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Michael Sean WintersMarch 31, 2010

It is one of the most confounding conundrums faced by anyone in the public spotlight: How to defend without being defensive? How to correct critical details without the appearance of nitpicking? Finally, how to deal with the media – which is the only way most people will come to know of the controversy in question – when that media is in a feeding frenzy?

Let me start with this important caveat. I do not – and no one at the Vatican should – blame the media for the current controversy surrounding the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and most especially, the role of Pope Benedict, in his earlier positions of authority, in perpetuating the culture that covered-up that sexual abuse. I will go further and say, thank God for the Boston Globe and National Catholic Reporter and other media outlets that covered the scandal. Otherwise, we might never have had the explosion in Boston which caused the U.S. bishops to get serious and crackdown on pedophilia and set about creating safe environment for children. The bishops had ignored earlier, internal warnings about the nature and extent of the crisis. Only when the Globe sunk its teeth into the story develop the kind of momentum that made it unstoppable. To be clear, the crisis in Catholicism did not begin when the Globe covered the story. The crisis was the on-going cover-up of serial child abusers. The reporting in NCR and the Globe were nothing more than the provocation needed to get the bishops to being the painful surgery of removing the cancer.

That said, as I noted last week, and countless others have since, nobody in the press, not even the New York Times, gets a pass for shoddy reporting. We now know that the priest who served as judicial vicar in Milwaukee in 1996, who was quoted in the story no less, was never even contacted by the reporters. He said yesterday that one of the documents attributed to him is not, in fact, his handwriting and he pointed to several factual inaccuracies in the story. I do not believe the Times’ mistakes are part of a media conspiracy to defame the Pope. I think the Times, like all newspapers, is struggling financially and has cut back on the number of fact-checkers and editors. And, I think that reporters get into frenzies when a large target, like the Pope, and a spicy topic, like a cover-up, collide. Everyone wants to be the next Woodward and Bernstein.

Nonetheless, the Times’ bad reporting leads others to make strong conclusions like this from Andrew Sullivan which are completely wrong: "The current Pope is now found directly responsible for two clear incidents of covering up or ignoring child abuse and rape. As head of the organization that took responsibility for investigating these cases for so long, his complicity in this vast and twisted criminal conspiracy is not in dispute." The "two clear incidents" are not so clear, after all. And, I am guessing that the phrase "as head of the organization…" refers to Cardinal Ratzinger’s tenure at the CDF but as the Times failed to grasp, and Sullivan prefers to ignore, CDF did not have responsibility for investigating these claims until 2001. The phrase "for so long" would suggest longer than 2001 to 2005, yes? It is worthwhile reading Sullivan’s essay: His writing has long distinguished itself for his ability to jump from a personal whim to an ontological principle in the twinkling of an eye but this particular essay takes that distinguishing characteristic to an extreme that took my breath away.

What to do? The officials at the Vatican, and the bishops here at home, should make sure that anytime they even come close to the subject of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, they begin with several paragraphs of remorse, abject apologies and statements of a firm purpose of amendment, regarding the sexual abuse itself and the cover-up of that abuse. There is not way to only address the subject of press coverage, or cultural opposition to the Church, or anything else without appearing like pre-2002 bishops, still in denial, still covering-up. The victims need to know that we really do understand that the Church’s wounds here were self-inflicted, that we are not still looking to cast blame on others.

Secondly, to the extent the Vatican can get out front of the story, put out all relevant documents, and let the chips fall where they may, then and only then can we move on. A lawyer friend counsels against this but I believe that too much listening to lawyers about how to respond is one of the principal causes of the cover-up in the first place. The lawyers work for the bishops, and not the other way round, and bishops are charged with moral leadership.

The Vatican must take a course of action. Words are not enough. A news report surfaced that the Holy See is considering a special Synod of Bishops to discuss the protection of children and the culture of clericalism that permitted this cancer to go untreated for so long. That would be huge. Whether during a Synod or on his own authority, the Holy Father should make the Dallas Norms adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002 the universal law of the Church. And, the Pope should accept the resignations of those Irish bishops – and others – who have tendered them.

