Vatican halts trial
Rome - Two Wisconsin bishops urged the Vatican office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict XVI - to let them conduct a church trial against a priest accused of molesting about 200 deaf boys, but the Vatican ordered the process halted, church and Vatican documents show.
Despite the grave allegations, Ratzinger's deputy at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ruled that the alleged molestation had occurred too long ago and the accused priest, Rev Lawrence Murphy, should instead repent and be restricted from celebrating Mass outside of his diocese.
The New York Times broke the story on Thursday, adding fuel to an already swirling scandal about the way the Vatican in general, and the Pope in particular, have handled reports of priests raping children over the years.
On Thursday, a group of clerical abuse victims provided the documentation to reporters outside the Vatican, where they held a media conference to denounce Benedict's handling of the case. During the conference, a policeman asked for their documents and they were subsequently detained, police said.
"The goal of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was to keep this secret," said Peter Isely, Milwaukee-based director of Snap, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
"This is the most incontrovertible case of paedophilia you could get," Isely said, flanked by photos of other clerical abuse victims and a poster of Ratzinger.
"We need to know why he (the pope) did not let us know about him (Murphy) and why he didn't let the police know about him and why he did not condemn him and why he did not take his collar away from him."
The Vatican spokesperson, Federico Lombardi, issued a statement noting that the case had only reached the Vatican in 1996, that Murphy died two years later, and that there was nothing in the church's handling of the matter that precluded any civil action from being taken against him.
Murphy worked at the former St John's School for the Deaf in St Francis from 1950 to 1975. He died in 1998.
Church and Vatican documents obtained by two lawyers who have filed lawsuits alleging the Archdiocese of Milwaukee didn't take sufficient action against Murphy show that as many as 200 deaf students had accused him of molesting them, including in the confessional, while he ran the school.