Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Father Murphy, molester of deaf children

posted by Rod Dreher

From today’s NYTimes:

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.
The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

You reap what you sow.



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Richard

posted March 25, 2010 at 8:16 am


It grieves me to read about this. I can’t speak for Catholics, of course, but it is hard for me to see how anyone could not look at all the apologies, letters, gestures, etc. from Rome and not see them as so much lip service.
It just bears out your observation that the RC chuch seems completely unwilling to face their mess.



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Franklin Jennings

posted March 25, 2010 at 8:55 am


So wait, this aged priest who did the horrible things had already retired himself to a life of prayer and penance, and the Vatican heeded his plea for mercy on a set of canonical charges that had already expired?
And the secular authorities knew all about the priest and chose not to prosecute either?
And you guys are faulting Benedict?
I really can’t think of a worse service some of you can do the victims of abuse than to sound like their plight is just another handy cudgel with which to whip the Church.



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sd

posted March 25, 2010 at 9:31 am


The times piece is a transparent hit job on Pope Benedict. I’m not sure what the current headline at the http://www.nytimes.com site says, but last night (when the story first posted), the frickin’ headline mentioned Benedict front and center. This despite the fact that the abuse in question happened decades ago, was investigated by both Church and secular authorities at the time and not pursued, and the only even remote connection to Benedict that can be made is that in the late 1990s, when the priest who committed the abuse was retired and in frail health, the office at the Vatican that Benedict ran was slow to respond to the local Bishop’s request for a full canonical trial, a request which he seemed to be making for the PR protective value more than anything else. Oh and the fact that Benedict’s office apparently was swayed by a dying man’s plea for mercy and thus chose not to order a full canonical trial.
Yes, local Church officials dismissed allegations and allowed a serial predator to continue working with (and abusing) children. Yes, this is a horrible injustice. But this happened in the 19 frickin’ 60s and 70s in Wisconsin. The link to Benedict is about as thin as could possibly be. And yet the Times piece is written in abouting the most confusing manner possible, frequently shifting back and forth between discussing the circumstances of the abuse and the circumstances of the controversy over the canonical trial, leaving the lazy reader with the vague feeling that Benedict sat on a set of abuse allegations which allowed the priest to continue abusing more children. Which is of course flat out wrong.



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Irenaeus

posted March 25, 2010 at 9:32 am


I’m not Catholic — yet, maybe someday, depending on how sour things in the Protestant world continue to go — but I feel I have to defend the current Pope here. I also have children, and thus have no interest in excusing or protecting pedophiles. I read this article differently than Rod and certain commentators, paying close attention to the timeline:
Fr. Murphy worked at a school for the deaf from 1950-1974.
Fr. Murphy was moved by Archb. Cousins to Superior (WI) 1974-1998.
Ratzinger was head of CDF 1981-2005.
Weakland writes Ratzinger only in 1996, waiting at least three years, from 1993.
Fr. Murphy dies 1998.
The way the article is written makes it sound as if Ratzinger was aware of this for years upon years, which isn’t the case. Further, while Murphy shouldn’t have been in ministry, that he remained is the fault of three entities: Cousins, Weakland himself, and the civil authorities, who didn’t pursue the matter. As far as the Vatican’s actions from 1996 on, perhaps one could argue a different course should have been taken, but from the article it’s not clear if the man was still in active ministry (from what’s quoted from Fr. Murphy’s letter, it seems he was not long for the world), and if not, then letting the matter rest may — may — be a defensible course of action. It’s easy from my vantage point to say the man should have been defrocked at that late stage, but perhaps — we’re not told — the Vatican decided that at that late stage a full canonical process wouldn’t be worth it, given the man’s age.
At any rate, this article smells like Weakland’s revenge; he’s mentioned throughout (8 times, if I counted correctly), and given his well-known disdain for Ratzinger and Catholic orthodoxy, his own shady dealings in the area of sexuality (which the article mentions), and his well-known narcissistic tendencies, we can’t trust a word he says. Perhaps Weakland’s letters from 1996 and 1997 are an attempt to cover his own rear?
Using Weakland as a source to attack Ratzinger…well, I know who I trust.
This reads as a classic NYT hit piece on Benedict, with suggestion and innuendo more than facts with regard to Ratzinger. The only part Rod bothered to quote, the article begins:
“Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys…”
Remember the timeline! But the open makes it sound as if BXVI knew about this from the beginning.
“The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.”
What’s quoted in the article does NOT show that; it shows Weakland’s purported concern for such.
“The Vatican’s inaction is not unusual. Only 20 percent of the 3,000 accused priests whose cases went to the church’s doctrinal office between 2001 and 2010 were given full church trials, and only some of those were defrocked, according to a recent interview in an Italian newspaper with Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the chief internal prosecutor at that office. An additional 10 percent were defrocked immediately. Ten percent left voluntarily. But a majority — 60 percent — faced other “administrative and disciplinary provisions,” Monsignor Scicluna said, like being prohibited from celebrating Mass.”
The article is misleading; read the full interview here.
“In 1993, with complaints about Father Murphy landing on his desk, Archbishop Weakland hired a social worker specializing in treating sexual offenders to evaluate him. After four days of interviews, the social worker said that Father Murphy had admitted his acts, had probably molested about 200 boys and felt no remorse.”
So why does Weakland wait three years to write Rome? The article is unclear; it continues: “However, it was not until 1996 that Archbishop Weakland tried to have Father Murphy defrocked. The reason, he wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger, was to defuse the anger among the deaf and restore their trust in the church.” Does that mean the reason he waited, or the reason he wrote at all?
“With no response from Cardinal Ratzinger…”
I doubt very much that a letter from an American Archbishop went unanswered. At the least, the office itself would prepare a brief letter stating receipt of the correspondence. Does Weakland mean he got nothing, or nothing from Ratzinger personally, or…? These offices get an incredible volume of mail and are severely understaffed, but I cannot believe an Archbishop’s letter would go unanswered, save for clerical or postal error. Again, Weakland cannot be trusted, even if the article were clear.
“…Archbishop Weakland wrote a different Vatican office in March 1997 saying the matter was urgent because a lawyer was preparing to sue, the case could become public and “true scandal in the future seems very possible.”
Oh! Now that a lawsuit against the Archdiocese is possible, Weakland gets real concerned. More CYA.
I could go on, but it’s apparent to me this is another hit piece directed at Benedict. The Church has and has had problems, problem priests, and problem bishops, and they need to be dealt with, as Benedict is endeavoring to do, but Benedict himself is not among them, in my Protestant opinion. But one suspects the reason the Catholic Church comes in for such fire is that it’s the one institution that hasn’t officially surrendered to the project of modernity, unlike many Protestant denominations and unlike many schools, which have rates of abuse as high or higher than the Church.



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Irenaeus

posted March 25, 2010 at 9:40 am


Further, Fr. Dwight Longenecker on “The Myth of Pedophile Priests”, with links to the work of non-Catholic Philip Jenkins (an article here), who in 2002 as the American scandals were breaking wrote:
My research of cases over the past 20 years indicates no evidence whatever that Catholic or other celibate clergy are any more likely to be involved in misconduct or abuse than clergy of any other denomination — or indeed, than nonclergy. However determined news media may be to see this affair as a crisis of celibacy, the charge is just unsupported.
Literally every denomination and faith tradition has its share of abuse cases, and some of the worst involve non-Catholics. Every mainline Protestant denomination has had scandals aplenty, as have Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah´s Witnesses, Jews, Buddhists, Hare Krishnas — and the list goes on. One Canadian Anglican (Episcopal) diocese is currently on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of massive lawsuits caused by decades of systematic abuse, yet the Anglican church does not demand celibacy of its clergy.
However much this statement contradicts conventional wisdom, the “pedophile priest” is not a Catholic specialty. Yet when did we ever hear about “pedophile pastors”?
Just to find some solid numbers, how many Catholic clergy are involved in misconduct? We actually have some good information on this issue, since in the early 1990s, the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago undertook a bold and thorough self-study. The survey examined every priest who had served in the archdiocese over the previous 40 years, some 2,200 individuals, and reopened every internal complaint ever made against these men. The standard of evidence applied was not legal proof that would stand up in a court of law, but just the consensus that a particular charge was probably justified.
By this low standard, the survey found that about 40 priests, about 1.8 percent of the whole, were probably guilty of misconduct with minors at some point in their careers. Put another way, no evidence existed against about 98 percent of parish clergy, the overwhelming majority of the group.