Finally, although words are not enough, they are important and Pope Benedict has a gift with words that is almost unparalleled. This week especially, when our readings at Mass re-tell the central story of Christianity, the Passion of Christ, there are many ways a preacher can talk about the nature of sin, how the Lord must use sinful men to accomplish His work, but how grace triumphs in the end. The Pope and the bishops have the opportunity to locate the current crisis in the heart of man, in the heart of all men, in the drama of the Cross and the Tomb. They should not be content to criticize the Times from the pulpit. They should preach the Gospel as they have never preached it before.

Michael Sean Winters


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Eugene Pagano
11 years 8 months ago
I hesitate to comment on Roman Catholic matters because I am now attending the Episcopal Church.  Nonetheless:
People can change.  Before his accession to the Papacy, Paul III was a typical Renaissance cardinal.  As Pope he became a strong reformer.  The evidence about Benedict XVI's role in dealing with abusive priests is still inconclusive, but, in view of his learning experience in recent years, he may be the best one to lead reform.
I have written to the public editor of the NY Times (ombudsman in other papers) to ask that his/her Sunday column address the controversy, not on Easter Sunday but the following one.
John Raymer
11 years 8 months ago
Fully telling the truth is the only acceptable defense. Any attempt to "put things in perspective", to dispute particular facts or quibble over terminology and causes will only feed the fire of outrage. Just ask Nixon. Pope Benedict must fully state who knew what and when, including himself and all of the bishops in the Church. He must fully expose the history of abuse and the culture of secrecy that has fostered it and that continues to foster it. Only then will the "defense" be adequate.

How did Jesus defend himself? He rode openly into Jerusalem to face his accusers. He looked them in the eye, told the truth to their face and suffered the consequences. Only by doing this can the Church enter into its resurection.

