By Kathleen Gilbert and John Jalsevac

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, March 30, 2010 ( – Fr. Thomas Brundage, a former judge for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee who oversaw the 1996 canonical proceedings against Fr. Lawrence Murphy, has shot back at New York Times and Associated Press articles that have attempted to implicate Pope Benedict XVI in a “cover-up” of clerical abuse by Fr. Murphy, and others.

Brundage slammed the news organizations for making “a huge leap of logic and information” in connecting the pontiff to the case involving Fr. Murphy, and for failing to do the basic courtesy of contacting him or checking the accuracy of quotations erroneously attributed to him.

“As I have found that the reporting on this issue has been inaccurate and poor in terms of the facts, I am also writing out of a sense of duty to the truth,” he wrote.

“The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself.”

A media frenzy has continued to expand this week surrounding accusations that Pope Benedict XVI was complicit in covering up child abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy. One prominent case involves Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who is said to have abused dozens of boys at a school for the deaf in between the 1950s and 70s. 

In 1996, two decades after the last allegations of abuse by Fr. Murphy were made, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (then run by Cardinal Ratzinger) was informed of the accusations. The CDF instructed the local diocese to begin canonical proceedings against the priest. In the end, however, the recommendation was made by the CDF, due to Fr. Murphys extremely poor health, simply to restrict his pastoral activities, and he died several months later.

The NYTimes, however, has charged the CDF, and Pope Benedict himself, with having failed to take the case seriously, and of having declined to defrock the priest, “even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church.”

But Brundage has come to the defense of the pope, writing that “has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured.”

In addition, Brundage has pointed out the much-ignored fact that Fr. Murphy “was still the defendant in a church criminal trial” on the day that he died, and that he was by no means scot-free. The former canonical judge describes his investigation into Fr. Murphy’s abuse as “the darkest days of my own priesthood,” and says that, “Had I been asked to abate this trial, I most certainly would have insisted that an appeal be made to the supreme court of the church, or Pope John Paul II if necessary.”

Brundage has also pointed out, as an example of the “sloppy” reporting on the issue, the fact that the NYT and AP erroneously attributed to himself two quotations from a 1997 handwritten document, and failed to check the source.

“The documents were not written by me and do not resemble my handwriting,” wrote Brundage. “The syntax is similar to what I might have said but I have no idea who wrote these statements, yet I am credited as stating them.

“As a college freshman at the Marquette University School of Journalism, we were told to check, recheck, and triple check our quotes if necessary,” he continued. “I was never contacted by anyone on this document, written by an unknown source to me.

“Discerning truth takes time and it is apparent that the New York Times, the Associated Press and others did not take the time to get the facts correct.”

Regarding then-Cardinal Ratzinger's involvement in the case, Brundage said he had “no reason to believe” the current pontiff “was involved at all.” “Placing this matter at his doorstep is a huge leap of logic and information,” he said.

Brundage also claimed that, when the handling of sex abuse cases was shifted from the Roman Rota to the Congregation of for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2001, “in my observation as well as many of my canonical colleagues, sexual abuse cases were handled expeditiously, fairly, and with due regard to the rights of all the parties involved. I have no doubt that this was the work of then Cardinal Ratzinger.”

“Pope Benedict has repeatedly apologized for the shame of the sexual abuse of children in various venues and to a worldwide audience. This has never happened before,” said the priest. “He has met with victims. He has reigned in entire conferences of bishops on this matter, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland being the most recent.

“He has been most reactive and proactive of any international church official in history with regard to the scourge of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Instead of blaming him for inaction on these matters, he has truly been a strong and effective leader on these issues.”

(Click here to read Fr. Brundage's article in full.)


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