Saturday, April 03, 2010

Should we blame Yahoo ?

Why did The New York Times have reason to believe that the Congregation of the Faith (CDF)had told the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Diocese of Superior that they should halt the proceedings taken by the Diocese of Superior against the disgraced priest Father Lawrence Murphy ?

Why despite all the reasoned arguments put forward by defenders of the Pope and the Holy See does it still stand by its story ?

It is a question which has always puzzled me.

The critical issue is what was said at a meeting on 30th May 1998 in Rome at the Office of the CDF held to discuss the case

The attendees were the then Archbishop Bertone and his officials and Archbishop Weakland, Bishop Fliss and the auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee and their staff.

The Background to the Meeting

As a result of receiving a citation to answer charges of (1) sexual abuse of minors and (2) solicitation in the confessional, Murphy appealed the citation to the Congregation of the Faith (CDF).

The New York Times insists on characterising this letter thus:

"On Jan. 12, 1998, Father Murphy sent a letter from his home in Boulder Junction, Wis., to Cardinal Ratzinger. He asked for a cessation of the trial because he was 72, had had a stroke and had repented, and because the case was beyond the statute of limitations. "

This is a distortion of the truth.

The "letter" is set out below

The "letter" was a formal letter of appeal to the office of Cardinal Ratzinger, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It appealed against the decision to cite him before the Tribunal and proceed to trial.

The judicial process had started. The letter was part of that process.

If the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found against him, the matter could be further appealed. Or if the Tribunal found against him in a Trial, it would form the basis for a further ground of appeal thereafter. The Doctrine of Faith was not the Appeal Court of last resort.

There were appeal processes open after the CDF had dealt with and finished with the case. If the CDF found wholly in favour of Murphy, the Diocese of Superior could still appeal against that decision and take the matter further.

The Times does not begin to adequately summarise the grounds of Murphy`s appeal to the CDF

Murphy`s Notice of Appeal stated that the trial should not proceed because:

(a) Paragraph 2: He had already been disciplined by the then Archbishop of Milwaukee (Cousins) in 1974. ("Res judicata") He had been taken away from pastoral duties and since 1974 there had been no further accusations against him. (He was claiming that he had abided by the sentence imposed an there were no grounds for revisiting the sentence)

(b) Paragraph 3: The allegations were in relation to events between 1963 and 1969. The allegations were only first made in 1993. Only some of the new allegations alleged solicitation in the confessional

(c) Paragraph 4: The judicial process against him was irregular and oppressive:

(i) The Archdiocese of Milwaukee began proceedings without going through the necessary mandatory procedure set out in Crimen Solicitationis 1962.

(ii) The charges of solicitation in the confessional were only brought against him when it was pointed out to the Milwaukee Tribunal that the charges of sexual abuse against a minor were time-barred (in other words, the charge of solicitation was only brought because the other charges which might have been competent were time-barred)

(iii) The initial proceedings were taken in the wrong Tribunal in Milwaukee. The Archbishop of Milwaukee had no jurisdiction to put him on trial. When the Archdiocese discovered its mistake, it dropped the proceedings in Milwaukee and the Bishop of Superior (Fliss) was persuaded to put him on trial in the Diocese of Superior (where Murphy lived) which was the correct forum for penal proceedings.

(iv) The proceedings in the Diocese of Superior are manned by the same personnel as that for the Milwaukee Tribunal.

In other words, there was a lack of due process. Or as we in the United Kingdom would say, the procedure was fundamentally flawed and unfair. He was not going to be given a fair trial.

(d) The action was time barred. The alleged offences took place more than 25 years previously

(e) He was 72, his health was weak, and he had recently suffered another stroke

(f) He had already been tried iin effect and been dealt with for the alleged offences in 1974. He had repented, had obeyed the restrictions of two Archbishops (Weakland) and (Cousins) and had lived peaceably for the past twenty four years. In other words he had been punished already for the offences. He had abided by all punishments imposed in the last 25 years. He said that he had done nothing wrong in the last 25 years.

All civilised legal systems allow defendants in criminal trials to plead pleas to bar a trial. It is an important defence against the arbitrary and oppressive use of prosecutorial power which might try to hide behind a cloak of legal form.

We are all familiar with cases being brought which although on the face of them appear to simply being the due processes of law swinging into action in accordance with the rule of law are really unfair and oppressive examples of prosecutorial discretion and judicial process.