Sexual abuse occurs throughout society and is particularly strong where there is a presumption of security and spiritual intimacy. The real problem is not the abuse but the ongoing coverup that has tolerated this abuse for centuries - and which is tolerating it and promoting it even today.
Livia Fiordelisi
11 years 8 months ago
"They should preach the Gospel as they have never preached it before."
It is difficult to preach the Gospel when you are not also attempting to live it. Perhaps you can suggest that they try to live the Gospel as they have never lived it before.
11 years 8 months ago
CNN Larry King had an hour long show last night about the 'crisis' The defenders of the Faith were Bill Donahue ,ranting about gays ,  and a Legionary of Christ  priest who made some on one hand -and on the other hand comments.The Legionary priest  should be given a combat badge for even showing up. Sinear O Conner was a surprisingly  mild ...'can't we all get along' approach
Is this the Church's first line of defense... Donahue and whatever? 
11 years 8 months ago
Might I suggest that if you're looking to CNN Larry King for a "defense" of the Church, you're looking in the wrong place?  Donohue is an attention getter.  Cable news loves those types.
11 years 8 months ago
And again, I can't agree more with Michael Sean Winters (weird feeling).  An ACCURATE telling of the FACTS is essential to whatever justice/reform/penance is required.  Some act, however, as if demanding that accurate telling is taking us back and somehow a continuation of the cover-up.  
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
Yes, let’s get the facts straight. I have spent hours and hours going through the documents on the NYTimes website and find what I consider solid proof to rebut the writings of Rev. Thomas Brundage, the Judicial Vicar in the Murphy case in Milwaukee.
It’s hard to summarize without all the quotes from the Vatican report of the CDF meeting where it was decided to drop the canonical case. There is no other way to read the evidence in my two plus pages of notes. I too want the facts out there.
Snip: The May 30, 1998 meeting with Weakland, Fliss, Sklba, Bertone, his deputy Girotti, and staff is critical. The translated minutes from Italian specify Weakland pleaded for a canonical trial to proceed. He specified six points, including Murphy has no remorse, many victims, fear of scandal, etc. Some of the translation wording can be awkward but the meaning is clear.
Then Bertone lists the problems of continuing a trial: difficulty in furnishing proofs, testimonies without increasing scandal, need for secrecy, long period of time, no other accusations from Superior diocese; that “there are not enough elements to instruct a canonical trial.”
Bertone lists what should be done by way of “penal remedies”  like restricting where Murphy can celebrate Eucharist (only Superior, not Milwaukee), and requiring permission in writing. Also that Murphy must give clear signs of repentance, “OTHERWISE he must be applied to a trial.” Clear signs of repentance mean NO TRIAL.
Bertone even “restates the two central points TO BE FOLLOWED” and lists them: (no discretion allowed) “1) the territorial restriction of the celebration (of the) Eucharist and 2) the needed remorse and reform of the priest.” That’s it, period.
The meeting concludes with Weakland’s pained “difficulty he will have explaining this to the community of the deaf.” Weakland would have no difficulty at all explaining the continuation of a trial but great difficulty in explaining the cancellation of one.
Be happy to send my file.
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
The confusing part of this whole mess is that Brundage was the one to receive these minutes and he ran the computer translation. His letter forwards the minutes to Fliss. Brundage says you get a rough idea what happened. I submit you get a solid idea of what happened. I formatted the text in the style of formal minutes and the points of each side are very clear.
On his return to WI, Weakland had gathered a team to institute a “pastoral plan” under an “administrative process” (not judicial process) in order to implement what the CDF wanted. Pastoral is a code word for non-judicial (i.e. non-trial) measures. Brundage may simply have been out of the loop, or behind it. Letter from Weakland to Bertone August 19, 1998, NYTimes documents, p.75
The “administrative process” would formally remove Murphy from ministry, require written apologies to victims, but seeing he did not mention confession, etc. Weakland’s moving handwritten note to a survivor after Murphy’s death notes how hard he fought in Rome for a trial, but perhaps to spare the survivor further pain, just concludes the case is closed on Murphy’s death – meaning the administrative case. That was the only case that was open.
That Lombardi finessed the matter in his news release last week is, what should I say, typical but unfortunate. Vatican speak spin! Lombardi says the CDF had “suggested” that Weakland consider pastoral measures to address the situation. SUGGESTED?? Specifying “two central points to be followed” is not a suggestion but an order.
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
Further proof of cancellation of a trial is in Sklba’s minutes back in Milwaukee of a meeting in late July, 1998, two months after the CDF meeting, and a month before Murphy died. Brundage was there.
The purpose of the meeting was ''discussion of the current status of Archdiocesan action'' against Murphy. There is no mention of any trial in progress, or of the results of a formerly planned June 30 Tribunal interview of Murphy. The only reference is to repeating and reinforcing prior ''precepts'' as follows (NYTimes documents p.61):
''In discussion of various options and in view of the absence of any funeral directives, it was decided that the precepts would be repeated and reinforced, especially with regard to lack of contact with members of the deaf community, that his agreement would be sought for a private funeral with closed casket at St. Ann Parish in Boulder Junction upon the occasion of his death, that a letter of apology to the deaf community would be requested immediately, that the Archdiocese would investigate the extent of his personal property and prepare a statement from the Archdiocese to be given to the deaf community accompanying his own letter of apology.” (Signed) RJS (meaning Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba)
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
What is Brundage’s complaint?
Quote:  “The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself…My intent is …to outline the sloppy and inaccurate reporting on the Father Murphy case by the New York Times and other media outlets”
But Brundage was not quoted in any story. The document pages with his handwritten name at the top of each one were written by a bishop, noting Brundage’s review of the issues to that bishop. There is a cross before some initials; they look closest to Bishop Raphael Fliss of Superior (+rf) but that is still to be confirmed.