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thomas tucker

posted March 25, 2010 at 10:17 am


I call BS on this whole story.
The Scandal has now officially morphed into Hit Job on the Catholic Church with just as much distortion of fact and misinformation as nay other hit job. The sad thing is that this impedes true reform of how child abuse is handled all across society, including by our own civil authorities.



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Peter

posted March 25, 2010 at 10:29 am


200 deaf boys molested, and the Pope and Catholics are the victims despie a four decade coverup by the church and the Vatican, including the Pope



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Richard

posted March 25, 2010 at 10:46 am


Look, there is more than enough blame to go around with secular authorities. But they usually have no particular claim of moral superiority or witness. The church does.
Allowing abusive priests to retire to a quiet life of prayer and penance without facing the music is precisely what has people concerned that the church is interested in nothing other than shushing everything up.
And how covenient for you to dismiss people genuinely concerned about the church as Catholic-hating bigots. How tiresome.



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Peter

posted March 25, 2010 at 10:48 am


We are seeing another example of how the Catholic laity would rather bury their heads in the pews and blame the media instead of anti-Catholic bias than face the hard truths.



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sd

posted March 25, 2010 at 10:56 am


Peter,
You seem to think that facts are irrelevant. Nobody is suggesting that biased journalism directed at the Catholic Church is somehow morally worse than the sexual abuse of 200 children. For that matter, nobody is suggesting that biased journalism directed at the Catholic Church is somehow morally worse than the sexual abuse of a single child.
But what we are suggesting is that as we go about assigning blame in this case (as well as in any other) we should be focusing on people who actually, you know, did something bad. The Times story as written goes out of its way to put Pope Benedict at the center of the drama, despite the fact that his connection to these events is remarkably – remarkably – tenuous.
The New York Times is remarkably un-interested in the sexual abuse of minors at the hands of parents, relatives, family friends, public school teachers or the clergy of other religious organizations. But it deems a decades old abuse case involving a priest in Wisconsin worthy of headline news status. And the story written about the case discusses the current pope as much as the abusing priest and a helluva lot more than the Bishop of the Milwaukee archidioscece or the Milwaukee police at the time that the allegations first surfaced.
If I was trying to figure out who the “bad guys” are in this story, I think I’d come up with the following list in descending order:
1) The priest who sexually abused 200 children
2) The Bishop of Milwaukee at the time of the abuse who dismissed allegations of the abuse, as well as other administrative officials in the Milwaukee chancery who were aware of the allegations
3) The police and other civil authorities in Milwaukee at the time of the abuse who dismissed allegations of the abuse
4) The later Bishop of Milwaukee who apparently sat on the case and only forwarded it for consideration to Rome (requesting a full canonical trial) when it threatened to cause PR problems and potentially a lawsuit
5) The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (then headed by Cardinal Ratzinger) who were, apparently, slow to respond to the then Bishop of Milwaukee’s request for a full canonical trial
So perhaps Ratzinger/Benedict’s conduct wasn’t perfect in this matter. I hope you and I live to be 80 years old and never make a mistake or fail to be completely dilligent in carrying out our duties. But to suggest that Pope Benedict is somehow morally culpable for anything that happened to a single child in this case is lunacy. By the time he could have learned of the case the priest in question was long retired and in the last legs of his life.



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thomas tucker

posted March 25, 2010 at 11:01 am


Wrong, Peter.
And the victims don’t get any justice by you firing at the wrong targets.
Like some miscreant bishops, you can’t even see or admit when you are wrong.



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Cheeky Lawyer

posted March 25, 2010 at 11:20 am


People have already said it better than I can. It isn’t clear what, if anything, this has to do with Pope Benedict. It isn’t even clear that he ever read a thing written to him. Was he supposed to pick up the phone in 1996 and call the same civil authorities who had already declined to do anything about this horrible priest? Rod, you are better than this. This is emotive-blogging. The real story lies in Milwaukee not in Rome. If only Cardinal Ratzinger had swooped over in his red cape, he could have done something 20 years after abuse had stopped and the local Church and police had swept this under the rug. I know I am being snarky, but posts like this are tiresome.



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Peter

posted March 25, 2010 at 11:24 am


His office failed to act on a priest who for likely four decades committed unspeakable abuse. Faced with the evidence, he did nothing. Just as his office did regarding hundreds of other priests.



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jh

posted March 25, 2010 at 11:35 am


THis was a poorly written TIMES article in a attempt to drag the Vatican into this and portray them as doing something wrong. THey seem to ignore all the documnetations they have supplied.
THis Italian blog(translated gives a summation of what did down
http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fpaparatzinger3-blograffaella.blogspot.com%2F2010%2F03%2Fprete-pedofilo-in-usa-ecco-come-e.html&sl=it&tl=en



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sd

posted March 25, 2010 at 11:40 am


Peter – What would have had him do? Order a canonical trial of an elderly priest near death who was living in seclusion? Piss on his corpses after he died?
Had Ratzinger jumped into action immediately how many children would have been saved from sexual abuse? 10 points for you if you answered “zero.”



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Peter

posted March 25, 2010 at 11:55 am


A trial would have shown the Vatican was worried about the abuse, even if it wouldn’t have prevented those acts. It would have shown outrage over the coverup. It would have shown some actual concern.



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Tom

posted March 25, 2010 at 11:56 am


Rod: Look at the official vatican statement on this incident.



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm


No one can accuse me of not being often too strident in my criticism of the Church’s handling of abusive priests. But in this instance I have to say “kudos” and thanks to Irenaeus for his spot-on analysis of the article. It is after all from the New York Times. Consider the source.
I am surprised and dismayed that Rod, who used to be a journalist, would even cite such a flimsy attempt at character assassination. But Rod is paid by page views and he gets them when posting on this topic.



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jh

posted March 25, 2010 at 12:24 pm


“A trial would have shown the Vatican was worried about the abuse, even if it wouldn’t have prevented those acts. It would have shown outrage over the coverup. It would have shown some actual concern.”
As the Vatican documents pointed out it would be very difficult to assmeble all that evidence ( we see this in Civil Cases) and oh in the background they were in a race to do something because the guy was at Death’s door. I doubt looking at the timeline he could have even been present for trial



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Cheeky Lawyer

posted March 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm


Also, if Archbishop Weakland was so very concerned about having a private funeral for Fr. Murphy — a concern with which I agree — why did he allow his auxiliary, Bishop Sklba — the bishop Weakland writes about going to the mat for to have appointed and ordained in his book — celebrate a public funeral Mass?



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Your Name

posted March 25, 2010 at 12:51 pm


A question for everyone who blames, or shifts responsibility for prosecution to local law enforcement in the US:
The individual priest, or Bishop that might be charged, arrested, and tried is a representative of a very wealthy foreign nation with whom we have no extradition treaty. (I don’t expect the US to mount a Panama-style military invasion of Vatican City to retrieve suspects for a domestic criminal trial.) Certainly a city like Milwaukee doesn’t really have the resources to take on an entire foreign nation, while the priest or bishop would have (and have had in the past) the full support and protection of that country.
Given that the Church paid off victims’ families to keep quiet, moved priests to hide scandals, and even moved Bishops back to the safety of the Vatican, a successful prosecution in American courts would require the FBI, State Department, and a RICO/Mafia-style nationwide investigation would be required… Wouldn’t that be viewed as a “War on Catholicism?” How exactly does a town like Milwaukee take on the full weight and power of the Vatican by itself? It’s one thing to take on organized crime, but when you have police departments, judges, politicians (and currently 6/9 of the Supreme Court) who are inclined to view the Church as “the good guys”, it’s a daunting task. For believers, they’re not trying a criminal; they’re attacking God’s representative on Earth.
The only thing that has brought any remote justice or solutions to this mess has been vocal, embarrassing publicity in countries with some degree of free press, and even that gets continuously hammered as an unfair attack on the Catholic Church.



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Your Name

posted March 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm


“The individual priest, or Bishop that might be charged, arrested, and tried is a representative of a very wealthy foreign nation with whom we have no extradition treaty”
Uhh the Vatican is lucky not to run a deficit



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Your Name

posted March 25, 2010 at 1:25 pm


“Uhh the Vatican is lucky not to run a deficit”
The Catholic Church, as a whole, and in the US, isn’t poor by a stretch. Billions in assets at the least. My point isn’t the exact net worth of the Church (practically impossible to tabulate), but rather that millions and millions of dollars have been spent in settlements (even threatening the bankruptcy of dioceses) rather than submit the offending priest to civil prosecution. If a Microsoft employee raped a kid, Bill Gates isn’t going to sell off a bunch of company property to protect that guy, he’s probably going to be fired and thrown to the wolves.
It’s one thing to take on “The Independent Random Protestant Church of the West Side of Main Street” with $100,000 in assets and ten employees. Taking on the Catholic Church and a foreign nation is a whole other matter entirely.
This isn’t Catholic bashing from me, I’m just curious: everyone keeps saying that civil prosecution of the specific individual is the answer, but massive roadblocks within and outside the Church have prevented that from happening.



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Father Ian Burgess

posted March 25, 2010 at 1:26 pm


Update: Vatican responds to NY Times article. Enjoy.
http://212.77.1.245/news_services/bulletin/news/25305.php?index=25305&lang=en
Regards,
Father Ian Burgess



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Peter

posted March 25, 2010 at 1:39 pm


It reads like a corporate PR denial. I think Enron and Lehman Brothers and Toyota and the tobacco companies issued similar denials.
I understand the need, desire to protect the pontiff at all costs. But imagine if Ratzinger and PJPII went after molester priests the way they went after liberation theologians and progressive religious women.
This is just one case in a four to five decade conspiracy to protect the church. For over 20 years, Ratzinger was in charge of the office that disciplined priests to no avail.



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sigaliris

posted March 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm


From the NYT article:
Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.
Instead of being disciplined, Father Murphy was quietly moved by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin in 1974, where he spent his last 24 years working freely with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention center.
Murphy DIDN’T retire to a life of prayer and penance. The first complaints against him by boys at St. John’s School were reported in 1955. He was not only not removed, he was made head of the school, where he continued to abuse children until 1974–this, although the then archbishop of Milwaukee told David Walsh, then chaplain of the Deaf in Chicago, that Murphy had ADMITTED to the allegations. He ADMITTED to his bishop that he had raped children, and the bishop made him head of the school.
Only in 1974, after a group of his victims passed out wanted posters with his face on them in front of cathedral, was he moved elsewhere. Nothing was reported to the police. No reason was given for his removal. There was no reaching out to victims. He continued to work, unsupervised and unpunished, for ANOTHER 24 YEARS. Even the miniscule satisfaction victims might have received from seeing that the Church did not allow their rapist to be buried with priestly honors was denied to them.
So, Ratzinger was only in charge of decision-making on this one for three years . . . so, perhaps he didn’t invent this abominable policy, but merely continued to carry it out. Maybe the Murphy case is only once instance, and not the most egregious, of his time-serving, ethically bankrupt subservience to an institution that always puts itself first. How does that make this better?
Meanwhile, Barbara Blaine, Peter Isely, John Pilmaier and Barbara Dorris from the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) were taken away in a police car when they dared to raise placards reading “Stop the secrecy now” and “Expose the truth” on the edge of St. Peter’s Square. The son of a policeman uses police power to intimidate people who question him. You’d think he’d have learned better, growing up under Nazi rule.
I feel as if I’m taking to a brick wall here. They have ears, but will not hear . . . .



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Erin Manning

posted March 25, 2010 at 2:07 pm


I’m actually sort of glad Rod posted this, because it’s been wonderful to read the intelligent posts by those defending the Church on this one, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. It has also showed that for those who want to use the Scandal to trash the Church, no mere considerations of such things as facts, timelines, the ineffective involvement of civil authorities, and other little realities matter in the least.
Here we have a case where it is at least theoretically possible, though I’m not alleging anything, that Archbishop Weakland did not aggressively pursue justice in this case because of the possibility that a serious investigation might somehow uncover his own illicit lifestyle. As late as the mid-1980s Weakland is reported to have been dismissive of abuse claims alleged at a Catholic school, so I don’t buy any implication that he was seriously concerned about the Murphy case and frustrated by an Vatican stonewalling. The resistance to dealing with matters as they should have been dealt with was happening on his end, not Rome’s.
Still, that doesn’t matter to those who are going to put the worst possible spin on things as regards Rome. The bumbling mismanagement of a single bishop doesn’t mean anything unless the whole Church can be tarred with that brush.



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Your Name

posted March 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm


Father Murphy, molester of deaf children
This is so sad. He seemed like such a nice man on “Little House on the Prairie”



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Mac S.

posted March 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm


It has also showed that for those who want to use the Scandal to trash the Church, no mere considerations of such things as facts, timelines, the ineffective involvement of civil authorities, and other little realities matter in the least.
I am curious, is this toward the media or toward individuals who have commented on this blog?



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James Kabala

posted March 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm


Your name: I understand your point, but each priest is more autonomous than you seem to think. Priests have been successfully prosecuted for sexual abuse since at least the 1990s, and before that other priests had been successfully prosecuted for other reasons (e.g., the Berrigan brothers and their anti-draft activities in the 1960s). In no case was a massive resource deployment of the type you envision required. Now when it comes to prosecuting a bishop involved in a cover-up, you have a better argument, but for prosecuting a low-level priest who was the actual abuser, a simple arrest could have done the trick. The civil authorities cannot be let off the hook.



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sigaliris

posted March 25, 2010 at 2:35 pm


The New York Times has posted copies of the documents extracted from the diocese in this case.
http://documents.nytimes.com/reverend-lawrence-c-murphy-abuse-case#document/p1
I suggest people read them. Erin, do you actually read these accounts of abuse and negligence? I wonder sometimes. I read the report of the grand jury that investigated abuse that took place in Philadelphia. It blew my mind. And it blew my mind again when I went to talk to my parish pastor, and the only time he showed indignation was when I criticized the bishop’s handling of these matters. “You can’t criticize the bishop!” he said angrily. “It isn’t your place to say what he should have done. I have faith that everything he did was for the best.” It’s hard for me to believe that any parent can read these accounts and still acquiesce cheerfully in the Vatican spin that no church authorities can be held accountable, and that everyone should agree that it’s the Pope and the bishops who are the real victims here.
(I tried to post this earlier, and it was held for moderation. I assume because I put too many links in. I’ll break the post in half and put the other links in the next section.)



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hlvanburen

posted March 25, 2010 at 2:37 pm


“Still, that doesn’t matter to those who are going to put the worst possible spin on things as regards Rome. The bumbling mismanagement of a single bishop doesn’t mean anything unless the whole Church can be tarred with that brush. ”
But when the mismanagement is replicated across numerous diocese by numerous bishops and priests, when does it cease to be isolated from the central structure of the organization? The USCCB held meetings in 1985, contemporaneous with the Weakland failure, to address instances of abuse throughout the US.
Taken in isolation, yes these are the acts of individual priests and or bishops. However, when you have the same behavior going on in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Boston, and a few dozen other major cities, as well as in a number of other countries, when does it cease to be isolated “bad apples” and become an instance of a “bad tree bearing bad fruit”?
Also, as more and more commenters seem willing to toss the prior Pontiff under the bus for his seemingly willful ignorance of this scandal, will these same people be tossing the current Pontiff under the same bus five years after he leaves office in death?



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sigaliris

posted March 25, 2010 at 2:37 pm


(Continued–with links to the Philadelphia grand jury report, and a news story covering those events in more detail. Read them and weep.)
You might read this, too–the Philadelphia grand jury report.
http://www.philadelphiadistrictattorney.com/pages/1/index.htm
And this, an account of the investigation, originally printed in the National Catholic Reporter, “Shining Light on a Cover-Up: A Priest and a Prosecutor Detail How It Happened,” by Michael Newall.
http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/03_04/2006_04_28_Newall_ShiningLight.htm



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thomas tucker

posted March 25, 2010 at 2:41 pm


“…submit the offending preist to prosecution…” What the heck is that supposed to mean? Why didn’t the victims or their guardians go to the prosecutors themselves? And why, if people were picketing with copies of his picture, didn’t the prosecutors and/or police notice that and launch their own investigations? Plenty of blame to go around here, but not on Cardinal Ratzinger. Your Name- priests are not representatives of a foreign country and can be charged and tried right here in the good old US of A if prosecutors want to do so. Plenty have been arrested for one thing or another over the years.



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Your Name

posted March 25, 2010 at 2:48 pm


“Order a canonical trial of an elderly priest near death who was living in seclusion?”
So basically, if you managed to cover up your molestation of 100s of children until you’re elderly, you shouldn’t face the conseqences? I don’t like this defense any better here then when I see it for murderers who managed to cover their crimes for decades.



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Alicia

posted March 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm


If these revelations are true, Pope Benedict is no better than Cardinal Law, and should resign. Not to take responsibility is to risk permanently damaging the Catholic Church. Perhaps that church needs it’s own version of “Serpico” to expose the corruption and the code of silence that surrounds abuse. 200 deaf children molested. Mein Gott!



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BobSF

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:06 pm


Here we have a case where it is at least theoretically possible, though I’m not alleging anything, that Archbishop Weakland did not aggressively pursue justice in this case because of the possibility that a serious investigation might somehow uncover his own illicit lifestyle.
Oh, no, Erin, I’m sure you’re not alleging anything. That would be beneath you. Tut, tut on anyone who would think otherwise.
I actually want to thank Erin for this little bit of anti-gay innuendo. I had been considering commenting on the scandal vis a vis scapegoating, and her comment pushed my indecision aside.
I get a lot of flak from some of my fellow liberals for defending the Church on one aspect of this issue, i.e. the cultural context. While there are some aspects of the RCC that made it more vulnerable to abuse occurring and, certainly, more disposed to covering it up, what the Church did and how it did it was the way society dealt with sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults. Hush, hush, no waves, no publicity, no ruined lives. Keep it quiet. For the sake of the children. For the sake of the institution (church, school, police department, military).
The Church is, to some extent, paying for our collective, societal failures. Some of that is due to the Church’s own foot dragging and slowness to adopt society’s more open dealing with abuse, but some is just a result of administrative continuity and institutional legacy. Other institutions have successfully avoided the glaring spotlight of public examination for a whole variety of reasons.
Also, one would have to be foolish to ignore that people are pursuing various agendas in their response to this scandal and that some of those agendas are anti-Catholic or anti-orthodox-Catholic. But one would have to be monumentally foolish to ignore that there has always been a scapegoat for the abuse of children and that the Church, above and beyond other societal actors, has encouraged that scapegoating and continues to do so to this day. As does Erin.



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thomas tucker

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm


No, he should face the consequences- at the hands of prosecutors and the civil authorities so that he ends up in prison. Apparently, they weren’t ever interested. Ask them why not.



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Carlo

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:17 pm


Alicia:
can you read English? The Murphy case was never under the jurisdiction of the CDF until 20 years after the facts, and then only because of breach of the sacrament of confession, after both the local bishop, the police and the courts had failed to convict him for his deeds, and when the Murphy was about to die.
It is truly disgusting that the New York case is trying to link former card. Ratzinger to the cover-up in Wisconsin. And it is truly depressing that there are people like you naive enough to fall for their deceptions.



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Brett R.

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm


So basically, if you managed to cover up your molestation of 100s of children until you’re elderly, you shouldn’t face the conseqences?
Well, even in the American legal justice system there are rationales for showing similar mercy to criminals on the basis of illness, age or mental incapacity. You may not agree he should have been shown such mercy, but it’s hardly the worst mistake made in this decades-long catastrophe.



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Erin Manning

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:27 pm


Bob, point to one place in my post where I used the word “gay.”
Weakland was living a sexually active lifestyle in secret, and was thus (again, theoretically) vulnerable to blackmail. Does it matter whether he was committing his sexual sins with a man or a woman, in terms of the point I was making? Not in the least. But Bob has to rush in and say that I’m throwing in an anti-gay slur, because the idea that a former archbishop who was secretly sexually active during his tenure might, just might, have had his own dirty reasons for not wanting to be a whistleblower on abuse is apparently too ridiculous to entertain for a moment–but the idea that then Cdl. Ratzinger bears the lion’s share of the blame for the Murphy mess because he didn’t haul a wicked old man to Rome for a trial *four months* before the man died is to be taken seriously, with a lot of head-nodding and chin stroking.
The AP, picking up on the NYT story, ran its own piece–again, with the same curious lack of journalistic standards, brushing aside of the timeline, and the same sort of egregiously misleading title: “Vatican axed trial for priest accused by deaf boys.” On one website the comments below that AP story contain threats of violence toward the Pope, Catholic clergy, and Catholics in general. The level of irresponsible and incendiary journalism being practiced in this specific instance (note: not all media coverage of the Scandal, just this specific instance) is unsettling.



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Peter

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:27 pm


It has also showed that for those who want to use the Scandal to trash the Church, no mere considerations of such things as facts, timelines, the ineffective involvement of civil authorities, and other little realities matter in the least.
What was I thinking? How could I worry about tens of thousands of abused kids over decades and lose sight of who the real victims are: the Church. Who has time to worry about what Benedict knew and covered up when there are real villains out there: the media and Catholic haters.



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Carlo

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:28 pm


Oh, and let me add that for decades the wonderful Archbp. Weakland was an hero of the New York Times, as an enlightened American liberal resisting every attempt of the Vatican to interfere in the affairs of the American Church. Their hypocrisy is staggering!



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Carlo

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm


Peter:
actually you do not seem worried at all about “what Benedict knew and covered up.” You seem to have already decided everything in advance, and to have no intention to let the facts of the case interfere with your decision.



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thomas tucker

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:34 pm


Peter- the fact that there were abused kids does not negate the fact that you are trying to blame someone who is not to blame. The fact that there were abused kids also does not negate the fact that people are using this to bludgeon the entire Catholic Church instead of just those who were responsible. So, your statement is quite illogical.



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Peter

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:39 pm


The facts seem pretty clear. After decades of abuse, Ratzinger–who oversaw the discpline office amidst the entire scandal–decides not to do anything about a priest who 20 years earlier abused 200 deaf kids, and who knows how many countless others after he was shuffled around by bishops.
It is just one chapter in a decades long cover-up and conspiracy by higher-ups in the Church. Even the greatest defenders of the Church don’t seem to deny that.



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thomas tucker

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:44 pm


Carlo- quite so. And there is no use arguing with someone who simply wants to shout rather than listen to the facts. In fact, these arguments about culpability for child abuse have become quite tiresome to me and I won’t continue to participate in them. God bless.



