Wednesday March 31, 2010

Brooklyn Bishop: Catholic Church Won’t be NYT’s ‘Personal Punching Bag’

By Kathleen Gilbert

BROOKLYN, New York, March 31, 2010 ( – Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn has joined the chorus condemning the New York Times’ attempt to implicate Pope Benedict XVI in clerical sex abuse cover-ups, saying that the Catholic Church will no longer stand to be treated as the paper’s “personal punching bag.”

“Enough is enough! Two weeks of articles about a story from many decades ago, in the midst of the Most Holy Season of the Church year, is both callous and smacks of calumny,” said the bishop during his homily at a March 30 Chrism Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James.

“I ask you to stand up with me and send a message loud and clear that the Pope, our Church, and our bishops and priests will no longer be the personal punching bag of The New York Times.”

DiMarzio took the opportunity to urge his listeners to “resolve to be vigilant in the protection of those young people in our care.” “We must humbly seek forgiveness of those that have been robbed of innocence and the faithful whose trust was abused,” he said. However, he went on to clarify the “the New York Times’ mischaracterization of the role of the Holy Father” regarding the case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who stood accused of having abused dozens of boys at a school for the deaf between the 1950s and 70s.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, run by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) at the time, was informed of the accusations against Fr. Murphy in 1996 – two decades after the last allegations were made against the priest. The CDF instructed the local diocese to begin canonical proceedings against the priest, but ultimately recommended that Fr. Murphy, on account of his extremely poor health, simply have his pastoral activities restricted, and he died several months later.

The NYT recently accused the CDF and Pope Benedict of neglecting the case and declining to properly punish the Fr. Murphy “even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church.” However, several Church officials and commentators, including the judicial vicar who handled Fr. Murphy’s case, have since pointed out grave inaccuracies in the Times article.

The Brooklyn bishop pointed out that the CDF did not even have competency over such canonical trials in 1996, when the case was portrayed as having gone to Cardinal Ratzinger. In addition, far from letting Fr. Murphy off the hook, DiMarzio noted that the court was unable to render a verdict against the priest before he died. A second case involving a Munich priest, he said, “is also presented as a definite error in judgment when all the facts are not known.”

“This evening, I am asking you to join me in making your displeasure known to the editors. I might even suggest cancelling our subscriptions to The New York Times, but we need to know what the enemy is saying,” said DiMarzio.

The bishop said that the Church’s handling of such cases has vastly improved after years of initially failing to recognize, like other social institutions, that such abuse required imprisonment rather than treatment and rehabilitation.

“The Church sought not to buy the silence of victims but to offer any assistance that would help in bringing about healing,” he explained. “In most cases, the Church sought to not publicize the matter because of the scandal that it would cause and the family of the child did not want the matter to be public. In the intervening years, we have all learned a great deal and as a result, how we handle these cases is radically different.

“Today, no one in society is doing more than the Catholic Church to protect children and bring about justice for those who were robbed of their innocence. We recognized first and foremost that we are dealing with criminal behavior. As such, it is immediately reported to the authorities because it is their competence to investigate crimes and not the Church’s,” he said.

“Our emphasis has moved from avoiding scandal to protecting children and so such behavior is immediately publicized, reported to the district attorney and not kept secret.”

See related coverage:

Judge of Abusive Priest Corrects ‘Sloppy and Inaccurate’ New York Times Smears against Pope

Accusations of Pope Complicity in Abuse Cover-Up Fall Flat


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