Brundage’s complaint then is with a bishop writing down Brundage’s statements for his files that were later released by court order. Brundage even admits, “The syntax is similar to what I might have said but I have no idea who wrote these statements, yet I am credited as stating them.'' Of course, he is. The NYTimes including it in the document pack it received is laudatory, not a reason for censure.
In addition to Brundage’s article being run in full on the website for the Anchorage archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic league has picked up on it, and Vatican Radio ran a special interview. It is getting quite a bit of traction, but based on the facts I present, Brundage is simply wrong.
Now, Vatican-speak may have something to do with the confusion. A style of communication that wiggles and evades creates all sorts of problems. As in plausible deniability perhaps?
There is no separate written order by Bertone to stop a canonical trial (with or without his superior’s  agreement or understanding, ie Ratzinger) but there are minutes that specify what measures are “to be followed.”
There is no written order to Brundage to stop a trial, instead there are those same minutes he read, and a report of a status conference on the Murphy case with no mention of a trial in progress – just administrative measures related to “precepts.”
What a way to run a church!
11 years 8 months ago
Carolyn Disco... Thanks for the all your research to show that it's March  2010 and the 'spin' continues. Bishops ...please stop...US Catholic Church time is  really running out.
Church spokespersons; Attacking NYT fuggetaboutit.. there are now a 1000 newspapers with stories and the new 'front' is on cable TV and Bill Donahue  has taken charge of the Defender of the Faith... God help us..
Massimo Faggioli
11 years 8 months ago
it is worth reading the long article by Cardinal Karl Lehmann on Benedict XvI and the scandal, in "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung", April 1st 2010
Matthew Tracy
11 years 8 months ago
I too have read the documents at great length and they don't support the Times' premise, that CDF canceled the trial.
As you probably know, it was Bishop Bliss who requested the meeting with Cardinal Bertone in the first instance.  Bishop Sklba's notes state that the CDF was "not encouraging" them to move forward with a dismissal.  He does not mention being ordered to do anything.  It also contemplates a canonical trial if Father Murphy did not show remorse, which to date he had not done.
Then you have the minutes of the July 22, 1998 meeting where "after discussing the options of the pending proceeding".  The only proceeding pending at that point was a canonical trial.  Father Brundage did not get the minutes translated until August 15, 1998.  If what Cardinal Bertone had discussed on May 30, 1998 was an order, there would be no options to discuss on July 22, 1998.  Your statement that as of that date there was an adminsitrative process is unsuuportable.
On August 19, 1998, Bishop Weakland issued his letter stating that he made the decision to abate the trial.  Frankly this is a little curious as the case was pending in Superior by that point.  Two days later Father Murphy died.
You don't have a problem with the Times not seeking comment from Father Brundage?  How about the fact that it fails to quote Bishops Bliss or Bishop Sklba who were both at the meeting in Rome.  Instead, our only quotes come from Bishop Weakland who as you concede told one of the victims the church case had been stopped by the death of Father Murphy.  So there was either an extant Church case or Bishop Weakland was lying.
Bishop Weakland also lied to the Vatican when he first wrote Cardinal Ratzinger in July 1996.  Bishop Weakland had sat on this case for three years and the social workers notes from 1993 explain that some of the conduct involved confession.  He then wrote and said he did not learn that the matter involved soliciation of the confession until sometime in 1995.
If you look at other documents concerning this case (you can find some on Bishops Accountability), you will find that what finally prompted Bishop Weakland's letter was that in June 1996, some (justifiably) outraged former students of Father Murphy went to St. Anne's in Boulder Junction and put wanted poster leaflets in all the missals.  That finally prompted Bishop Weakland, who had known about Father Murphy since 1977, to do something in July 1996 and he wrote a cya letter to justify his inaction.  Then he has the audacity to complain the Vatican dragged its heels for 8 months.  
This is a horrible case and never forget for one second that 200 deaf children were molested and the Church did nothing for 30 years.  But to put this at the feet of the Vatican is simply unfair and untrue.        
11 years 8 months ago
Its very interesting to me, in all this, that no one calling for Benedict's head is calling for Weakland, the great liberal hope, to show some accountability.  It starts with the local diocesan bishop.   The whole problem with the Times story, as far as I can piece together, is that it has NOT done enough to put together the facts before making conclusions. You can also hear the glee in the newsroom, "We can pin this on Benedict! Boston got a Cardinal; we can get a Pope!"
11 years 8 months ago
Michael Sean:
Fr. Brundage was mistaken, and Laurie Goodstein reports why in this story. As Carolyn mentioned, the man was not even named in the original Times story. He is similarly confused about the memo on which his name appears. It was obviously a bishop's notes taken from a conversation with Brundage-the signature appears with a + (the bishop was Sklba, according to Goodstein). In general, when complaining about the lack of due diligence on the part of reporters, it's a good idea to do some of your own.
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
Murphy was already out of the archdiocese for three years by the time Weakland arrived.
Weakland did NOT say he made the decision to end the trial. He is reporting to Bertone that he has done, in fulfillment of what Bertone said in May. Weakland never wanted the trial to end, period, and was greatly pained that had to be the case.
I welcome quotes from Sklba and  Fliss who were also at the meeting, though not quoted in the minutes. Sklba’s notes later show an understanding of what happened, that the trial was off. The one condition for another trial to be held, he notes, is if Murphy violates the precepts.
If a trial was already in progress, there would be no need of another one to address Murphy's disobedience regarding the precepts.
Strange that in discussing the “current status of Archdiocesan action” at a status conference in mid July, Sklba's notes indicate no mention whatsoever of a trial. What is ongoing is the “pastoral plan” and “administrative process” with its precepts.
Matthew Tracy
11 years 8 months ago
Weakland said Murphy was notorious and knew about him from almost the minute he was appointed in Milwaukee.

