We must raise $1,463 by March 31st to pay critical bills. Essential to continue our mission. Donate now!
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

New York Times highlights Vatican inaction on abusive Milwaukee priest

Catholic World News - March 25, 2010

In a front-page headline story, the New York Times has called attention to a sex-abuse case in which the Vatican failed to act promptly on a request to defrock a Wisconsin priest who was accused of molesting up to 200 boys at a school for the deaf.

In an extraordinary public statement directly responding to the Times story, the Vatican pointed out that the Vatican was unaware of the accusations against Father Lawrence Murphy until more than 20 years after they arose. In his statement Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, also took pains to debunk the popular misconception that the 1962 Vatican document Crimen Sollicitationis and/or the Code of Canon Law required diocesan officials to maintain absolute confidentiality about abuse reports. He said:

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.

Milwaukee's Archbishop Rembert Weakland sought the laicization of Father Murphy in 1996-- more than 40 years after the priest was first accused of sexual abuse. The Milwaukee archdiocese had removed the accused priest from his post in 1974 and assigned him to pastoral work in another diocese, without taking formal disciplinary action or informing police of the charges.

Father Murphy escaped an ecclesiastical trial by pointing out that the canonical statute of limitations had elapsed since his last recorded offense, saying that he had repented and reformed, and pointing out that his health was failing. He died shortly thereafter, still technically a priest in good standing.

[See CWN editor Phil Lawler's commentary on the story: The Pope and the Murphy case: what the New York Times story didn't tell you.]

Additional sources for this story
Some links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our March expenses ($1,463 to go):
$35,000.00 $33,536.96
4% 96%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Gaudete802 - Mar. 26, 2010 1:15 PM ET USA

    The key to all this is that even with the document trail, the responsibility rested with the Milwaukee Archdiocese from 1950 to 1997 to discipline Fr. Murphy. Weakland's forwarding action in 1997-8 seems to be a feeble attempt to foist the problem onto the Vatican now 20 years after the last known offense. I think it's Weakland the Times should be accusing.

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Mar. 25, 2010 9:22 PM ET USA

    Maybe it was Weakland the Vatican had no confidence in.

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org
Shop Amazon

Recent Catholic Commentary

Insights on the enigma that is Pope Francis 8 hours ago
Our Most Characteristic Vice? 8 hours ago
Recognizing the Noonday Devil 9 hours ago
Patricia Jannuzzi on gay activists: And the real problem is? 12 hours ago
Surrogate parenthood = exploitation of desperate women 14 hours ago

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope announces Jubilee: a Year of Mercy CWN - March 13