In response to this morning's lead story
in the New York Times,
and building on the initial response
of the Holy See Press Office, the following is an English translation of the unsigned commentary that appears in the inside pages of tomorrow's edition of the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano:
Clarifying an article in the New York Times
No one shelved anything
Transparency, firmness and severity in shedding light on the many cases of sexual abuse committed by priests and religious: these are the criteria that Benedict XVI has indicated with constancy and serenity to the whole Church. A way of operating -- coherent with his personal history and more than two-decade activities as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- that is evidently feared by those who don't want the truth affirmed and those who would prefer to be able to instrumentalize, without any foundation in fact, horrible episodes and sorrowful events uncovered in some cases from decades ago.
This is demonstrated, most recently, in the article published today by the American newspaper "The New York Times," together with an editorial, on the grave case of the priest Lawrence C Murphy, guilty of abuse committed on deaf boys who were patients in a Catholic institute, where he worked from 1950 to 1974. According to the reconstruction made in the article, based on ample documentation provided by lawyers for some of the victims, reports relating to the conduct of the priest were only sent in July 1996 by the then-archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert G. Weakland, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- its then prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and its secretary Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone -- to the end of obtaining indications on the correct canonical procedure to follow. The request, in fact, referred not to the accusations of sexual abuse, but to a violation of the sacrament of penance, perpetrated by an enticement in the confessional, that takes place when a priest solicits a penitent to commit a sin against the sixth commandment (canon 1387).
It is important to observe -- as the director of the Press Office of the Holy See has stated -- that the canonical question presented to the Congregation was not in any way linked with a potential civil or penal procedure against Fr Murphy. By contrast, the archdiocese had already begun a canonical procedure, its evident result the same evident documentation published online by the New York newspaper. To the request of the archbishop, the Congregation replied, with a 24 March 1997 letter signed by the then-Archbishop Bertone, with an indication to proceed according to [the procedure] established in Crimen sollicitationis (1962).
As can be easily deduced while reading the reconstruction compiled by the "New York Times" on the case of Fr Murphy, nothing was ever placed aside [insabbiamento -- shelved]. And confirmation of this comes from the documentation accompanying the article in question, in which figures the letter Fr Murphy wrote in 1998 to the then-Cardinal Ratzinger asking that the canonical procedure be interrupted for reasons of his grave health. Likewise in this case, the Congregation's response, written by Archbishop Bertone, invited the ordinary of Milwaukee to consider all the pastoral measures foreseen by canon 1341 to obtain the reparation of scandal and the restoration of justice.
Finally, these late matters have become indisputably confirmed by the Pope, as demonstrated in his recent pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland. But the prevalent tendency in the media is to obscure the facts and [instead] enforce interpretations to the end of circulating an image of the Catholic church as having been the only guilty party of sexual abuse, an image that doesn't correspond to reality. And one which instead manifests the evident and despicable intent of attacking, at whatever cost, Benedict XVI and his closest collaborators.