In his August 19, 1998 letter Bishop Weakland specifically states, "I wish to briefly inform you of the decisions I have made." He then states he had instructed his Vicar to abate the trial.

Sklba's notes do not say violation of the precepts could be the basis for another trial, the word used is process.

Sklba's notes state that CDF was "definitely not encouraging" a trial, but does not mention that the trial was off until July 22, 1998, less than one month prior to Father Murphy's death. Note that Father Lagges, who was Father Murphy's lawyer was at the meeting and it would be the beneficial to know the state of Father Murphy's health as they are talking about funeral arrangements and the man died 30 days later.

Also, if the Vatican wanted this shut down, why did they agree to extend the statute of limitations in the first instance? And if Bishop Weakland wanted the trial badly enough, why have the meeting with CDF when you already have their permission to proceed. Ultimately this was the Diocese's call.

Once again, a shameful moment in the history of the Church.
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
Yes, Weakland instructed his vicar to abate the trial, as ordered by Bertone in the CDF minutes. Left to his own, he would have continued the trial, and the minutes make clear he desperately wanted to do so. He is telling Bertone how he is following up on what Bertone wanted. The full minutes in readable format may be on another website tomorrow and people can decide for themselves.
The wording is crystal clear: “the Secretary (Bertone) restates the two central points to be followed…1) the territorial restriction of the celebration of the Eucharist and 2) the needed remorse and reform of the priest.” You can’t be more specific than that.
Bertone has just finished listing a series of difficulties with a trial and that is his ruling – not a “suggestion.” There is nothing about a trial being among the “central points to be followed.” Bertone wants Weakland to have Murphy “impeded from ministry” and not through a trial he has just voiced multiple objections to. Bertone’ secretary clarifies “the priest must give clear signs of repentance, OTHERWISE he must be applied to a trial.” IOW, if he gives clear signs of repentance, NO TRIAL.
Murphy lied to Ratzinger about repentance in his letter seeking mercy, and Ratzinger or his office did not do due diligence. Weakland plainly told Bertone “the Rev. Murphy doesn’t have any sense of remorse,” but it did not sink in. The trial was still called off, and never included in “points to be followed.” That’s the mystery.
Matthew misinterprets Sklba’s notes. Sklba comes at it from a different direction. “It became clear that the Congregation was not encouraging us to proceed with any formal dismissal on the basis of 24 years of apparent good conduct and the precept impeding exercise of orders currently in effect. Read the all caps in sequence to get the gist. IOW, we were not encouraged to dismiss the current precepts about celebrating eucharist etc. based on apparent good conduct.
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
There are no statute of limitations, period, in cases of solicitation in the confessional. Murphy invoked them, and it took Rome to make clear they did not stand. The Vatican wanted it shut down only AFTER Murphy wrote his dishonest letter to Ratzinger seeking mercy. Before that, it was full steam ahead, with Weakland in agreement.
The meeting with the CDF was attempting to resolve things after mercy became the issue. It was NOT the Diocese’s call, otherwise why is Weakland pleading for continuation of a trial, and warning of the difficulty he will have explaining the “points to be followed” to the deaf community, the so-called ''pastoral plan'' under an ''administrative'' vs a ''judicial'' process.
Namely, no saying mass in Milwaukee, showing repentance, no contact with deaf community, formal removal from ministry, writing apology letters but being sure NOT to mention confession (hmm, sticky wicket), private funeral with no open casket or vestments, a stipulation from way back, not just near his death.
Yes, a shameful moment all around.
Matthew Tracy
11 years 8 months ago
I think the easiest way to put the entire matter in context is to set forth the time line.

July 17, 1996, Bishop Weakland writes to Cardinal Ratzinger about Father Murphy.

October 15, 1996, the Diocese files the proceedings against Father Murphy.

Deecember 10, 1996, the Diocese of Milwaukee serves Father Murphy with the papers.