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Carlo

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:56 pm


Peter:
no, those are not the facts. It is not the ‘discipline office.’ It is the Vatican congregation in chrge of doctrinal matters, which became involved only as far as Murphy abused the sacrament of confession, not because of child abuse. The task of disciplining Murphy was entirely in Weakland’s canonical jurisdiction, not theirs. And OBVIOUSLY they did not participate in the cover-up, since by the time this came to their desk everything was known and both Weakland, the police and the courts had failed to convict Murphy, who was now dying. So, all you can say is that de-frocking Murphy would have been a nice symbolical gesture, and Ratzinger failed to do it. But that’s not the title on the New York Times’ front page.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 25, 2010 at 3:57 pm


I just wrote a very long response, which disappeared, and is irrecoverable. I don’t have the time or the patience to rewrite it, so I’ll have to be brief.
I am amazed — but not, sadly, surprised — by the response of so many of you to this story, assuming that it’s a “hatchet job” inspired by anti-Catholic bigotry. One is not required to believe that the New York Times has the best interests of Pope Benedict at heart to face up to what they report here. If you haven’t read through the church documents the Times posts to its website, you really should. They show Abp Weakland asking Cdl Ratzinger’s office for a canonical waiver on the statute of limitations rule, saying that what Murphy did was so horrible, that Murphy showed no remorse, and the laity are so upset by it, that he really has to be defrocked. Cdl. Ratzinger’s office urged “pastoral” measures instead, to which a Milwaukee area bishop responded by saying that pastoral measures have been “exhausted,” and that Murphy, who molested at least some of these children in the confessional, simply has to be dealt with.
Why is it unfair, or bigoted, to lay out the facts of this case and to ask why the office the current pope headed refused to act against the priest who molested 200 deaf children, and wasn’t sorry about it? What if your child were one of the victims? I don’t understand this defense some of you are mounting, saying that the local prosecutors who declined to go after Father Murphy are to blame. Of course they are! But how is this exculpatory for the CDF?
Just because a story gives aid and comfort to people who hate the Church and Pope Benedict does not make it untrue, or unimportant. And Roland, I am insulted by your claim that I posted this story to get page views. You have been reading me long enough to know I don’t work this way. The abuse/scandal story has long been of deep interest to me. Besides, this story was on the front page, above the fold of the most important newspaper in the world this morning. I have no problem with people critiquing the story, but the idea that I posted it for cynical reasons is absurd, and beneath you to suggest of me.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 25, 2010 at 4:05 pm


Carlo, Rembert Weakland was one of my least favorite bishops when I was a Catholic, and I don’t think I’ve ever written a word in his defense. That said, if you look at the documents the Times appended to its story, you’ll see that Weakland wrote to the CDF telling them that he was canonically prohibited from acting against Murphy given how much time had passed, and that he could only do so if Cardinal Ratzinger granted a waiver to the canonical rules. Weakland was asking the Vatican for permission to move against Murphy. His hands were tied.



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BobSF

posted March 25, 2010 at 4:08 pm


Bob, point to one place in my post where I used the word “gay.”
You didn’t come out and say it, of course. Hence my use of the word “innuendo”. Did you mean something else?
a serious investigation might somehow uncover his own illicit lifestyle
A heterosexual relationship would have been “illicit” in Wisconsin in the 70s?



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Alicia

posted March 25, 2010 at 4:10 pm


Carlo, if you read my comment, you will note that it began, “IF these revelations are true…” and, from what I’ve learned about this New York Times, the Bishop or Archbishop who wrote to then Cardinal Ratzinger about the potential for a scandal and for great damage to the church was ignored by him.
The priest who molested 200 deaf children was not only not prosecuted, he wasn’t even defrocked. If you are determined to defend Pope Benedict, no matter what the truth turns out to be, obviously nothing that I or anyone else can say will reach you. If you can’t see the callousness and evil in either ignoring or covering up this abuse, then I feel sorry for you.



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Stanley Krute

posted March 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm


The Catholic Church does much that is good in the world.
But my admiration for that cannot blind me to seeing, reading, and sensing that the arc of these European revelations is following that of the crimes committed in the Boston diocese.
It is unseemly to attack victims and messengers. The sin is not found in speaking, but in silence/acquiesecense/support for evil deeds.
Please try to drop ideological and my-team filters.
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23369148-pope-led-cover-up-of-child-abuse-by-priests.do



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sigaliris

posted March 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm


Thomas Tucker, you said: Why didn’t the victims or their guardians go to the prosecutors themselves?
Again I ask, do some of you people actually read any of these accounts? Murphy deliberately targeted a vulnerable population–Deaf boys at a residential school. And within that group, he chose boys whose parents showed the least concern for them and did not communicate with them frequently. I have a close friend who works with the Deaf. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for Deaf children to communicate with hearing authorities? Practically speaking, it is near-impossible. And it was even worse at the time when Murphy committed his assaults. It’s a testimony to the persistence of the victims that their complaints ever got heard at all.
The NYT article says that in the 70s, victims did complain to the legal system, but the civil authorities did not pursue the complaints. I don’t know why, but my guess is that the statute of limitations had run out. Wisconsin revised its laws on sexual assault in 2005 to allow for charges to be brought at any time until the victim was 35. I don’t know what the law was before 2005, but in most places the statute of limitation was more constrained then. In addition, any evidence other than personal testimony from victims would have been controlled by the Church and not available to victims.
First the perpetrators make it as hard as possible for victims to report them. Then people like you blame the victims for not succeeding in reporting them. What a wonderful strategy. I’m sure that if one of these deaf children had come to Jesus for assistance, he would have told them it was their own darn fault for not being better able to manipulate the legal system. Just another example of the Church following his words when he said, “To those that have shall be given, while from those that have not, even the little that they have shall be taken away.”



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sd

posted March 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm


Oh come on, Rod.
“Why is it unfair, or bigoted, to lay out the facts of this case and to ask why the office the current pope headed refused to act against the priest who molested 200 deaf children, and wasn’t sorry about it?”
Look, you can’t post an inflamatory snippet of an article, follow it up with “You reap what you sow” and then act shocked that people are objecting to a sober discussion of the “facts.”
For example, take the following:
“The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.”
Would these be the “facts” that you’re referring to? If so then Laurie Goostein is to be commended for her ability to read minds. Otherwise, I don’t know how exactly she can say with such conviction what “their highest priority was” from reading some letters.
And that’s not to mention the following judo move: 1) Note that the correspondence was from “bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger”; 2) State that “church officials” disagreed on the course of action; and 3) State that “their highest priority…”
The correspondence in question shows a great deal of concern for scandal on the part of Bishop Weakland. But Vatican officials (NOT Ratzinger) replied with a course of action against that which Weakland asked for.
The casual reading of the paragraph above however would lead one to believe that: 1) In the “correspondence” there are letters specificallys from Ratzinger; and that 2) Ratzinger expressed an inordinate desire to avoid scandal at the expense of doing the right thing. Which is of course wrong on both counts.
Again, it may be a legitimate story that a priest abused a vast number of children. It may be a legitimate story that local Church officials refused to act in the matter to stop the abuse. But when the 7th and 8th words (see for yourself) in the story are “Pope Benedict” and it involves sexual abuse that took place starting in the year before Pope Benedict was ordained to the priesthood, its hard not to think that maybe, just maybe, our friends at the NY Times don’t give a damn about a bunch of deaf children in Wisconsin, but do care quite a bit about scoring points against a public figure who says things that clash with their worldview.
I don’t see how you can post items about the beauty of the Orthodox Forgiveness Vespers and then a few weeks later pile on an attack on the Church for choosing not to drag an elderly man through a public trial a few months before he died. I hope that the priest in question repented of his sins and begged God for mercy before he died. If he did not, then he may well be experiencing an eternity a fair bit more unpleasent that getting “defrocked.” Even if he did repent, then he may well be experiencing a temporal purification the likes of which none of us can possible imagine.
May Almighty God have mercy on all of us. Rev. Murphy, Bishop Cousins, Bishop Weakland, Pope Benedict, Laurie Goodstein, you and me. We all need it.



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thomas tucker

posted March 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm


I didn’t blame the victims.
I asked a question.
I do, however, blame any guardians who knew and didn’t report it to the police.



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Carlo

posted March 25, 2010 at 4:43 pm


Rod (and Alicia):
the point here is that the NYTimes is trying hard to link the now-Pope to the cover-up of the Murphy case, while the cronology shows that to be absurd.
All you are saying is that many years after the fact, when Murphy had been denounced, tried (but not convicted) and certainly was no longer in the position of harming any child, Ratzinger was not immediately supportive of Weakland decision to defrock him, which at that point would have been a purely symbolical act. OK, I will grant you that. In hindsight it was probably a poor decision. I honestly don’t feel that gives him a significant share of responsibility in this whole disaster, do you?



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Mac S.

posted March 25, 2010 at 5:14 pm


Well said Stanley. You sensibly and politely wrote what I wish I could have if not 1)running out for school pick up 2)being pretty upset as a Catholic at the new batch of stories coming to light and fear of more to come and 3)not having much in the way of unemotional sense or politeness around this particular topic.
Being angry, hurt, upset at these bungled handlings and/or cover-ups (not to mention the abuse itself) does not make one anti-Catholic or, if Catholic a “lib-ur-al” Catholic nor should they be a reason to cancel out the good of the Church and its people or an excuse to ignore the teachings.



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James

posted March 25, 2010 at 5:20 pm


Since last Thursday, I count at least five posts dealing with the priest sexual abuse story. This includes your most recent short post on the subject, in which your only words were, “you reap what you sow.” And given the subject of the post, that was apparently in reference to Pope Benedict. In last Thursday’s post, you quoted approvingly Mr. Allen, who identifies two issues in the scandals – “the abuse committed by some priests, and the administrative failures of some bishops.” About these problems, he is surely correct. But it seems to me there is a third evil that must be guarded against. And that is an unhealthy fixation with this topic. Terrible things were done; and too often people in authority responded (if they responded) in a disgraceful manner, thus compounding the original evil. But there is also the very real evil that impels those who seem to revel in every new report.



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Your Name

posted March 25, 2010 at 5:32 pm


James,
Wouldn’t you agree that loud, constant, public airing of this situation in the US, Ireland, and elsewhere, is the *only* way that any progress has been made? I don’t think anyone here is reveling in this tragedy. Only a sociopath would take delight in child molestation in hopes of scoring points against a different Christian denomination?
Rather than reveling, there’s a lot of bewilderment. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, here’s a new scandal that reaches new depths. The initial accusations were viewed as anti-Catholic ranting. So were the accusations against the coverup. And even now, an attempt to study the history and how this all happened is viewed as anti-Catholic rhetoric. I’m sure all Catholics and non-Catholics just really want to make sure this doesn’t continue.



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Evan

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:08 pm


Protect the institution at all costs.
Close your eyes, pretend, rationalize it all away.
But it is still there and that is what the hierarchy is counting on happening.
While our scandal in the Orthodox Church in America dealt with finances, it took time but the people of the Church wanted the truth at all costs. Not a cover up. We got the truth.
It is amazing to see how the Roman Catholics here for the most part are unwilling to think the unthinkable, that their church has had a greater concern for the institution than for the Gospel of Christ.
From nonsense that it is relatively new to most Roman Catholics, a half dozen years ago that most learned something, yet somehow in the 1960’s I knew that some Roman Catholic priests were pederasts, to blaming the reaction that the Orthodox would have if the Pope actually acted like the Pope Roman Catholics claim the role of the pope has been since St. Peter. And of course the disingenuous comment that Shea made when he commented about the Orthodox and the pederasts that our bishops love. Of course he linked his comments to a site, the last time I looked, that includes not just Orthodox but Byzantine Rite Roman Catholics and folks who are not and never were Orthodox but just like to dress up and pretend.
One day, maybe, the Roman Catholics will stop having their priority defending the institution and start demanding the truth, no matter how ugly it may be.
Until and unless you do all you do is give aid and comfort to those you claim to be condemning.
There will be hatchet jobs along the way, no doubt, but demand the truth. Tell your hierarchy that you don’t want a cover up. Don’t let the good priests and bishops get tarred with the same brush as the bad.



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Alicia

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:16 pm


Thanks, Carlo. As you say, perhaps ignoring the request for action from a Bishop many years after the actual abuse occurred does not merit giving then Cardinal Ratzinger the full share of responsibility either ignoring or covering up the abuse.
The problem is that this is not an isolated incident, as the revelations coming out of Germany, Ireland, and Brazil make clear, and it appears that then Cardinal Ratzinger may also have been complicit in either looking the other way or hushing up the abuse.
If this were one case of a man with the authority not doing his duty, that looks like a mistake. Instead this looks like a pattern of covering up, buying off victims, and ignoring abuse. And it doesn’t reflect well on Pope Benedict.



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GrantL

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:20 pm


I just shake my head at some of the comments here. Every time – every single time – yet another sex scandal revelation is made some Catholics just decry it as anti-Catholic bigotry, or some kind of anti-pope conspiracy. As though the pope can do no wrong, or the institution itself cannot possess systemic problems.
How many more scandals will it take, how many more victims have to come forward before some people will just admit the plain truth that something is systemically wrong with the Catholic church and that is present leadership, including the pope, have played a role in covering up the activities of criminals in their ranks? 10 more? 100? 1,000? How many victims does it take before the cries of “it’s so unfair!” will stop?
I would submit that believers have to stop saying things like “well yes, priest x is bad and when bishops a, b, c covered it up that was bad too. But look at all the other people in society who do bad things that aren’t Catholic! Look at them! Why the number of Catholic criminals when you take the entire population into account is pretty low, so stop with the bigotry!”
Of course any thinking person is upset and concerned and vocal when other criminals harm people. If a cop was caught molesting kids and his superiors covered it up, you can bet there would be a massive outrage. But by trying to say “there are others who are just as bad or worse” is just a deflection. The church is in dire trouble because of its own hubris.
This is about the Catholic church, about criminals in the ranks of clergy and decades of cover ups that are still being justified.
Things will never change in the church if the laity don’t say, finally and without the equivocation that the church has to change and has to change now.



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JudgeMC

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:23 pm


If my child was molested by a neighbor what would I do?
a) Call his grandma in Italy to tell her about it
b) Call the police and make sure he is taken away and put in jail…or worse
Anybody choosing (a) can be rightly called an enabler so why did they wait 20, 30 or 40 or more years, then only now come out to blame the Vatican for not reporting cases or taking action against the accused?
First, the Vatican and the RCC are not law enforcement agencies and this is especially true for crimes committed in other countries where they have no jurisdiction whatsoever. It does not have the capacity to investigate, verify and prosecute crimes and cannot be expected to defrock its priests once they are accused. The duty to investigate and prosecute crimes lies squarely and entirely with the state and its constituted organs. Secondly no one should ever have to be punished or smeared based on allegations alone, however strong. Only when convicted should any action, civil or canonical be meted. This is the central principle upon which any self-respecting legal system is based. These demands (that people, including third parties, be sanctioned based on accusations coming so many years after the alleged crime), offends every norm of natural justice and common sense. This is why there is a statute of limitation in every sane legal jurisdiction. Furthermore, the responsibility of the accuser/victim to report cases to the appropriate organs cannot be outsourced to the Church or anybody else as many of these victims seem to be doing today. Even if they were all immediately defrocked, this would hardly remove the danger posed by a pedophile. Given the number of rapes that could have been prevented, appearing 30 or 40 years after the fact to blame officials in far away Vatican for failing to report the crimes doesn’t cut it in my book. especially when they are asking for cash compensation. Something fishy there



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Rod Dreher

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:32 pm


Five posts out of a total of 30 I’ve posted in the last 7 days — and you, James, think I’m guilty of reveling in the scandal? What nonsense. This is a story that’s been front page news all over Europe, one that has profound religious and cultural implications, and you think I’m taking pleasure in commenting on it and observing it? What a perverse reading. I’ve posted three times on my sister’s cancer in the past five days. Am I reveling in that story too? Get a grip, fellow.
Carlo, I don’t get your point that the chronology absolves Benedict of at least some responsibility here. His office was informed that Father Murphy molested 200 deaf children, including doing so in the confessional. The local bishop wanted to defrock him. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office declined to give him that right. It’s bizarre. Maybe there’s a good explanation for this, but surely an explanation ought to be offered. This story is not important because Cardinal Ratzinger can be blamed in any way for Father Murphy’s crimes; plainly he cannot. It’s important because it reveals a certain official mindset within the church’s leadership class, with regard to these horrible crimes. Read the actual letters that passed between Milwaukee and the Vatican.
Goodstein documents that after much back and forth, the CDF finally authorized the beginning of a procedure against Murphy, but dropped it after Murphy wrote directly to Card. Ratzinger asking for mercy. True, we don’t know if the CDF’s decision was due to Ratzinger’s personal intervention, but it is by no means a stretch to imagine so.
sd: I don’t see how you can post items about the beauty of the Orthodox Forgiveness Vespers and then a few weeks later pile on an attack on the Church for choosing not to drag an elderly man through a public trial a few months before he died.
Oh, please. This poor elderly man you take pity on sexually violated 200 deaf children, and remained unrepentant. It was no longer possible to make him criminally responsible for what he did; all Weakland proposed to do was to defrock him in a canonical trial. And you paint this old devil as the victim here? Bizarre, the lengths some people will go to to rationalize the indefensible.
Finally, JudgeMc, you should read the story. Nobody is blaming the Vatican for not stopping the rapes of children decades ago. That’s not what this story is about. It’s about Card. Ratzinger’s office declining to give the Archbishop of Milwaukee permission to defrock a priest who did not deny his molestations. These aren’t even “he said/she said” accusations; this story is based on official church documents. It is really something else that your last line appears to blame the former child victims for this story that reflects poorly, if indirectly, on the sitting Pope.



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Erin Manning

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:43 pm


Rod, are you getting that Weakland wrote to then-Cdl. Ratzinger in 1996, more than 20 years after the most recent allegations, asking for this dispensation from canonical rules? And that by the time the CDF responded (not unusual–looking into these things takes time) Murphy had already had a stroke, and died four months later?
The answer to the question you write, “…why the office the current pope headed refused to act against the priest who molested 200 deaf children, and wasn’t sorry about it?” is probably a prosaic one: the canonical process was unlikely to be concluded in the defendant’s lifetime. It’s the same reason civil crimes are sometimes not prosecuted. It really takes concerted effort to see in the CDF’s response anything more sinister than that.
The better question is this: why did Weakland, who became Archbishop of Milwaukee in 1977, only three years after Father Murphy was moved away from the school and from the time of the allegations, wait until the 90s to begin writing to the CDF about Father Murphy? Had a canonical trial intended to laicize Father Murphy begun then, it might have had a chance of success. Why did Weakland wait?
Unfortunately, that’s not nearly as sensational a question as the one the Times is asking.



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melvin polatnick

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:48 pm


It is ironic that those who were mainly responsible for creating sexual inhibitions are now accused of breaking the strongest sexual taboo which is pedophilia. Their hypocrisy has shocked the world. Fortunately for the priesthood they have escaped charges of adultery or countless other unholy sexual practices.



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jp

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:49 pm


This is a sad link – no winners, no justice and no glory. I have to agree w/ James, there seems to be a certain amount of ‘joy’ at pointing fingers. Humans will always fail. Casting punitive judgment on the majority for the action of the minority is neither charitable nor just.
You can point to the catholic church all you want – I understand, should it fail, what else will stand? Funny how quickly incidents within the catholic church grab headlines. Watch 20/20 ‘To Catch a Predator’ and you’ll find teachers, rabbis, pastors, school counselors, etc. Yes, the church is an institution – those other guys are like straw men, easy targets. Yes it needs to be accountable. Yes, it should have been more forthright in its dealings with the abuse. And yes, Rod is right, we reap what we sow. But to fixate on the evil caused by the (relative) few while failing to reflect on the goodness of the church is disingenuous. Considering all the good (orders like Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic Hospitals, CARE, Catholic Charities, Parish communities, inner city schools, etc), the harvest if plentiful and often a thing of beauty.
Is this a defense of the church? Perhaps. Yet, reading some of these posts one cannot help but feel sad – for the hurt, anger, mistrust and perhaps, in some cases, hatred. Perhaps some of it is deserved. But hatred will not get you very far.
One of the problems is that any reasonable argument will be met with accusations of ‘rationalizing’ evil. That is not the case. No matter, there is nothing anyone can say that will change such deep seeded emotions…emotions that are often far beyond the reach of reason.
Peace and Grace,
-jp



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Erin Manning

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:50 pm


Rod, I just saw your response to Carlo where you write: “The local bishop wanted to defrock him. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office declined to give him that right. It’s bizarre.”
You do realize that a *trial* has to be held? The Vatican doesn’t simply send down some gilt-edged document which reads in Latin: The bearer has the right to defrock this person…etc.” Father Murphy would have had to stand trial for his crimes.
Should he have? Sure, if Weakland had bothered to write to Rome prior to 1988, which is the earliest time I can see the matter even coming up–or definitely before 1996, when his letters to the CDF are dated. By that time Murphy would most likely have died during the trial (these things aren’t quick) and the situation would have remained unresolved (I’m not aware of whether canon law permits posthumous verdicts, in any case).
But Weakland waited until after both the civil and Church statute of limitations had expired. Why? Was he unaware of the situation when he took office in 1977? Did the case lie dormant until some victims or their families decided to sue the diocese? What would have caused Archbishop Weakland to have delayed matters when a speedy action against Father Murphy right at the beginning of his tenure could have resolved everything while the statute of limitations was still in force?



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Evan

posted March 25, 2010 at 7:00 pm


Read the words of Cardinal Kasper:
ROME—March 6, 2010 Cardinal Walter Kasper, a top adviser to Pope Benedict XVI, told Italian daily La Repubblica essentially that the Catholic Church should clean up its act following multiple child abuse scandals. “That’s enough! We have to seriously clean up the church…Sexual abuses of minors by representatives of the clergy are criminal, shameful acts, they are unacceptable mortal sins…I think such a shocking problem… needs a wider analysis for maybe the whole church and not just one country.”
Support him and demand that it happen.
Instead of defending the institution at all costs.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 25, 2010 at 7:07 pm


Erin, I think Weakland was a terrible bishop, and I would imagine he waited as long as he did because the victims were threatening to sue, and he wanted to get out in front of the scandal, inasmuch as he could. When I said that Weakland wanted to “defrock” him, I was just using shorthand; the documents have Weakland asking for the right to hold a canonical trial.



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Carlo

posted March 25, 2010 at 7:11 pm


Alicia:
I can see patterns. I can also see when newspapers stretch the truth for ideological reasons. I get annoyed when people like GrantL tell me that because there a tragic pattern of child abuse by clergy, then any slander has to be accepted as Gospel. The insinuation that Card. Ratzinger was complicit in covering up Murphy’s crimes is just that: slanderous. As to the the ‘defrocking’ question, what I find bizarre is the importance Rod attributes to it in Murphy’s case, since it would not have protected anybody nor adequately punished Murphy for his crimes.
But I guess I do not have enoguh appreciation for purely symbolic gestures.



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Erin Manning

posted March 25, 2010 at 7:15 pm


Rod, I figured you were using shorthand, but how long does a canonical trial take? And how long did Murphy expect to live? And how long did he, in fact, live?
I just don’t see evidence of a nefarious CDF cover-up in this case. Whether it would have been better to have a wicked but elderly and sick man *begin* trial proceedings, just to die in the middle of it all with nothing resolved, is hard to say.



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GrantL

posted March 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm


Carlo;
Slander is spoken. It’s libel when it’s written. :-)
Anyway, The CDF accepted this criminal’s pleas for mercy after he wrote directly to Ratzinger. It strains credulity to say that the Raztinger is being slandered when people say “WTF?” This guy is purported to be a moral leader for the entire planet, and his apparent actions here raises serious questions. Very serious ones.
This church and this pope have to make a very serious accounting here. Both as an institution and as an individual who likes to tell the rest of the world how they ought to behave. You don’t get to run around the global telling people how to act morally and ethically if you were part of an institutional machinery that covered up sexual crimes by priests.
And the reason the man should have had been given the holy boot out the door is because is a criminal who harmed children and got away with it. Nothing much else could be done at that point but it would have shown that the church was not going to tolerate criminals in its ranks regardless of age or the time passed since a crime was committed. Instead what it showed is that the church is more interested in protecting itself than it is in protecting the weak.



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sd

posted March 25, 2010 at 7:31 pm


Rod,
I sincerely hope you’re not suggesting that the grace of mercy ought to be finite. That some crimes are so bad that it is acceptable to de-humanize the perpetrators? Because your argument is getting close to just that.
Look, This is not a where prompt and stern action by the CDF could have saved more children from being abused. This is not a case where prompt and stern action by the CDF could have forced a grave sinner to confront years of reflection on the evil he committed. Its a case where prompt and stern action by the CDF would have likely hastened a frail man’s death. God will judge Rev. Murphy in any event.



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Carlo

posted March 25, 2010 at 7:47 pm


GrantL:
there you go again: “covered up.” What did Ratzinger “cover up” in 1996? You would make a good headline writer at the NYTimes…
As for “the boot” I refer you to Eric Manning sensible comments above. At the end of the day, the only good reason to defrock a pedophile priest is to keep him away from children. For the dying Murphy in 1996 it was pretty meaningless, from a practical point of view…



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kenneth

posted March 25, 2010 at 7:56 pm


Based on Erin and some of the other comments, why should we have bothered to prosecute the SS commanders at Nuremberg, and why trouble to go after any of those aging concentration camp guards? After all, it’s not like they were saving any more Jews from harm. Must be one of those empty “symbolic” gestures you speak of. I have never heard a more impassioned defense of moral relativism as I have heard from some Catholics in recent weeks. Stick a fork in your institution and take it off the grill, folks. It’s done.



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Mac S.

posted March 25, 2010 at 8:17 pm


In our corner of the world, a priest was reassigned from a convent that held a daycare after allegations of molestation from years prior came to light. Our Bishop found the original claim one credible.
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10049/1036869-100.stm
The calls to local talk radio painted the woman who had come forward, some 40 years later, as a tart, a “teaser of faithful men”, someone “out to get money” with a court case in the future and the accusation as “no big deal” with parents now blowing it all out of proportion. Actually, she was 16 and a student at his school at the time, so she was legal according to canon law and nothing will be done. But she had to come forward KNOWING THAT. I applaud our Bishop for hearing her allegations.
I was shocked at the vitriol toward her by locals.
Then again, with the current allegations against our quarterback, perhaps not.



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Mac S.

posted March 25, 2010 at 8:24 pm


I have never heard a more impassioned defense of moral relativism as I have heard from some Catholics in recent weeks. Stick a fork in your institution and take it off the grill, folks. It’s done.
I disagree strongly. However, if the some continue to act as apologists for these actions and the hiding of the accusations and continue to defend and defame those greatly concerned with these scandals, I fear greater damage will be done. The Church has survived scandal before – but the, yes, relativism on display in this thread is troubling.



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Jon in the Nati

posted March 25, 2010 at 9:11 pm


To be absolutely fair, assuming the chronology is all there in front of us, the idea that the Vatican would decline to hold a canonical trial for a priest on his deathbed (or near it, at any rate) should not be terribly surprising. Secular prosecutors make that sort of determination all the time. Although it is not popular to hear, especially among victims and those who make a living out of manufactured shows of public indignation, it does happen, and more than you might think at that.
I won’t defend the hierarchy, because there was obviously some big breakdown here, it seems that it happened at the archdiocesan level. I have no love for B16, but I have a hard time seeing this as anything other than the NYT piling on the pontiff.



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Molly Roach

posted March 25, 2010 at 9:11 pm


No one has to use the scandal to trash the church since our bishops have done it already. I believe this case coming out of Milwaukee illustrates the doubleness of Pope Benedict’s admonishments to Irish bishops since he had himself, already ignored the anguish of victims in favor of the wishes of offenders.



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Jon in the Nati

posted March 25, 2010 at 9:13 pm


“why should we have bothered to prosecute the SS commanders at Nuremberg, and why trouble to go after any of those aging concentration camp guards? ”
Godwin’s Law, striking again…



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GrantL

posted March 25, 2010 at 10:18 pm


Carlo;
“At the end of the day, the only good reason to defrock a pedophile priest is to keep him away from children.”
So, if you had a criminal priest if you could keep him away from children and he could keep on being a priest, hanging onto him as a priest if fine and dandy?



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Carlo

posted March 25, 2010 at 10:36 pm


Grantl:
obviously a criminal priest belongs in jail. Do you regard de-frocking as a substitute for criminal justice?



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sj

posted March 25, 2010 at 11:01 pm


A heterosexual relationship would have been “illicit” in Wisconsin in the 70s?
For a Catholic Archbishop, yes.



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Michael C

posted March 26, 2010 at 7:13 am


I agree with GrantL, and disagree with Kenneth. Unfortunately there are a group of Catholics out there that will refuse to see this until there dying day, and nothing, but NOTHING will change.
The Church will continue to be ruled by princes, and the serfs will continue to do their bidding. Bishops will continue to live in Palaces, wringing their hands about abortion, whilst people are abused. People will continue to kneel and kiss the Papal ring. They are well trained in subservience. This is not a new thing. This has been going on for a thousand years.
Like Gandhi said.



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Carlo

posted March 26, 2010 at 7:57 am


Michael:
also self-righteous moralistic posturing has been going on for millennia.



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Liam

posted March 26, 2010 at 8:34 am


Folks, this is Lent: consider how we all use this information to nurse and feed our resentments. Nursing and feeding resentments (whether at the Church, the bishops, the NY Times, the MSM, whatever) is not of Christ. That applies to everyone.



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GrantL

posted March 26, 2010 at 2:36 pm


Carlo wrote”Grantl:
obviously a criminal priest belongs in jail. Do you regard de-frocking as a substitute for criminal justice?”
Not in the slightest. As I understand this case, civil justice also failed (which oddly why that is has not got nearly enough attention.)
but this was a situation were it appears the facts are not in dispute and the reason the church did not come down on him was because he was old and sick. Well boo hoo. I am sure his victims could care less. Justice does not come to an end because a criminal is old.
And obviously the church is not a court of a law, where this case should have been. However, by giving that creep the boot, the church would have sent a powerful message to its clergy and its to followers: “we take this seriously. We will not tolerate this from anyone. We will stand for what is right and ensure our church does not shelter child abusers.”
You derided the symbolism of doing this, but it would have been a powerful symbol.



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Ben Dunlap

posted April 17, 2010 at 2:10 am


Everyone’s moved on to fresher meat than this story by now, but I’d just like to point out that the key document associated with the Murphy case (the minutes from the CDF meeting with Abp. Weakland in Rome) was translated from Italian by a computer — and badly translated at that.
Rod’s beef with the CDF in this thread is that they supposedly prevented the Wisconsin diocese from holding a canonical trial. Which would be disturbing, if it were true.
Only it’s not, as an accurate translation of the Italian indicates. The precise opposite is actually true.
And here’s the real rub, I think: it’s not that hard to see that the initial machine translation is faulty, even if you don’t know the first word of Italian:
First of all, the American priest who produced it actually points that out in the accompanying document posted by the NYT.
Second of all, a good deal of the text is garbled and ungrammatical. There’s even a sentence (in the key paragraph #4, actually) that ends with the words “which therefore”. Etc.
Third: the Italian text is manifestly much longer than the faulty translation. Perhaps Italian is just that way in comparison to English, but not that much different.
Fourth: just a brief comparison of the computer translation with the Italian text would show, to anyone who is even remotely familiar with Romance languages, that the computer did not even translate the same phrases consistently throughout the document. And I mean important phrases like “non udenti” (which is translated “deaf” in one place and “not identified” in another).
And finally: Do you really need to be a professional Italian translator to see that non esclusa la dimissione dallo stato clericale means “not excluding dismissal from the clerical state” — which is to say, the CDF explicitly envisioned the laicization of Murphy?
The people who cried “hit job” on this were more right than they knew.



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steve

posted May 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm


the thing is,according to catholicism, apparently, you can do anything as long as you confess before you die. I would have to question that.



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