Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Lawrence Murphy Case ... again

The Sunday newspapers in the United Kingdom have continued their pounding of the reputation of Pope Benedict XVI as well as the CDF.

A great deal of the criticism is founded on the Lawrence Murphy case. You will recall that the case involved the abuse of 200 deaf boys by one Father Lawrence Murphy in Wisconsin in the period 1950 to 1974.

See the two previous posts about the case:

BUT more information keeps trickling out about this case which seems to cast grave doubt on the claim by Archbishop Weakland and others that the CDF (which Pope Benedict XVI headed) ordered a halt to this case

The latest information comes from an article by Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel and the new documents which the Sentinel has found and which are available at the Sentinel`s website.

The article and documents have prompted a "clarification" by Father Thomas Brundage (the Canon Law Judge of the Tribunal in the Murphy case) in The Alaska Despatch headed Milwaukee church judge was aware of order to halt trial against abusive priest

There was a meeting at the CDF in Rome on 30th May 1998 at which the prosecution of Murphy was to be considered by the CDF (Archbishop Bertone and others) and the Bishops of Milwaukee and Superior and others.

The CDF sent a Memoranum of the Meeting in Italian dated 30th May 1998 which was sent to the Archdiocese on 13th July 1998.

The post Should we blame Yahoo ? summarises the Italian memorandum. The Italian memorandum makes it clear that the letter of appeal filed by Murphy had legal merit. The proceedings raised by the Archdiocese were fundamentally flawed and in terms of the relevant Canon Law could only be pursued with great difficulty.

However Bertone and the CDF indicate how  proceedings to laicise Murphy could proceed. If Murphy did not exhibit clear signs of repentance then further measures including dismissal from the clerical state were competent. If as indicated by Weakland at the meeting,  such signs were not likely to be forthcoming, the implication was clear. That would be the route by which the Archdiocese could obtain the removal of Murphy from the clerical state.

However, the new documents seems to show that after the meeting with the CDF in Rome, the Archdiocese went on a frolic of its own in dealing with the prosecution and the case in general.

Perhaps prompted by the receipt of the Memorandum from the CDF, shortly before 22nd July 1998, the Archdiocese held a meeting to discuss the case and decide on a course of action. The receipt of the memorandum from the CDF would have caused great embarassment.

The Archdiocese had already been forced to abandon one set of proceedings in Milwaukee and raise a new set of proceedings in the Diocese of Superior. These new proceedings looked as if they were not going to be finalised quickly and indeed looked as if they too were going to be fruitless and unsuccessful.

The deaf Community had been promised by the Archdiocese that these new proceedings in Superior were to be quick and speedy and almost a "slam dunk".

Perhaps that is why Weakland felt that it was going to be very diffcult as to how to explain "all this" to the Deaf Community.

In attendance were Archbishop Weakland, the Judge and others including the defence attorney of Lawrence Murphy (Father Patrick Legges). A copy of a faxed letter of 7th August 1998 to Bishop Fliss with a copy of the Memorandum of the meeting is below

The first decision of the Meeting was  to proceed with a Declaration of Irregularity against Murphy under Canon Law 1044.2.2 One assumes that this meant that the existing proceedings against Murphy were going to be dropped and the administrative proceedings substituted for them. There was no reference to such administrative proceedings of Irregularity in the CDF Memorandum. (at least in the Italian version actually sent out by the CDF)

It should be noted that in the discussion in July 1998 there is a reference to a Letter of acknowledgement and apology to individual victims. This of course refers to the fundamental requirement of the CDF: there must be clear signs of true repentence on the part of Murphy. There was going to be some sort of  attempt to go down the line suggested by the CDF

These were to be discussed with Murphy by Fathers Hornacek and Legges under the threat over Murphy by the Archbishop of applying to the Pope for the laicisation of Murphy.

From the covering letter to Bishop Fliss, it would appear that Archbishop Weakland decided to proceed with pastoral measures as a result of the meeting.

There then follows a copy of a Memorandum dated 14th August 1998 from a Barbara Cusack to Archbishop Weakland and on which Weakland has appended his agreement

Here is the memorandum

It does not look as if the Archdiocese was proceeding at a very fast pace in this matter. In fact the pace is extremely slow. One can only wonder why.

There is a reference in the Note to a decision made at the recent meeting of the Archdiocese that the judicial proceedings should be "abated". New proceedings were to be instituted.

Interestingly in his handwritten note, Weakland refers to a draft letter prepared by Father Thomas Brundage (the Canon Law Judge of the Tribunal in the Murphy case), The draft is of a letter to be sent to Archbishop Bertone at the CDF.

Weakland wrote:

"Barbara, I find these documents fine. Thanks much. I will send a copy to Bertone in Rome when they are executed. In the meantime I will send him the letter of response Tom prepared. (signed) +Rembert"

Weakland must have written this note after 15th August 1998 as the draft letter was only prepared and sent to him on or after 15th August 1998.

Here is the Memorandum with the draft letter. The central part of the draft letter is virtually identical to Weakland's later letter to Bertone, except for minor changes in spelling and punctuation. One does wonder if the letter to Archbishop Bertone was ever sent off

At the same time as Brundage drew up the Memorandum for Weakland he sent off to Bishop Fliss his "Yahoo translation" of the CDF memorandum:

The "Yahoo translation" of the CDF Memorandum appears to have been prepared after the Archdiocese`s meeting of 22nd July 1998. From the new information provided, the "Yahoo translation" ties in with and is consistent with the results of the Archdiocesan meeting of 22nd July 1998 and the draft of the letter of Weakland to Archbishop Bertone and apparently dated 19th August 1998

Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the "Yahoo translation" are completely different from what the CDF said in the Italian version of the Memorandum. There was no recommendation by the CDF that the Archdiocese should attempt to have Murphy "impeded from the ministry" or that he should be examined by three psychologists in an effort to found such an action.

In any event all proceedings were soon going to be moot. The Archdiocese had run out of time in its efforts to use the Canon Law and its procedures to dismiss or otherwise force Murphy from the clerical state.

Murphy died on 21st August 1998.

At the date of his death the proceedings against him for solicitation in the confessional were still technically current

We await further explanations and developments.