Tuesday, March 30, 2010

If the World Hates You...

On August 21, 1998, Fr. Lawrence Murphy died.  He had been ordained a priest in 1950, and was assigned to St. John's School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1950 to 1974.  At the time of his death, he had had no pastoral assignment for nearly a quarter of a century, and was living in a family residence in the Diocese of Superior.  

He was also the defendant in an ecclesiastical criminal case, in which he was charged with sexually abusing children, and with solicitation within the confessional. 

Fr. Murphy's victim's reported his crimes to the police in the mid 1970s.  Nothing came of this.  In 1974, he was removed from the school for the deaf.  Apart from the occasional Mass and retreat for the deaf, Fr. Murphy was effectively retired.

It was not until 1995 that Archbishop Rembert Weakland ordered a preliminary investigation into the allegations of abuse.  It was not until 1996 that the Archbishop consulted Rome.  Specifically, because there was a statute of limitations issue regarding the outrages in the confessional, the Archbishop consulted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had jurisdiction over canonical crimes related to the confessional.  (It did not then have jurisdiction over cases of sexual abuse by priests, though it does now.)  The CDF ultimately gave the Archbishop the green light to waive the statute of limitations and proceed against Fr. Murphy.

But Fr. Murphy died without being convicted of any crimes, either by Church or by State, and without being dismissed from the clerical state.  It is apparently being reported that the trial was kiboshed.  And since the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI was Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, his enemies seek to pin the rap on him.

Except for one small problem: there is no rap to pin on the Pope.  Just ask Fr. Thomas Brundage, JCL, canon lawyer and ecclesiastical judge.  Nobody in the drive-by media has ever thought to ask him anything; yet he was the presiding judge in the case against Fr. Murphy.  A couple of samples from Fr. Brundage's article in Catholic Anchor Online responding to the media furor over the case (emphasis added):
...the fact is that on the day that Father Murphy died, he was still the defendant in a church criminal trial. No one seems to be aware of this. Had I been asked to abate this trial, I most certainly would have insisted that an appeal be made to the supreme court of the church, or Pope John Paul II if necessary. That process would have taken months if not longer.

...the competency to hear cases of sexual abuse of minors shifted from the Roman Rota to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith headed by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001. Until that time, most appeal cases went to the Rota and it was our experience that cases could languish for years in this court. When the competency was changed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in my observation as well as many of my canonical colleagues, sexual abuse cases were handled expeditiously, fairly, and with due regard to the rights of all the parties involved. I have no doubt that this was the work of then Cardinal Ratzinger.

Fourth, Pope Benedict has repeatedly apologized for the shame of the sexual abuse of children in various venues and to a worldwide audience. This has never happened before. He has met with victims. He has reigned in entire conferences of bishops on this matter, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland being the most recent. He has been most reactive and proactive of any international church official in history with regard to the scourge of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Instead of blaming him for inaction on these matters, he has truly been a strong and effective leader on these issues.
Read the rest of the story here.

When Pope Benedict was elected, nearly five years ago, I remember thinking that any Pope who gets as many salvos from the sewer as he got in about the first 30 seconds of his pontificate has got to be good.  This present furor confirms me in this belief.  Such a barrage from the forces of darkness is an extremely serious matter, calling for much prayer and penance.  Yet, in a way, it is reassuring.  It means the Holy Father must be doing something right.     

If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 15:18-19


  1. Here's an idea for you, Anita, in addition to all the good things you've said here. I formed an opinion many years ago that there's no anti-Catholic like an ex-Catholic. Allowing, of course, for some exceptions, I still think the rule holds true. Keep up the good work, and have a prayerful Holy Week and a Blessed Easter!

  2. YOu know, one of the things that keeps coming up is that Fr. Murphy was not laicized. The world looks at this as the "ultimate punishment" apparently. Yet...what would this really have done? He was removed from ministry. He was sick and dying. He was not a threat to anyone, and being dispensed from the clerical state is NOT akin to being held accountable and held to justice for his crimes. At least as a priest, he remained under the watchful eyes of others who knew who and what he was and could therefore protect others from him, and him from others, as it were.

    The world is scandalized by God's mercy and her orientation towards the salvation of souls. This goal far transcends anything else. Even as she works in the world applying what is proper in the earthly order of Justice, she does so with an eye to the eternal and an understanding of what TRUE Justice really is.

  3. Bob, I think you are absolutely right. I have noticed that when Protestants become Catholics, they still retain a certain affection and respect for their former traditions; but the same is not true of Catholics who become Protestants. Quite the reverse.

    Adoro, I daresay if the guy had lived, he would very likely have been reduced to the lay state, if it had anything to do with Cardinal Ratzinger. As Pope, he has certainly proven his readiness to impose that penalty: just this year, you remember, he dismissed the perverted co-founder of Life Teen, Dale Fushek, from the clerical state. Plus, I am willing to bet we will see heads roll in Ireland in the not-too-distant future.

    Best Holy Week wishes!

  4. Anita ~ Perhaps if his health had been different, yes. However, the guy who started Life-Teen was a total renegade and ran around out of control. That's very different than a man who is removed from ministry and is obedient and remains where he is told to remain, healthy OR sick. So I woldn't go so far as to say that he wouldn't have been dispensed, because as a priest, he remained the responsiblity of the Church who could keep tabs on him and ENSURE it would never happen again.

    I haven't researched it, but I wonder at the number of priests who remain accused or even found guilty but haven't been dispensed from the clerical state. Are you familiar with Fr. Gordon MacRae? He's in prison, maintains his innocence, but has not been laicized...in spite of the criminal court's judgment and sentence. So why other very guilty priests but not Fr. MacRae? (whom I do believe is innocent, by the way)

    It would be interesting to really look into the different cases and REASONS for the laicizations versus those who ARE guilty or even judged as guilty...but remain priests.

  5. Just in case you don't know of Fr. MacRae's case.


    There are tabs for the case history.