February 24, 1997, Father Brundage states there was a problem with the Statute of Limitations. The 62 law has a one month statute of limitation and the 83 revised law has a 5 year statute of limitation. The case is held in abeyance pending a ruling on whether the statute of limitations will be waived.

March 24, 1997, Cardinal Bertone says the case can proceed.

May 12, 1997, Father Brundage writes to one of the victims, stating they have permission to proceed and that it will take at least a year.

October 1997, it is determined that Milwaukee does not have jurisdiction and this must be heard in The Diocese of Superior.

December 10, 1997, the Diocese of Superior starts its proceeding.

January 10, 1998, Father Murphy served with the new papers.

January 12, 1998, Father Murphy (or more likely his counsel Father Lagges) writes a letter to Cardinal Ratzinger. The vast majority of the letter refers to the age of the claim and that it violates the statute of limitation contained in the 1962 norm. In the second to last paragraph, passing reference is made to his age and health.

April 6, 1998, Cardinal Bertone rejects the statute of limitations defense and directs Bishop Fliss to consider whether under Canon Law 1341 less drastic measures can be taken.

May 13, 1998, Bishop Fliss writes Cardinal Bertone and states that he has considered less drastic measures, but only a trial will suffice. He states he will use the 1962 norms.

May 15, 1998, Father Brundage and Father Legges are beginning their trial preparation. Father Murphy is scheduled for a June 30, 1998 deposition, health permitting.

May 18, 1998, Father Brundage references that Bishop Bliss wants to proceed with trial. Father Brundage tells the board of deaf parishioners that even if convicted, Father Murphy could appeal and the charges might not stick. He is told that even if one tribunal finds him guilty that would help heal the deaf community.

Father Brundage also references that he wants to raise the issue at his ad limina visit at the end of the Month. Thus, at this point, Bishop Bliss is ready to go forward and it is he who initiates the meeting with the CDF on May 30, 1998, not the other way around.

On Saturday May 30, 1998 Bishops Weakland, Fliss and Sklba meet with Cardinal Bertone and staff. The minutes make clear the meeting was requested by the American bishops who at this point already have permission to proceed with a trial. Father Sklba's notes are quite clear that they are not being encouraged to proceed, but there is no reference to being ordered to act. Moreover, Bishop Sklba makes no reference in his notes to pastoral remedies.

The minutes do make clear that they are going to first seek to impede the ministry. Whether this was ordered, whether this was reluctanly agreed to, it is not very clear.

On July 22, 1998, the court meets to discuss their options and the status of the action. The trial has not yet been abated and there is a great deal of talk of funeral arrangement which indicates that Father Murphy is quite close to death.

On August 19, 1998, Bishop Weakland states that in light of the May 30, 1998 meeting "I have made the following decisions" and the first is to formally abate the trial. Now using the word "formally" could support the notion that the trial had already been informally abated. However, Father Brundage is denying it was abated and references a doctor's note from Father Murphy that was not in the file.

On August 21, 1998, Father Murphy dies.

Matthew Tracy
11 years 8 months ago
While the details are maddening here they are important for the following reason. This wasn't a case of molestation and cover up. The civilan authorities were notified of this case in 1974 and one civil suit was dropped. Bishop Weakland and others are constantly writing to the deaf community (albeit a little late in the game) stating that they are sorry for the abuse and they kept them in the loop on the progress of the church trial. Father Murphy was never assigned to any parish after 1974. Look Boulder Junction up on a map. It is a beyond rural area. Thus, all the typical elements of such a story (cover up, failure to notify the police) are not present here.

Laurie Goodtsein of the Times has admitted that she knew of the story for years, but decided it was worth publishing because it involved (tangentially) then Cardinal Ratzinger and then it was misreported and sensationalized.

I don't think the Times is anti-Catholic and I love the crossword too much to give up my subscription, but when you level serious accusations against the Pope, the accusations need to be 100% accurate. They were not even close here.
11 years 8 months ago
I meant to include a link to this story in today's Times:
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
I don't know how many times the errors in Matthew's account can be delineated but they remain despite solid rebuttal. His interpretation of the May 30 meeting is just plain wrong, and maybe if my file of the complete minutes goes up tomorrow, it can be reviewed by all.
''Father Sklba's notes are quite clear that they are not being encouraged to proceed, but there is no reference to being ordered to act. Moreover, Bishop Sklba makes no reference in his notes to pastoral remedies.''
What Sklba is referring to is not being encouraged to dismiss the current precepts that have been in effect for years, just because of past good conduct. Those include impeding his exercise of orders (longtime restriction on saying mass). Sklba comes at it from an entirely different direction and his notes are not the official minutes. His one paragraph sidenotes never were meant to be comprehensive about what happened.
Again, here is what happened, if this is worth restating:
The wording in the official minutes is crystal clear: “the Secretary (Bertone) restates the two central points TO BE FOLLOWED…1) the territorial restriction of the celebration of the Eucharist and 2) the needed remorse and reform of the priest.” You can’t be more specific than that. The ''to be followed'' is the Vatican's version of an order. There is no ''3) continuation of a canonical trial'' among the ''to be followed'' items.
 Bertone has just finished listing a series of difficulties with a trial, IOW reasons not to have one. Bertone wants Weakland to have Murphy formally “impeded from ministry” and not through a trial he has just voiced multiple objections to.
Bertone’s secretary clarifies “the priest must give clear signs of repentance, OTHERWISE he must be applied to a trial.” The ''otherwise'' means there IS no trial right now to pursue going forward. But IF no repentance is evidenced, the trial option ''will be applied.''
Impeded from ministry does not equal a canonical trial. It is one of the previously mentioned precepts/restrictions (on saying mass) Murphy has been living under informally for years that Bertone wants formalized.
OK, A for effort for both of us, but I am still right. Line up to vote, LOL. This is already Holy Thursday and the Triduum is what matters in these days. Blessings to all.
Gerelyn Hollingsworth
11 years 8 months ago
''In an interview on Wednesday, Father Brundage acknowledged that he had never been quoted in any Times articles about the Murphy case — and the paper did not misquote him.''