Double jeopardy ("Res judicata") , Time bar (or statute of limitations), Mora (delay in prosecution), the state of health of the defendant, due process before a fair and impartial Tribunal, material procedural irregularity in the conduct of a case by the prosecution and/or Tribunal, the requirement that the prosecution comply with the terms of a statute creating a penal offence and produce evidence of probative quality before a conviction - all these are concepts which all civilised legal systems incorporate into their jurisprudence.

If they do not they are not regarded as a legal system worthy of the name.

The Roman Catholic Church system of Canon Law is the oldest continuously functioning legal system in Western Europe, predating the common and European civil law traditions. The system of Canon Law is the foundation of the legal systems now existing in Western Europe.

Bertone`s Letter to Bishop Fleiss of 6th April 1998

The New York Times also seek to use a letter from Archbishop Bertone to Bishop Fleiss to buttress their interpretation that the CDF stopped the canonical trial of Murphy.

The Times puts it this way:

"On April 6, 1998, Archbishop Bertone wrote to Bishop Raphael M. Fliss of the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin, where Father Murphy was living, saying that the statute of limitations was waived in this case. But Archbishop Bertone suggested that given Father Murphy’s letter asking for leniency, Bishop Fliss should employ “pastoral measures” instead of a trial.

Under church law, those measures can include prayer, repentance and restrictions on what kinds of ministry and sacraments the priest may perform. "

The Times is being disingenuous. By the use of selective quotation and by important omissions The Times is trying to mislead the reader to a false idea of the letter of Cardinal Bertone and what he intended to convey to the Bishop of Superior.

What actually Cardinal Bertone said in his letter was:

"Secondly and taking into consideration what has been expressed by Fr Murphy in his letter, and before deciding upon a judicial process to establish the canonical responsibilities of the accused priest, this Congregation invites Your Excellency to give careful consideration to what canon 1341 proposes as pastoral measures destined to obtain the reparation of scandal and the restoration of justice."

Cardinal Bertone was in essence trying to say to Bishop Fleiss that the citation he had caused to be served on Murphy was fundamentally flawed. Unless corrected the proceedings which would follow on from it would be null and void.

Canon 1341 states:

"An ordinary (bishop) is to take care to initiate a judicial or administrative process to impose or declare penalties only after he has ascertained that fraternal correction or rebuke or other means of pastoral solicitude cannot sufficiently repair the scandal, restore justice, reform the offender."

In other words, before the action could proceed, the Bishop of Superior had to turn his mind to the question if the matter could be dealt with by way of fraternal correction or rebuke or other means of pastoral solicitude which would sufficiently repair the scandal, restore justice, and reform the offender.

The citation issued by the Archbishop of Milwaukee in the first action specifically stated that the Archbishop had considered the issue and had considered that such measures were not so sufficient.

However for some reason in the second action the citation issued by the Bishop of Superior and served on Murphy had said nothing about this issue.

On the face of it the "writ" which summoned Murphy to trial was fundamentally flawed.

One cannot be convicted of any offence if the writ does not disclose that all the essential ingredients of an offence alleged to have been committed by an accused. Or if the law states that criminal proceedings will only follow if certain conditions are complied with, the writ must state that those conditions have been satisfied.

It is a principle of fairness and justice embedded in the legal systems of all civilised nations that an accused is told of the essential elements of the charge he faces. Otherwise the accused cannot defend himself. The proceedings would be a nullity.

Bishop Fleiss obviously took the hint. On 13th May 1998, Fleiss made his determination that "pastoral measures" were insufficient in this case. He notified Bertone of this. He also served a formal letter on Murphy advising him of this to correct the irregularity in the original citation.

For the NY Times in its file of documents to describe Fleiss`s letter of 13th May 1998 as "May 13, 1998: Bishop of Superior Rejects Vatican Guidance" is totally at variance with the reality of the situation.

Fleiss did not reject the guidance. He took it on board and acted on it.

This letter cannot be used as evidence of the negative attitude of the CDF towards prosecution of Murphy.

