundage was interviewed across the country, discussing his open letter as a rebuttal to coverage of the sex abuse scandal engulfing the Vatican. It now appears Brundage's account may be significantly flawed.
Brundage had taken issue with an Aug. 19, 1998, letter from Weakland to the deputy at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI - in which Weakland said he had instructed Brundage to end the trial and would instead move to suspend Murphy's priestly duties.
"This sort of thing would have stuck in my memory, because I would have been furious that Weakland would want me to stop the case," Brundage said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel on Thursday.
He speculated that Weakland might have written the Aug. 19 letter to the deputy, then Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, but never told Brundage to end the trial because Murphy died two days later.
But on Friday, the Journal Sentinel learned that a letter seemingly written by Brundage to Weakland on Aug. 15, 1998, shows Brundage actually drafted Weakland's letter to Bertone.
It addresses Weakland, saying: "As you have requested I put together what might be a response to Archbishop Bertone's document regarding Fr. Murphy that he recently sent us. Here is a suggested response:"
The central part of the letter is virtually identical to Weakland's later letter to Bertone, except for minor changes in spelling and punctuation. And, though it does not include a handwritten signature, it ends with: "I hope this is of help Archbishop,
Rev. Thomas T. Brundage, Judicial Vicar, Archdiocese of Milwaukee."
Brundage said Friday that he has no memory of either letter. He voiced dismay at the apparent contradiction.
"I have no memory of ever being asked to abate the case," Brundage said.
Records suggest that church officials, including Weakland, Bishop Richard Sklba, Chancellor Barbara Anne Cusack and others, were working on a plan to deal with Murphy in July and August 1998, in light of the Vatican's preference that they abandon the trial. One document regarding a July meeting appears to confirm that they would pursue administrative sanctions, making no mention of the tribunal.
Brundage pointed out Friday that his August letter offers Weakland what "might" be a response to Bertone. He still insisted Weakland never officially directed him to abate the trial. More important, said Brundage, is that the official decree ending the case against Murphy didn't occur until September, weeks after he died, meaning the tribunal was ongoing until his death.
"The bottom line is if Father Murphy hadn't died, this case would have been appealed," Brundage said.
Part of lawsuit
The letters are part of the pending lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee over its handling of the Murphy case.
Peter Isely, Midwest director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, on Friday criticized Brundage's role in the handling of Murphy's case.
"How prophetic that Tom Brundage said in 2002 that the behavior by church authorities in these cases is 'more than negligent' and 'church authorities must be held accountable,' " said Isely. "Now we know Brundage was one of the very church authorities he was condemning."
Brundage's 2002 remarks appeared in a Journal Sentinel story from that time.
Murphy, who spent 25 years at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, is accused of molesting as many as 200 deaf boys over decades beginning in the 1950s.
His story, which has long been reported by the Journal Sentinel, took on international dimensions after documents released last week suggested the Vatican office then held by Ratzinger discouraged the Milwaukee Archdiocese from pursuing a canon trial against Murphy, who died Aug. 21, 1998.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests