Pope Allegedly Knew About Wisconsin Pedophile

Just days after Pope Benedict XVI chastised Irish bishops for covering up clerical sexual abuse in Ireland, new documents suggest he did nothing to discipline a Wisconsin priest he knew had molested scores of deaf boys — and may have blocked a church trial in the case.

In 1996, when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was serving in one of the Vatican’s most important positions, he received written warnings from several bishops about the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, a priest at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wis., The New York Times reported. The Times obtained the internal church documents from lawyers of five victims of Murphy, who are suing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

“This shows a direct line from the victims through the bishops and directly to the man who is now pope,” Jeff Anderson, one of the lawyers, told AOL News reporter Lisa Holewa in Milwaukee. “The only difference [from the 1950s] is now we have the documents that are open to secular eyes.”

The abuse of what may have been up to 200 deaf boys, many who reported cowering in their beds weeping while Murphy, the school’s powerful priest, molested others, was first reported in 2006 in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Murphy worked at the school from 1950 to 1974.

Milwaukee’s then-archbishop, Rembert G. Weakland, wrote Ratzinger two letters about Murphy’s behavior and got no response, the Times reported. However, thousands of cases were forwarded to Ratzinger from 1981 to 2005, when he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which decides whether priests will be defrocked.

Finally, eight months later, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, told Wisconsin bishops to start a secret canonical trial that might have ended with Murphy’s dismissal.

However, Bertone called off the trial after Murphy appealed to Ratzinger directly. He claimed poor health and said the abuse was no longer within the church’s statute of limitations.

“I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood,” Murphy wrote. “I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” The Times reported that there are no responses from Ratzinger in the files.

The recently unearthed correspondence and church files come from attorneys for five men suing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee over the abuse.

As reported in the Journal Sentinel, the men reported similar experiences.

They said Murphy would either call them to his bedroom in the school, or come to them in their dorm beds late at night. He would fondle them and then leave, often going to other boys during the same visit. Sometimes he would molest them while taking their confession.

The boys were often so confused and upset that they would cover their heads with blankets, hold themselves close and cry.

“Murphy was so powerful and it was so hard,” said one of the plaintiffs, who said he was molested when he was in seventh grade and said he saw more than a dozen other boys molested. “You couldn’t get out. It was like a prison. I felt so confused. Here I had Father Murphy touching me. I would be like, ‘God, what’s right?’ ”

This latest black eye for the Vatican comes one day after the pope accepted the resignation of Irish Bishop John Magee for his part in covering up clerical sexual abuse in Ireland. Just days before, the pope wrote a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, blaming clergy there for the massive scandals.

Pope Benedict has not yet commented on reports that he went easy on a priest in Germany who he knew had sexually abused children.