The Meeting at the CDF in Rome on 30th May 1998

There are three contemporary or near contemporaneous accounts of the Meeting at which the prosecution of Murphy was to be considered by the CDF and the Bishops of Milwaukee and Superior:

(a) The memorandum of the meeting by the CDF dated 30th May 1998 and sent to the Archdiocese on 13th July 1998

(b) A file note by Auxiliary Bishop Sklba which is in the files of the Archdiocese and again is reproduced by the New York Times. (undated)

(c) A suppose translation of the CDF memorandum which apparently was prepared using "Google" on or around 15th August 1998 and which was sent to Bishop Fleiss on 15th August 1998

The Memoranum of the Meeting by the CDF dated 30th May 1998 and sent to the Archdiocese on 13th July 1998

The Office of the Congregation of the Faith (the CDF) produced a Memorandum of that meeting on 30th May 1998. It was sent to the Archdiocese on 13th July 1998. 

The memorandum is in Italian. A copy was sent to Archbishop Weakland and his Archdiocese at the time.

A copy is below. It is reproduced on the New York Times website.

There is nothing in this Memorandum prepared by the CDF which would give rise to the accusation that either Bertone or anyone at the CDF stopped the proceedings or ordered the proceedings to be stopped.

The "translation" provided by Yahoo and apparently relied on by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is entirely inept, inaccurate and totally misleading.

It would appear that neither Bishop Fleiss or the Judge were fluent Italian speakers. If they took the "Yahoo" translation as what was agreed and decided, no wonder there was and is confusion as to what was discussed, decided and agreed at the meeting at the offices of the CDF.

Ignoring the "Yahoo" translation prepared by the Archdiocese, what the CDF memorandum said is to the following effect

A Proper Understanding  of the Vatican CDF Memorandum of the Meeting

First, Weakland set out the position as he saw it.

1. There were many cases of abuse: all involved people with a hearing disability.

2. It would appear that in 1974 there had been a form of canonical process against Murphy by the Archdiocese. However the files had been lost. It would appear that as a result of this process he had been transferred to the Diocese of Superior.

3. The deaf community was eager that this case succeeded and had rejected pastoral measures to deal with the situation

4. The statute of limitations in Wisconsin did not permit a civil action against Murphy because of the length of time since the abuse.

5. Murphy had no sense of remorse and did not appear to realise the gravity of what he had done.

6. There was the danger of great scandal if the matter was reported and published in the press.

7. The misdeeds of Murphy originated or occurred in the Confessional

What Weakland does is:

1. Neither confirm nor deny what Murphy had said in his letter of appeal that he had already been tried already by the then Archbishop for the offences of sexual abuse with minors in 1974. In fact from what Weakland said there was a form of canonical process in 1974 but the papers had been lost. As Weakland could not positively deny the truth of Murphy`s claim

2. Stress that the victims wanted some kind of hearing and condemnation: again perfectly understandable. But was the system of canon law the way of satisfying what they wanted and needed to achieve some kind of closure ? And if it was, were the personnel who operated the system of Canon Law in Wisconsin the ones able to deliver the relief under Canon Law ? Had the victims been promised too much about the canon law as a means of redress ?

3. Emphasise that the "scandal" would be if the matter was publicised by the Press.

However the scandal arose in 1950-1974. It also arose the lack of effective measures taken by the Church authorities since 1974 to properly deal with Murphy. The victims, their families and the deaf community had already been greatly scandalised by the actions of Murphy and by the inaction of the Diocese since 1974. Would the outing by the Press of Murphy and the Diocese not be a better remedy as far as the victims were concerned rather than the clearly ineffective remedy under Canon Law ? One perhaps wonders if the whole point of the Diocesan process was simply to head off the victims going to the Press and buy some kudos and save some embarassment for the Diocese.

Is that why the memorialist noted that before the end of the meeting Weakland again reiterated that it was going to be difficult to explain the measures to the deaf community ?

Archbishop Bertone then spoke. The meeting must have tested his and his officials` diplomatic abilities to the utmost. It would not have been pleasant for them.

1. As regards the allegations of simple abuse (not solicitation in the confessional) there could not be a competent trial for two reasons:

(a). The alleged crimes happened more than 35 years previously

(b) Since 1974 (when the Archdiocese appeared to have taken canonical action against Murphy), there had been no reports that Murphy had carried out any abuse whatsoever. He had obeyed the Archbishops. He was not a recidivist. No evidence had been adduced by the Archdiocese that he was. Therefore as a matter of law there were no grounds for revisiting the canonical ecision of the Archbishop in 1974. Canon 1341 forbade the trial on these charges proceeding further. (Unless of course the Archdiocese could adduce evidence that Murphy had offended in the Diocese of Superior or elsewhere since 1974.)