-from this morning's NYT
Matthew Tracy
11 years 8 months ago
You have a habit of ignoring facts that don't fit your argument.  I fully acknowledge that the May 30th minutes indicate a directive.  However, Bishop Slkba's notes say what they say and it is crystal clear that "formal dismissal" refers to being defrocked and not to dismissing existing precepts.
You also don't address the fact that the Diocese already had permission to go forward when they called the meeting when they were in Rome for their regular annual meeting.  It could very well be they were talked out of it by Rome.  But your characterization of that meeting as some kind of an appeal is not supported by the record.  
Bottom line, the CDF didn't do anything wrong here.
11 years 8 months ago
I read Fr Thomas Brundage's piece in the Anchorage Anchor a few times desperately looking to exonerate the church from this crimes. He states that documents posted on the NYT articles were not written by him, but "the syntax is similar to what I might have said but I have no idea who wrote these statements". Unfortunately, his attempts to clear the pope stinks of more cover-up. Enough already!
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
Thanks, Grant and Gerelyn
Brundage quote: ''He said the documents show that the Vatican had encouraged the Milwaukee Archdiocese to halt the trial, but they did not use strong language and actually order a halt.''
Different interpretations of the forcefulness of the words ''central points to be followed''. Vaticanese has its meanings, as John Allen so often reminds us.
I am also reminded of a collection being taken up from priests for a retiring bishop by his auxiliary; priests are ''encouraged'' so to speak to make a donation on the bishop's concurrent 50th anniversary of ordination, a purse for him.
Still, I appreciate Brundage finally accepts that a trial was not in process at the time of Murphy's death, and that he was not quoted in the Times. ''Encourage'' is also the word used by Lombardi and Levada. They are on message. I also see Brundage's confusion, though how he could read those minutes and miss the message is puzzling. Unless cancellation was so unthinkable to him, it did not register.
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
What Sklba meant by ''formal dismissal'' is playing tease with the meaning of: “It became clear that the Congregation was not encouraging us to proceed with any formal dismissal on the basis of 24 years of apparent good conduct and the precept impeding exercise of orders currently in effect.”
1) Sklba means the Congregation was not encouraging formal dismissal of what (trial or precepts) based on good conduct? Does he mean dismissal of trial “AND” dismissal of precepts now in effect? Only he knows, maybe.
2) But how can Sklba possibly mean Bertone was not encouraging dismissal of a trial when Bertone listed numerous objections to one, and did not include a trial in what was “to be followed”? That logic leads me to conclude that to make any sense Sklba, albeit in a grammatically-challenged way, had to be referring to the precepts.
If he meant trial, how closely was he paying attention? Levada, Lombardi and now Brundage say the Vatican “suggested” Weakland consider precepts over a trial. It makes no sense for Sklba alone to say they were not being encouraged/suggested to dismiss a trial.
Lord, this is worse than deciphering the densest theology. Still, I am back to my original premise, assuming Sklba is not so tone deaf that he alone heard differently from everyone else. These folks need to abandon that “discreet language” called for in the catechism when discussing the truth. Less Vaticanese, please. Is ''say what you mean'' somewhere in Scripture?
Lastly, Mark, by ''appeal'' I meant Weakland’s repeated effort during the meeting to support holding a trial. If it’s a given going forward one will be held, why focus on listing the pro’s if the matter is settled? Granted, they may have walked in there with prior agreement for one, but the discussion makes it clear the issue was now up for grabs.
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
Bottom line: the CDF contradicted itself, saying Murphy’s remorse and repentance were necessary outcomes to forego a trial (remember that “OTHERWISE he must be applied to a trial”), but then Bertone et al ignored Weakland’s clear statement Murphy had no remorse.
The CDF set a condition, then dismissed its violation - which I suspect is what so upset Weakland. They weren’t listening to him. Weakland and Brundage both wanted a trial no matter how sick Murphy appeared at the time, as a matter of principle. Pastoral concern for the deaf community demanded it, as Fliss also recognized.
The funeral conditions were part of the precepts set years before, which Murphy's family violated. Thus his victims were subjected to even more pain. The family may not have dared act like that if a trial had been in progress.
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
To close out, with deep gratitude for everyone's patience:
Another bottom line: the CDF accepted Murphy’s  dishonest letter to Ratzinger at face value, failed to do due diligence, and failed to listen to Weakland about lack of remorse, a stern condition they themselves set.
A question in my mind is whether Ratzinger had decided before the meeting to extend mercy and Bertone was simply to deliver the message carefully and discreetly, knowing the strength of feeling involved.
Here Bertone sits, deaf to Weakland’s telling him there is no remorse. Simultaneously, Bertone insists on remorse as a condition for no trial. Then Bertone contrarily tells Weakland here are the other things “to be followed” instead. It’s crazy-making. I have many complaints about Weakland’s handling of abuse (AWFUL), but I appreciate his frustration here - which he expressed at the meeting.
The way Bertone acted leads me to believe it was Ratzinger’s decision, unless he could sit there and irrationally require something he then goes on to negate. If Bertone could be so inconsistent – say one thing but then do another despite the evidence in front of his face – well, it’s a house of cards. Or maybe Bertone did agree with his superior, Ratzinger. Scandal, remember.
Is this at heart the fear about secrecy and scandal a trial might threaten? Bertone specifically enumerated these concerns. Murphy’s health could have been a convenient out, with mercy as a cover, since even minimal research would have revealed Murphy was lying – in his claim of innocence despite having admitted guilt earlier, and his claim of repentance which was also false. Yes, my “hermeneutics of suspicion” is high.
The end.
11 years 8 months ago
Carolyn; Thank you.. Your keeping on going will teach the apologists that this cover-up will not go away until big time resignations come to pass. Vatican cover-up apologists take heed .....Bulldogs and pit bulls don't let go. Whining won't work either.  
Sister Zelda
11 years 8 months ago
Your article underlines again that we, as individuals and as the universal church, have choices in the current situation.  It is time for all of us to learn and use the skills of nonviolent communication.  We can choose to step away from blaming and anger, choosing instead empathy and education.  Each of us can choose to contribute life or death in whatever culture we are immersed in.  Thanks for the excellent strategies for investing in the life of Christ in our local and our international communities.
11 years 8 months ago
Carolyn, I followed your comments with interest, and you and others here are some of the very few people who are looking at the documents in the case to see what they really say. The memo of the May 30 meeting originally in Italian is the key document in the case and unfortunately everyone here is working with a really bad translation of the same. (Computer translations are laughable now; imagine what they were like 12 years ago). Huge amounts were left out and much was mistranslated.
I am a professional translator skilled in Italian and have made a complete and accurate translation of the whole minutes here.

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