It is difficult today, with the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI is retiring this month, not to think of the many victim/survivors of sexual abuse from St. John’s School for the Deaf.
It was Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger in his previous post running the powerful Doctrine for the Congregation of the Faith CDF), who was in charge of the fate of the notorious Fr. Lawrence Murphy. Murphy, Ratzinger knew, had sexually assaulted at least 200 children at the boarding school in Milwaukee. Ratzinger ordered that Murphy be left in ministry, unpunished and unprosecuted, undetected to the public, and remain a priest, with all the rights, honors, and power which the church grants only to ordained clerics, right up until his death.
Benedict never once contacted, spoke to, or apologized to the deaf victims from St. John’s
Benedict’s fateful decision with Murphy at the time left children at risk in Wisconsin and also hundreds of deaf victims without a voice in their church. Is it little wonder, then, that Benedict leaves the Papacy without really addressing, fundamentally, the sex abuse crisis in the global church?
It is fortunate and timely that the story of the brave men and women from St. John’s is being aired this month on HBO in a new documentary by Academy Award winning director Alex Gibney.
Benedict was not alone in handling Murphy. Several of Milwaukee Archbishops covered up for Murphy before and after Ratzinger’s involvement in the late 1990’s, including, ironically, Rembert Weakland, who was Ratzinger’s doctrinal and theological nemesis on a number of issues (click her for details of Weakland’s long involvement in covering up for Murphy and dozens of other sex offender priests).
But it was Benedict, as the senior man on the hierarchical ladder, who bears the greatest responsibility for seeking forgiveness from the deaf victims of Murphy, many of whom are here, in Milwaukee, still very much waiting to hear from him, whether he is the Pope or not.
(NB: For the earlier statement, click here: “Benedict Resigns: removing all known child sex offenders from the priesthood, firing bishops who conspired in covered-ups, must be new Pope’s first act”).