2. As regards the solicitation in the confessional, the Archbishop stressed the difficulty of proceeding but it was not ruled out and the proceedings were not halted. The Archbishop drew attention to the difficulties which were great:

(a). the difficulties of proving the essential elements of such a crime in accordance with the relevant rules of evidence and procedure which were applicable.

(b) the difficulty which deaf mute people would have in giving evidence of the various alleged acts of abuse without compounding the abuse especially after the length of time which had elapsed since the alleged acts

(c) the difficulties which the wide rights of defence given to such defendants in the jurisdiction of the United States

As regards the first issue: the difficulties of proving such a crime, Crimen sollicitationis (1962) (the 1962 directive from the Holy Office as to how such crimes are to be prosecuted) defines the crime thus:

"The crime of solicitation occurs whenever a priest – whether in the act itself of sacramental confession, or before or immediately after confession, on the occasion or under the pretext of confession, or even apart from confession but in a confessional or another place assigned or chosen for the hearing of confessions and with the semblance of hearing confessions there – has attempted to solicit or provoke a penitent, whosoever he or she may be, to immoral or indecent acts, whether by words, signs, nods, touch or a written message, to be read either at that time or afterwards, or he has impudently presumed to have improper and indecent conversations or interactions with that person (Constitution Sacrum Poenitentiae, §1)."

Generally there are only two persons on the scene of the crime: the accused and the penitent. Further, the proceedings have to respect the seal or secrecy of the Confessional itself.

The difficulties can be seen from the procedure to be adopted, the evidence to be accepted and considered, as well as the points to be considered in imposing a suitable penalty.

You can read the unofficial English translation of Crimen Sollicitationis in full here on the Vatican website. at

As regards the second reason given by Bertone: the difficulty which deaf mute people would have in giving evidence of the various alleged acts of abuse without compounding the abuse especially after the length of time which had elapsed since the alleged acts, this would be a major problem even in State civil and criminal trials. It would be a major consideration for State prosecutors in prosecuting abuse cases in criminal trials.

Some large and expensive criminal trials have folded during proceedings because psychiatrists and psychologists have testified that the giving of testimony by a victim of abuse would be extremely detrimental to the victim`s health.

But Archbishop Bertone and his officials did not enter the meeting without having constructive suggestions as to how to proceed.

1. It was pointed out that if the problem was that Murphy was going out of the Diocese of Superior into the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to say Mass to deaf communities, this could be stopped by administrative measures whereby Murphy could only exercise his faculties as a priest within the Diocese of Superior. Bertone explained the procedure for doing this.

2. One of the difficulties was the lack of true penitence on the part of Murphy for his crimes. At the meeting Weakland compared Murphy to a "difficult child". Weakland said that he was a "typical pedophile" who saw himself as a victim and not as the aggressor. Weakland undertook at the meeting to seek a declaration of true penitence from Murphy despite the difficulties.

One of the officials of the CDF (Girotti) helpfully intervened with a further suggestion. He made it clear that Murphy was under a duty to give clear signs of penitence. Otherwise he would be subject to trial.

Bertone then made clear that Murphy could be ordered to a period of spiritual retreat to see if he was really penitent or not. If he was not, further measures could follow including laicisation.

Therefore the meeting ended with an agreement that :

1. Murphy should be restricted to a certain territory for his clerical faculties

2. Murphy must be warned to show clear signs of penitence including a declaration from Murphy of true penitence (i.e. a confession and if he failed to do so the matter would proceed to trial or further measures would be taken up to and including laicisation.

Therefore it can be seen from the official Minute of the Meeting at the CDF that there was no order by the CDF to stop the trial or any proceedings.

It was the CDF who proposed the way forward to get out of the legal logjam created by the strong grounds of appeal put forward by Murphy.

It was agreed that unless Murphy showed clear signs of genuine penitence, there was no alternative and indeed the Bishops were under a duty to continue the trial on all charges.

The case would obviously take longer to come to a resolution than that promised by Weakland and the Archdiocese. The alternative was to allow the appeal in part regarding the allegations of"simple" abuse and allow the trial to continue with a prosecution on the grounds of sollicitation in the confessional with the major difficulties which attended that course.

The "Yahoo" Translation obtained and used by the Archdiocese

It was this Memorandum of the CDF which was "translated" using "Yahoo" by the Archdiocese and a copy was sent to Bishop Fleiss who was nominally in charge of the proceedings.

