Pope Implicated in Wisconsin Abuse Cover-Up

A devastating New York Times story uncovers internal correspondence

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UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has penned an incredible response to this news, looking deep into the impulses at work in the abuse scandal, and calling for the pope's resignation. "It's hard to imagine a deeper crisis for the Catholic hierarchy than this," he says. "If the church is to survive--and it will because it is the vessel of eternal truth--it will have to go through a wrenching transformation." That starts, he concludes, "with the resignation of this Pope and an end to priestly celibacy."

On Thursday, the New York Times drops a bombshell of a story in the ongoing Catholic abuse scandal. The Times' Laruie Goodstein reports the case of a priest molesting "as many as 200 deaf boys" in Wisconsin, and reveals "internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope." The molesting priest was never reported, and was not even defrocked. A "secret canonical trial" was even stopped after the preist--Father Murphy--"personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger" asking not to be tried.

Unsurprisingly, given lingering questions about the extent of the pope's involvement in coverup cases, the story is already sending shockwaves through the blogosphere. Here's how people are processing what this new case means for an institution already in crisis:

  • Now Shows Pope 'Directly Involved,' marvels Americablog's Joe Sudbay. "It's hard to grasp how Benedict has any credibility or moral authority." He also adds that this "Kind of goes to show you why we still need newspapers, and especially the New York Times. Their reporter, Laurie Goodstein, deserves a medal for this story."
  • How Can These People Be Telling Us What to Do? Attaturk at progressive Firedoglake shakes his head: "And these are the folks that dictate ... and sadly, have the political muscle ... over reproductive rights in major health care legislation."
  • Why This Is Important Pandagon's Pam Spaulding neatly connects the dots for readers on the various stories. "What makes this story so significant is that in Pope Benedict's letter to the Irish flock last week, he said that the church should cooperate with local law enforcement in abuse cases, something as Cardinal he clearly had no intention of doing in order to protect the church." She also highlights the most shocking part of the story: "Pedophile Father Murphy was not only spared criminal prosecution ... --even after three successive archbishops were made aware of his sexual abuse of children--he was transferred to spend the rest of his priesthood AROUND CHILDREN."
  • And There's More Yet to Come, Probably At The Moderate Voice, Joe Windish unequivocally asserts that Ratzinger knew about abuses. He links to a fascinating ProPublica interview with Walter Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covered the Boston abuse scandal. Interviewed by Marian Wang, Windish says he's long maintained that the Boston situation couldn't be unique: "It's just that because of our good fortune, and our collective good fortune in getting the courts to order the church to release all the personnel files, we got a much better idea in Boston of how common and widespread the problem was." While this interview was before the New York Times revelations of the Wisconsin case, Windish was already expressing doubt regarding the pope's supposed ignorance of the German cases:
The fact we have one archbishop in Munich that claims not to know anything is enough to make one suspicious. So the question is, if there was complicity by the pope himself, how do you get the evidence? And the evidence is in the recollections of priests who were involved who would know, the evidence is in the personnel files, and I'm not sure under German law whether there is any way whether civil authorities could force the release of those files. ... One thing is certain. The church went to such great lengths to protect its bishops and archbishops in the U.S., you can imagine how far they'll go to protect the reputation of the pope.
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