US Abuse: Ratzinger’s Failure to Act

When Pope Benedict rebuked the Irish bishops for their failure to act on priests abusing those in his care, he made no made no mention of his own failures to act.  We already knew that there were many such failures, simply because Vatican requirements were that all allegations of abuse were to be referred to his office at the CDF, and the bulk of them resulted in no action being taken.  What has not been known, are the specifics. That will change, as more facts are swept out from under the Vatican , such as this story from the NY Times:

John Pilmaier from Milwaukee, and Peter Isely of the SNAP bureau (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), during a press conference in front of the Vatican on Thursday. Photo: AP

Warned About Abuse, Vatican Failed to Defrock Priest

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.

To put this into context, it is worth noting the reports elsewhere, such as this one (from the BBC which remind us of how very well- informed Benedict usually is: he has an impressive reputation as a man who is a stickler fr detail, and is believed to have read every on of over 3000 cases of abuse that crossed his desk. Claims that he “didn’t know” are just not believable:

The Pope, as a senior Vatican cardinal head of department, was responsible for dealing with these cases for more than 20 years before his election as pontiff in 2005 and is therefore one of the best informed in the Vatican about the extent, and even the detail, of every paedophile scandal reported to Rome.

So although he now appears to be instructing his 5,000 bishops scattered around the world to apply a new policy of “zero tolerance” of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, similar to that devised by US bishops earlier this decade, the suspicion remains that for many years the best informed person in the Vatican about priestly paedophilia failed to react to the damning evidence which arrived on his desk.

Then we have a revealing comment tacked on to the end of this story from EuroNews. The Vatican knew that Murphy had committed a crime, but took no action because there was no civil case against him. But why was there no civil case? Could it be, do you suppose, that this was because the church simply failed to report what they knew to the police?

Today a Vatican spokesman said Murphy had broken the law, but as there was no civil case against him church laws did not require automatic punishment


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One Response to “US Abuse: Ratzinger’s Failure to Act”

  1. colkoch Says:

    The civil case against Murphy wasn’t prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out. Same excuse Murphy himself used in his appeal to the Vatican about his own case. Yes, Canon Law does have a ten year statute of limitations for abuse trials.


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