Weakland: Sex Abuse Case Took Too Long in Vatican

By Jay Sorgi
March 26, 2010

MILWAUKEE - We're finally hearing from retired Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland about the abusive priest case that is now connected to Rome.

"They certainly delayed a lot more than I would have liked," Weakland told the BBC regarding the two-year time between the point he wrote Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now-Pope Benedict XVI in 1996, and Fr. Lawrence Murphy's death in 1998.

Murphy admitted to committing sexual abuse against children, and allegedly did so up to 200 times while working at a deaf school in Milwaukee during the 1950's, 60's and 70's.

Ratzinger ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during the time of the proceedings, but Weakland didn't believe the current Pope personally had direct involvement in cases like Fr. Murphy's at the time.

Weakland explained that he didn't think that at the time, the current Pope had any direct presence in cases like Fr. Murphy's, but he later did have knowledge of similar cases.

"At that time, honestly, I don't think that Cardinal Ratzinger was personally yet involved in those cases," explained Weakland to the BBC. "Later, I think all the cases were placed in his office and then he became very much involved."

Weakland said that because the case involving Fr. Lawrence Murphy's had to do with a confession booth, Vatican policy said to send it to the office then-run by the current Pope.

But it took a long time for one of his staffers, Cardinal Bertone, to get going on Fr. Murphy's case.

"In the end, Fr. Murphy had written a letter to (Cardinal Bertone) asking for mercy, that he was so sick and ill, and wanted to die in the priesthood."

Fr. Murphy died in August of 1998, which is when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ended the case.

Weakland flew to Rome to meet with Bertone and others about the case, and his effort to laicize Fr. Murphy.

"The request at the end of the meeting was to put him under more restrictions, and so on, but we had tried that route. I guess I wasn't very persuasive in trying to tell them that if he were buried as a layman, it would be much, much better for the entire community."

He also explained that although he wanted much faster action on the case, the two-year delay between his original letter to then-Cardinal Ratzinger and the eventual end of the case with Fr. Murphy's death, that it was more a result of the length of time cases take at the Vatican.

"It took a long time, these cases, but that was true of all the courts in Rome in those days, and almost any case took several years."


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