Saturday, March 27, 2010

Glance at church abuse cases handled by pope

Glance at church abuse cases handled by pope

Pope Benedict XVI gestures from his popemobile as he leaves a youth gathering, in St. Peter's square, at the Vatican, Thursday, March 25, 2010. The Vatican on Thursday strongly defended its decision not to defrock an American priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin and denounced what it called a campaign to smear Pope Benedict XVI and his aides. Church and Vatican documents showed that in the mid-1990s, two Wisconsin bishops urged the Vatican office led by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger now the pope, to let them hold a church trial against the Rev. Lawrence Murphy. The bishops admitted the trial was coming years after the alleged abuse, but argued that the deaf community in Milwaukee was demanding justice from the church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
In his time as an archbishop in Germany, a cardinal at the Vatican and then after becoming Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger has overseen at least four cases involving allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and church workers. A glance at the cases.


Allegations: About 200 deaf boys at St. John's School for the Deaf near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, alleged they were molested by the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, including in the confessional, in dormitories, in closets and during field trips during his years at the institution from the 1950s through 1974.

Handling: Church and Vatican documents show that in the mid-1990s, two Wisconsin bishops urged the Vatican office handling abuse cases to let them hold a church trial against Murphy. The office, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, was led by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

Resolution: Murphy died in 1998, still a priest, after sending a successful appeal to Ratzinger to avoid defrocking. The wish was granted by Ratzinger's deputy at the time, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who, as secretary of state is now the Holy See's No. 2 official. Bertone ruled that Murphy, old and ailing, should stay a priest, although restricted from celebrating Mass outside his diocese. The diocese began mediation with victims in 2004, paying unspecified compensation.


Allegations: In early 2009, 67 deaf men and women accused two dozen priests and religious brothers of raping and molesting children for years at a boarding school for the deaf run by a religious order in Verona. Of these, 14 former students have given sworn statements detailing abuse they say they suffered. The abuse allegedly happened at two campus in the years spanning the 1950s until the 1980s.

Handling: Verona diocese conducted its probe of the order in spring 2009, saying in May that only a fraction of the abuse occurred. Victims criticized the findings complaining that they were not interviewed. Diocese forwarded findings to Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in May and July 2009. Congregation head William Levada, an American cardinal, wrote to Verona's bishop last month requesting he interview some of the alleged victims. As pope, Benedict is not directly involved in any stage of this case.

Resolution: Vatican probe still open.


Allegations: Three sets of parents in the northwestern city of Essen alleged that the Rev. Peter Hullermann abused their children.

Handling: After the allegations, Hullermann in 1980 was transferred to the Munich archdiocese in southern Germany. He underwent psychotherapy but then returned to work with youngsters. A spokesman for the diocesan's council of priests, says he and colleagues were not informed by Ratzinger, who then led the Munich archdiocese, that Hullermann was an offender.

Diocese has said Ratzinger knew about the transfer but didn't know the priest had continued to work with rank-and-file faithful. A diocesan underling has assumed full responsibility for Hullermann's reassignment to pastoral work, and the Vatican is sticking by that version.

Resolution: Hullermann was convicted of abuse in 1986. He continued to work in several congregations until he was suspended this month.


Allegations: Mexican prelate Marcial Maciel, who founded the conservative Legionaries of Christ order in 1941 and enjoyed particular favor from the late Pope John Paul II, was accused of molesting seminarians. He also was accused of having a long-term relationship with a woman, fathering a daughter with her, and having two other children with another woman, according to the order.

Handling: Vatican began investigating allegations against Maciel in the 1950s, and again in 1998 after nine former seminarians said he abused them when they were youths in Spain and Italy.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Ratzinger's direction, begins an investigation in 2004, a year before he was elected pope. In 2006, after Benedict became pope, the Vatican ordered Maciel to lead a "reserved life of prayer and penance."

Resolution: A special Vatican inspection of the order by five bishops wrapped up this year and the pope's recommendations for the order are expected in a few months. Maciel died in 2008 at age 87. The order issued an apology to victims on Friday.

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