As a cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI and other Vatican officials did not punish or even hold a trial within the Catholic church for a Wisconsin priest who may have molested as many as 200 deaf boys, according to The New York Times.
The Times reports that despite warnings from "several" bishops to then-Cardinal Ratzinger about Father Lawrence Murphy, a priest at the St. John's School For The Deaf in St. Francis, WI, the Vatican chose not to act and ultimately allowed Murphy to go unpunished before his death in 1998. The Times reports:
In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee's archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican's secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy's dismissal.
But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church's own statute of limitations.
"I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood," Father Murphy wrote near the end of his life to Cardinal Ratzinger. "I ask your kind assistance in this matter." The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.
The Times acquired the correspondence and church files from the lawyers for five men who are suing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee over the abuse. A 2006 story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel detailed Murphy's violations:
The men's stories are similar. Murphy would call them to his bedroom in the school, or visit them in their dorm beds late at night, masturbate them and leave. Sometimes he would go on to other boys. Often he would say nothing. Sometimes when the boys saw him molesting other boys in the dorm room, they would cover their heads with their blankets, hug themselves tightly and weep. At times, he would take their confession in a second floor walk-in closet in the boy's dorm and molest them.
"Murphy was so powerful and it was so hard," said Geier who was molested when he was in seventh grade and said he saw more than a dozen other boys molested. "You couldn't get out. It was like a prison. I felt so confused. Here I had Father Murphy touching me. I would be like, 'God, what's right?' "
Geier said the boys received no sex education and had no idea what was happening to them. Some, he said, believed it must be all right because it was being done by a priest.
On Wednesday, the Pope accepted the resignation of Bishop John Magee, an Irish bishop, for his failure to report child-molesting priests to police. Last week, the Pope issued an unprecedented letter to Ireland addressing the 16 years of church cover-up scandals there. But he has yet to say anything about his handling of an abuse case in Germany.
In that case, Ratzinger approved the 1980 transfer of Rev. Peter Hullermann to a psychological treatment center to receive treatment for pedophilia. Ratziner, then a cardinal, was the archbishop of Munich and did not report Hullermann's alleged abuse of boys to German police.
Since January, more than 300 former Catholic school students and others have stepped forward with abuse claims and the church has seen it's poll numbers fall drastically.
According to Stern magazine, Only 17 percent of Germans polled said that they still trust the Catholic church, compared to 29 percent in late January, just before the first abuse cases there were made public.