Defending Pope Benedict

The recent attacks on Pope Benedict and the Church have brought forth some excellent responses. First, over at National Review Online, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza says that the New York TimesFriday expose’ of the pope’s alleged intervention into a Milwaukee abuse case is undercut by the very evidence the reporters cite.

The documents show that the canonical trial or penal process against Father Murphy was never stopped by anyone. In fact, it was only abandoned days before Father Murphy died. Cardinal Ratzinger never took a decision in the case, according to the documents. His deputy, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, suggested, given that Father Murphy was in failing health and a canonical trial is a complicated matter, that more expeditious means be used to remove him from all ministry….

Furthermore, under canon law at the time, the principal responsibility for sexual-abuse cases lay with the local bishop. Archbishop Weakland had from 1977 onwards the responsibility of administering penalties to Father Murphy. He did nothing until 1996. It was at that point that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office became involved, and it subsequently did nothing to impede the local process.

While the Times article was bad, Christopher Hitchens’ earlier Slate hit piece was even worse. In it, Hitchens claimed that in 2001, then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger sent a “confidential letter to every bishop” forbidding them to share evidence of abuse with the civil authorities.

As former police officer Sean Murphy points out, this is completely untrue:

The 2001 instruction was issued to clarify how reports of clerical sexual misconduct were to be handled. Ratzinger’s directive actually facilitated Church proceedings against clerical sex offenders by extending time limits that had previously hampered prosecutions…

The so-called “confidential” instruction was published and appeared in English in 2001. It has been ‘discovered,’ ‘revealed’ or ‘exposed’ by so many reporters since then that it might give pause to those who doubt the possibility of the resurrection of the dead.

And John Allen calls out Hitchen’s historical revisionism regarding Ratzinger’s 2001 letter:

Far from being seen as part of the problem, at the time it was widely hailed as a watershed moment towards a solution. It marked recognition in Rome, really for the first time, of how serious the problem of sex abuse really is, and it committed the Vatican to getting directly involved. Prior to that 2001 motu proprio and Ratzinger’s letter, it wasn’t clear that anyone in Rome acknowledged responsibility for managing the crisis; from that moment forward, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would play the lead role.

The campaign against Pope Benedict is just getting started. We’ll keep you updated on the latest attacks.


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Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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