Vatican defends action in case of Wisconsin priest abuser

The Times story said that according to documents it obtained from lawyers involved in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, then-Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland in 1993 hired a social worker who interviewed Father Murphy and reported that the priest had admitted his acts, had probably molested about 200 boys and felt no remorse. The archbishop placed restrictions on Father Murphy’s ministry.
Archbishop Weakland wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger about the case in 1996 because he thought it might involve “solicitation in the confessional,” a sin which because of its gravity involved the doctrinal congregation.

Later in 1996, the doctrinal congregation told Wisconsin bishops to begin a canonical trial of Father Murphy, the Times article said. But it said that process was halted after Father Murphy wrote directly to Cardinal Ratzinger, saying that he had repented and was in poor health, and that the allegations went beyond the church’s own statute of limitations for such crimes.

When Archbishop Weakland met in 1998 with Cardinal Ratzinger’s assistants at the doctrinal congregation official, he failed to persuade them to allow a trial that could lead to the defrocking of Father Murphy.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the Father Murphy case was a “tragic” one that “involved particularly vulnerable victims who suffered terribly from what he did.”

Father Lombardi pointed out, however, that the Vatican was only informed of the case more than two decades after the abuse had been reported to diocesan officials and the police. He noted that civil authorities had dropped their investigation without filing charges.

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