[Updated with links to additional reporting.]
Based on inferences that mainstream media news reports are drawing, he was. But is this the case?
The goal of this post is to provide information–particularly, information that’s not making it into the mainstream media.
In addition to the scandal in Ireland of child abuse by priests (Pope Benedict’s pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland was released last week), two other cases of abuse are receiving considerable media attention: one in Germany, and one in the U.S. In both the German and American priest-abuser cases, the connection to Pope Benedict has been scrutinized. Many in the mainstream media are looking for how Pope Benedict was complicit (See, for example, these two articles from the New York Times).
In the case in Germany, the priest (Fr. Peter Hullermann) had spent time in then-Archbishop Ratzinger’s archdiocese, Munich. In the case in the U.S. (involving Fr. Lawrence C. Murphy), the Archdiocese of Milwaukee had made inquiries to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) at the time Pope Benedict (then-Cardinal Ratzinger) was the Prefect.
Below are some news articles and informed blog commentary that look more closely at the circumstances surrounding these two cases. I’ve included a few snippets, but the articles are best read in their entirety.
(For those who don’t have time to do an in-depth look, John Allen summarizes “three aspects of Benedict’s record on the sexual abuse crisis which are being misconstrued, or at least sloppily characterized, in today’s discussion” in “Keeping the record straight on Benedict and the crisis”.)
- “Sex Scandal Finds Pope’s Diocese: Amid German Priests’ Abuse Cases, Pontiff’s Munich Home Base Describes His Role in Decisions on an Offender in 1980″ (WSJ)
- “WSJ: A different tone of coverage about the German scandal”
Commentary on the above from Fr. Z at WDTPRS. One interesting snippet: “[T]he role of a Vicar General in German dioceses can be quite a bit stronger in personnel matters than in other countries.”
- “What Bp. Zollitsch (Pres. German Bps Conf.) wrote for Die Welt” (WDTPRS)
- “Times vs. Vatican…Again” (includes response from the Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi)
- “Munich ‘Admits Error’” (Whispers)
- “Vatican: Pope was ‘completely extraneous’ to Munich sex abuse decision” (CAN/EWTN News)
- From Fr. Z, comments (last few paragraphs) on Pope Benedict’s management style:”Anyone who knows Papa Ratzinger at all, knows that the Holy Father was infamously NOT a micro-manager. He has always self-admittedly been not a great administrator, leaving things to those in key positions under him.”Furthermore, what most US priests don’t understand is that Vicars General in Germany play a far greater role in administration in German dioceses than they do in the US. Talk to German priests. They’ll tell you that Vicars General really do handle a lot of personnel issues.”
- “Vatican defends action in case of Wisconsin priest abuser” (Catholic News Service)
- “The Evident and Despicable Intent” (commentary in L’Osservatore Romano)
- “New York Times Tries to Keep Flame Alive” (Catholic League)
- “Response to the New York Times” by Fr. Raymond de Souza (NRO) [New]
- “Setting the record straight in the case of abusive Milwaukee priest Father Lawrence Murphy” by Fr. Thomas Brundage, J.L.C. (Catholic Anchor) [New]
“Then-presiding judge for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee gives first-person account of church trial”
Fair and Balanced??? Not at CNN –“The press and media which love sound bytes loathe long explanations even if they clarify the truth.” Fr. Trigilio comments on the media’s “illogical inferences” and then zooms out to the big picture, with some valuable thoughts about how things get covered up in the first place as well as about the child sex abuse scandal in general.
Is the Times interested in eradicating sex abuse? Catholic League President Bill Donohue’s take (h/t to Fr. Z)
How does the CDF handle the abuse-related cases they receive? An interview with Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the “promoter of justice” at the CDF.
And, of course, pray for the Holy Father. Pray for priests. Pray for those who have been victims of abuse.