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(Updated at 3 p.m. EST to add links to Andrew Sullivan’s call for Pope Benedict’s resignation and to the Whispers in the Loggia blog.)

After weeks of speculation over whether Pope Benedict could be linked to the Catholic Church’s coverup of clergy sex abuse in his native Germany, a devastating New York Times story today by religion reporter Laurie Goodstein has instead connected him to America’s scandal.

According to the NYT investigation, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope declined to defrock a Wisconsin priest who had molested as many as 200 deaf boys between 1950 and 1974, despite repeated warnings to his office from several American bishops that “failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church.” Apparently, fears of a public scandal had outweighed concerns about the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy’s continued access to children. Also, it seems that by the time the Vatican started seriously examining this case, in the mid-1990s, Murphy was old and sick, boosting his personal appeal for clemency.

Related links:

–The NYT editorial accompanying the story, which briefly summarizes the unfolding clergy abuse scandals that call for a major Vatican response.

–The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s series (part 1 and part 2) about Murphy, which ran in 2006.

Catholic News Agency and Catholicic News Service are reporting the Vatican’s response to the NYT story, defending the decision not to defrock the ailing Murphy, who died in 1998.

Politics Daily’s David Gibson doesn’t think the pope can or will resign, but otherwise explains the implications of these stories on the Vatican’s authority.

Blogging Religiously’s Gary Stern addresses whether the media are indeed “picking on the Catholic Church.”

Whispers in the Loggia, a blog about Catholicism, is closely chronicling the unfolding chaos.

–A polarizing Catholic figure himself at times, The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan is calling for Benedict’s resignation and an end to priestly celibacy, to save the church.

I’ll keep updating this story, as it unfolds. (Something tells me that another letter and a couple of bishop resignations won’t make this go away anytime soon.)

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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