UnNews:Predatory choirboys abuse priest

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26 March 2010

Choirboys2
Abusive choirboys with Father Murphy in 1971

ROME -- The Vatican hit back Thursday at new sexual revelations, defending Pope Benedict XVI against an allegation that he failed to act to help a US priest who was forcibly molested by up to 200 choirboys in the 1970s.

The Roman Catholic Church's morals watchdog then headed by the future pope was reportedly alerted twice by the Archbishop of Wisconsin of the accusations Reverend Lawrence Murphy made against the boys.

Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, did not respond to the letters, and a secret canonical trial authorized by his deputy was halted after Murphy wrote a pleading letter to the future pope to save him from being raped every day, the New York Times said, citing documents provided by his lawyers.

The Vatican replied Thursday that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith chaired by Ratzinger had suggested "restricting" the choir's public functions and "requiring each choirboy to accept full responsibility for his acts."

The priest accused 200 hearing-impaired choirboys of systematically overpowering him and raping him between 1950 and 1974, according to the Times report.

"They just won't take "NO!" for an answer; they won't listen to me!" - Reverend Murphy had written before to the Pontiff.

It quoted Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi as saying the congregation, which safeguards Catholic doctrine and morals, delegated the "tragic case" to the archbishop of Milwaukee in the late 1990s.

Its rationale was that "Father Murphy was elderly and in very poor health, he was living in seclusion, and he had reported no allegations of abuse in over 20 years," Thursday's statement added, noting that Murphy died in 1998, four months after the congregation's instruction.

It said that Murphy had reported the abuse to "civil authorities," who subsequently dropped their investigation against the boys.

The congregation, which Ratzinger headed from 1981 until 2005, was asked "how to treat the Murphy case canonically," the Vatican said, noting that Murphy was being forcefully raped by 200 boys while giving his confessions.

A Vatican watcher praised the statement, saying: "From the canonical point of view, (Ratzinger) followed the procedures."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he told AFP: "This Nuremberg-style defense is completely inappropriate and cannot mollify public opinion. He was a grown man, he should have controlled the choirboys, but he was overpowered by them because 200 choirboys is a lot of boy-power." The reference was to the 1946 Nuremberg trials of senior Nazis, who told the court that they had been forced at gunpoint to kill 30 million people.

"With older abusive kids who are no longer in the Choir, this is how the Vatican always handled it," said another Vatican expert, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter. "Through their eyes that was considered compassionate justice; to the outside world it looks like those kids get a free pass."

"Is it enough? It's probably not going to satisfy the critics," Allen said.

Benedict has continually spoken out and apologized for the "heinous crime" of child sex abusers of priests, meeting priestly victims in the United States and in Australia.

As Cardinal Ratzinger he initiated a decree issued by Pope John Paul II in 2001 ordering bishops to report abusive choirboys to the Vatican and remove abusers from abusing the Priest.

But victims' groups have demanded a formal apology for the role of the Vatican.

On Thursday protesters from the US-based Survivors Network of Abused Priests (SNAP) called on the pope to unseal archives of abused priest cases and hand them over to the police. "The pope must immediately issue an edict obliging all the bishops of the world to turn in abusive choir boys to the police and remove them from the choir," SNAP President Barbara Blaine said.

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