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Maureen Dowd's fiery Wednesday column is drawing plenty of attention--not all of it good. Critics say that in denouncing Pope Benedict and calling for his replacement--preferably with a female--Dowd may have gone too far. The New York Daily News editorial board argues that some of her claims were downright false. John McCormack at The Weekly Standard expanded on the Daily News's response, saying Dowd "libels" the pope.


  • Dowd: The Pope Enabled Wisconsin Abuse
Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed 'God's Rottweiler' when he was the church's enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.
  • New York Daily News: 'This Is False' Say the editors: "While the Murphy case does exemplify the church at its worst, the grievous sins in this matter cannot be laid to Pope Benedict." In fact, Father Murphy's superiors neither contacted the authorities nor "[took] further internal action." At the time, too, Pope Benedict--then Cardinal Ratzinger--had not yet risen in the church hierarchy: "He could not have ignored repeated warnings, nor could he have looked away. He [was] not on the scene at all." When the Murphy matter was finally raised in 1996, Ratzinger first did not respond to the archbishop of Milwaukee's request for advice. Then his deputy approved bringing charges against Murphy.
And the Vatican kept the case alive by waiving its own internal statute of limitations on pressing cases against priests.

In June, 1998, Murphy wrote to Ratzinger, citing the fact that he had suffered strokes and asking to live out his days. Ratzinger's deputy suggested letting Murphy accept banishment, a step short of full defrocking, if he admitted guilt and expressed remorse. The Wisconsin bishop who had taken the case refused.

The New York Daily News editors admit "it's fair game to debate whether his office should have considered for a moment a plea deal, even on the verge of Murphy's death." But they strongly object to Dowd's characterization of the case--that "Father Murphy appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger for leniency and got it." The New York Daily News and McCormack aren't the only ones to pile on the Times. Vatican official Cardinal Levada has also lashed out, suggesting, in response to the numerous stories the paper has run on the Wisconsin and German abuse cases, the Times "reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on." He calls Dowd's column "silly parroting" of one of the earlier reports.


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