A copy of the translation is below. Again it is reproduced on the New York Times website.

The translation is extremely bad.

There are major errors.

The major and most important differences are in the two versions of paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Memorandum.

Paragraph 4 of the memorandum

The Italian version of paragraph 4 states:

"HE Weakland undertook to seek from Rev Murphy - whom he compared to a "difficult" child- a declaration of repentance. All three psychologists who examined him believed him to be a "typical" pedophile, the type who believes himself to be a victim.

About this, the Under Secretary P. Gianfranco Girotti, repeated what he said that the priest must give clear signs of repentance otherwise he must go to trial.

HE the Secretary (Bertone) proposed that he be ordered to a period of spiritual retreat together with a stern warning that he should be penitent otherwise he would expose himself to the risk that that there would be imposed on him more rigorous measures including the removal of his clerical state. He would be placed in the care of a priest as his spiritual director with meetings with him every one or two months."

The "Yahoo" version of paragraph 4 as prepared by the Archdiocese states:

"4. S.F. Mons. Weakland should .try to have the Rev. Murphy declared impeded from ministry; Three psychologists would have to examine him, decide if he is a typical pedofile, which therefore. To the The Secretary, Gianfranco Girotti, stated that the priest must give clear signs of repentance, otherwise he must be appl.ied to a trial.. It is recommended that Fr. Murphy be entrusted it to a priest who like his spiritual director then would have periodic meetings with him every one or two months."

The differences are major:

1. There is no reference in the "Yahoo" version to Weakland`s remark comparing Murphy to a "difficult" child

2. There is no reference in the "Yahoo" version to Weakland trying to obtain from Murphy a declaration of repentance

3. There is no reference in the "Yahoo" version to Weakland saying that "All three psychologists who examined him believed him to be a "typical" pedophile, the type who believes himself to be a victim."

4. The CDF version does not state that Weakland was to have Murphy declared impeded from the ministry and that three psychologists should examine him and decide if he is a typical pedophile.

5. The "Yahoo" version omits entirely an important sentence stating the view of Bertone as to how the matter should proceed:

"HE the Secretary (Bertone) proposed that he [Murphy] be ordered to a period of spiritual retreat together with a stern warning that he should be penitent otherwise he would expose himself to the risk that that there would be imposed on him more rigorous measures including the removal of his clerical state."

6. According to the CDF version, Murphy would be invited to make a declaration of penitence and exhibit clear signs of penitence, failing which the trial would proceed. Weakland had undertaken to obtain this from Murphy. If as expected Murphy would not do this, the trial would or in the words of Girotti, must continue

7. It is only in the "Yahoo" version that the trial is to be stopped and a new process for having Murphy declared incompetent to exercise ministry would be started.

Paragraph 5 of the memorandum

The Italian version of the CDF memorandum states:

"HE the Secretary (Bertone) summarised the two main avenues to follow in the disputes with the priest:

1. the territorial restriction for the celebration of the Eucharist and
2. the warning to be given to him to show penitence"

The "Yahoo version" of this paragraph states:

"5. F. finally the Secretary restates the two central points to be followed towards the priest in question: 1 () the territorial restriction of the celebration eucharist and 2 () the needed remorse and reform of the priest."

The summary of the second point is obviously radically different in the two versions.

The "Yahoo Version" of the CDF Meeting becomes the Archdiocese`s Version of the Meeting

It would appear that it was the "Yahoo" version of the meeting and not the proper CDF version of events which guided future events by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

That is no doubt is why Archbishop Weakland wrote the following letter in reply to Archbishop Bertone. See below. Although it is interesting to note that in his letter he confirms receipt of the CDF`s memorandum and acknowledges the document to be "an excellent summary" of the discussion.

Father Brundage speaks about the letter of 19th August 1998

In an interview with The New York Times (reported March 31, 2010) the judge of the case, Father Brundage, who is now working in the Archdiocese of Anchorage said that he never saw the letter from Archbishop Weakland abating the trial until it appeared on the Times Web site last week.

"The only possible explanation I can come up with is that Archbishop Weakland withheld the letter, knowing the reaction I would have had,” Father Brundage said.

