MILWAUKEE — A man who says he was among some 200 deaf boys allegedly molested by a priest in Wisconsin said Monday the Vatican's defensive responses to revelations about the case make him feel like he did when he was 12, when no one would listen to him about the abuse.
Arthur Budzinski, 61, said at a news conference outside the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist that Pope Benedict XVI is trying to protect himself against criticism of his handling of the Wisconsin case against the Rev. Lawrence Murphy. Murphy was accused of molesting some 200 boys at the St. John's School for the Deaf outside Milwaukee from 1950-1975. He never was defrocked.
"It's 2010. I'm not trying to hurt the pope," Budzinski said. "The pope should do something. I'm just telling my story. That's all I'm doing," said his 26-year-old daughter Gigi Budzinski, who interpreted his sign language.
Top Roman Catholic officials are rubbing salt "into the already deep wounds of those who have been victimized and disillusioned by the Catholic church" by criticizing those speaking out about the Vatican, said Mary Guentner, a spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Guentner, who says she was abused by a nun in a different school, said victims should be praised, thanked and welcomed but instead have been vilified, mischaracterized and insulted for speaking out.
"It's ludicrous to claim that these hundreds of once-trusting, devout Catholics are somehow conspiring to hurt the world's most powerful religious figure," she said.
Recently released documents showed a Vatican office led by the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, halted a church trial against Murphy. Ratzinger's deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, shut the process down after Murphy wrote Ratzinger a letter saying he had repented, was old and ailing, and that the case's statute of limitations had run out. Bertone now serves as the Vatican's secretary of state.
The Vatican has said the case only reached the Vatican in 1996, that Murphy died two years later, and that there was nothing in the church's handling of the matter that precluded any civil action from being taken against him.
Benedict made no direct mention of the scandal in his Palm Sunday homily, but said Jesus Christ guides the faithful "toward the courage that doesn't let us be intimidated by the chatting of dominant opinions, toward patience that supports others."
The Vatican newspaper recently said there was a "clear and despicable intention" to strike at Benedict "at any cost."
Several victims held signs at the Monday news conference that read "Stop attacking us!" and "I'm not despicable."
Guentner said when the church attacks victims' motives, it intimidates other victims and witnesses whose information might protect other children. She said she wants Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki to "ask the pope to be transparent, to disclose any involvement in any sexual abuse cases and to stop insulting victims," she said.
She also responded to comments made Sunday by former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who is currently the New York Archbishop. He said the pope was suffering some of the same unjust accusations once faced by Jesus.
"(It) seems a little extreme to me," she said. "I think that seems a little extreme to all of us. We are now feeling persecuted from the response of the Vatican."