Father Brundage said he would have been appalled because he was absolutely convinced that Father Murphy should be put on trial

The CDF do not respond to the letter of 19th August 1998

And if the letter was sent to the CDF , then no doubt the CDF was amazed at the terms of the letter as it was totally contrary to what was agreed at the meeting. However Weakland and Fleiss were domini litis and they controlled the litigation. They were the ones responsible for the judicial process. However it does not appear that Bishop Fleiss knew anything about this letter as he does not appear to have been given a copy.

In any event, the whole matter became moot when Father Murphy died two days later on 21st August 1998.

On 2nd September 1998 Weakland wrote to Bertone at the CDF advising him of the death of Murphy and that the case of solicitation in the confessional was now closed.

On 28th September 1998 Bertone replied to Weakland. He only refers to the letter of 2nd September 1998. It is surely significant that no mention is made of Weakland`s letter of  19th August 1998. Bertone thanked Weakland for informing him of the death of Murphy and said that the case was now closed.

A Strange Letter

But the letter of Weakland to the CDF on 19th August 1998 is certainly strange. It does seem to misinterpret what was decided at the meeting in Rome at the offices of the CDF on 30th May 1998.

Perhaps the answer lies in the Memorandum of the case prepared apparently by the then Auxiliary Bishop Sklba which is in the files of the Archdiocese and again is reproduced by the New York Times.

It is reproduced below.

His note of the meeting at the CDF with Bertone (No 385 above) is consistent with the CDF version of events. There is no indication that the CDF wanted the case to be halted  in relation to the charge of solicitation in the confessional. The note is rather pessimistic and negative. Only one of the positive constructive suggestions put forward by the CDF as to how to progress the case is noted.

In particular there is no mention of the insistence of the CDF that unless Murphy showed clear signs of repentence, the case must continue.

A Change of Circumstances: Developments after the CDF Meeting

But it would appear from the papers produced by The New York Times that sometime in June/July 1998, the Archdiocese learned that Murphy did not have long to live.

This seemed to have changed the Archdiocese`s view of the case and how it should proceed.

It would appear that Murphy, his illness and his death were about to side-step and overcome the trap set for him by the CDF and the Archdiocese.

Perhaps that is why there are differences in the CDF Memorandum of the meeting in Italian sent in July 1998 and the English Yahoo version of the Memorandum which appears to have been produced about 15th August 1998. Matters had moved on since May 1998.

On 22nd July 1998 a meeting was held at which Weakland, Fleiss and their officials attended as well as  the Advocate for Murphy. It would appear that even in ill health and probably on his death bed, Murphy was still being recalcitrant. He was not willing to give a letter of apology and there was no agreement forthcoming about his funeral

One has to sympathise at this point with the Archdiocese. If Murphy and/or his family knew that Murphy was dying, there was no incentive on the part of Murphy to give in and issue an apology. The Archdiocese had no cards to play against Murphy except in relation to his funeral. Even then, its hand was weak.

Murphy could claim that he was too ill to attend the trial and defend himself. The case could continue but would have to be adjourned. But the Tribunal could not come to a decision unless and until Murphy was well enough to defend himself.

Perhaps Weakland`s letter of 19th August 1998 is evidence of a last desperate throw of the dice on the part of the Archdiocese to laicise Murphy before his death and prevent Murphy receiving the funeral which a priest is entitled to. A penal trial against Murphy at that stage (two days before Murphy died) was obviously out of the question. He could not defend himself especially if he was in a coma. The trial would have to be abandoned.

However they could laicise him if he was incapable of carrying out his ministry. But to do this they would have to formally halt the trial.

This step by the Archdiocese seems to have been taken without any recourse to the CDF. It was unusual, desperate and a complete waste of time and energy. However this step  might give cover for the Archdiocese to say that it was pursuing all steps to laicise Murphy right up to his death. But it would not give them "cover" as to why the Archdiocese did not act sooner against Murphy.

And then the death of Murphy two days later put paid even to that last desperate attempt.

The present Archbishop of Milwaukee comments on the case

How can one resolve the confusion ?

Perhaps we should leave the last and final judgement to the present Archbishop of Milwaukee.

On Tuesday last , at a Mass, Archbishop Jerome Listecki acknowledged that mistakes were made in the case of Father Murphy.

“The mistakes were not made in Rome in 1996, 1997 and 1998,” the archbishop said. “The mistakes were made here, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the church, by civil authorities, by church officials, and by bishops. And for that, I beg your forgiveness.”