Cardinal Ratzinger, the Catholic Church and the Clergy Abuse Crisis

Concerning Lawsuits against the Holy See

The priest, at the moment of ordination, a moment for which he prepared for years, says “yes” to Christ, in order to be his mouth, his hand and to serve with all his being so that the Good Shepherd who loves us, who helps and guides us to truth, may be present in the world. How a man who has said and done this can afterwards fall into such perversions is difficult to understand. It is a great sadness, a great sadness also that Church leadership was not sufficiently vigilant and sufficiently swift and decisive in taking the necessary measures. On account of this we are living a time of penance, humility, renewed sincerity, as I wrote to the Irish Bishops.

I feel that we must now be engaged in a time of penance, a time of humility; we must renew and learn again absolute sincerity. In relation to the victims I would like to say that there are three important things.

Our first interest must be the victims; how to repair the damage, how to assist these persons in overcoming their trauma, in finding life again, in finding again trust in the message of Christ. Care, commitment in favour of the victims is the first priority, together with material, psychological and spiritual assistance.

Secondly there is the problem of those who are guilty. A just penalty must exclude them from all access to young people. We know that this is an illness, that free will does not rule where this illness is present, and that we must protect these persons from themselves and find a way to assist them and to protect them from themselves and exclude them from access to young people.

Thirdly there is the question of prevention through education and the selection of candidates to the priesthood. We must be in such a way attentive so as to exclude, according to human possibilities, future cases.

-- Pope Benedict XVI Interview with Journalists on the flight to the United Kingdom. September 16, 2010.

Concerning Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF

The Charges

  • Church Office Failed to Act on Abuse Scandal, by Laurie Goodstein and David M. Halbfinger. New York Times July 1, 2010, charge that "The future pope, it is now clear, was also part of a culture of nonresponsibility, denial, legalistic foot-dragging and outright obstruction."
Critical Responses to the New York Times
  • Contra the NYTimes, by Michael Sean Winters. National Catholic Reporter July 2, 2010:
    This morning’s New York Times “expose” regarding then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s role in the Vatican’s response to the clergy sex abuse crisis exposes more than it intended. It exposes the fact that the authors, Laurie Goodstein and David Halbfinger, and their editors, do not understand what they are talking about and, at times, put forward such an unrelentingly tendentious report, it is difficult to attribute it to anything less than animus.
  • Going after Benedict — again GetReligion July 2, 2010:
    ... apart from the dramatic set-up and a bit of hearsay, the claims of the piece come nowhere near being proven. Even [Bishop Geoffrey] Robinson’s last quote is to say that Ratzinger was “extraordinarily supportive of what we were doing” to combat child abuse.
  • Another vicious, inaccurate, and contradictory New York Times attack on Pope Benedict, by Phil Lawler. July 2, 2010:
    It is not clear, then, why the Vatican bears the bulk of the responsibility for the sex-abuse scandal. Still less clear is why the main focus of that responsibility should be Pope Benedict. On that score, too, the Times blatantly contradicts its own argument. Buried in the Times story—on the 3rd page in the print edition, in the 46th paragraph of the article—is a report on one Vatican official who stood out at that 2000 meeting in Rome, calling for more effective action on sexual abuse.
    An exception to the prevailing attitude, several participants recalled, was Cardinal Ratzinger. He attended the sessions only intermittently and seldom spoke up. But in his only extended remarks, he made clear that he saw things differently from others in the Curia.
  • How Do You Spell Tendentious?, by R.R. Reno. First Things July 2, 2010:
    It’s almost always tedious to refute tendentious reporting. In any event the article ends up refuting itself, because the various bishops closely involved in the Vatican’s admittedly inadequate responses to the sexual-abuse crisis uniformly praise Ratzinger.

The Case of Father Lawrence Murphy of Milwaukee, WI

The Charges

  • Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys, by Laurie Goodstein. New York Times March 24, 2010. The charge: "Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church."
  • Events in the Case of an Accused Priest by Laurie Goodstein. New York Times March 31, 2010.
Critical Responses to the New York Times
  • Smoking Gun Memo In Murphy Paedophilia Case!, by Jimmy Akin. National Catholic Register April 5, 2010. "[An accurate translation of the memos] reveals just how completely wrong the New York Times and the mainstream media have gotten this story."
  • Lost in translation, Vatican edition Get Religion April 8, 2010. "I hope that it’s possible to simultaneously condemn the abuse of children that has taken place, to criticize the Vatican’s handling of the problem over the years, and to hope that the media work to cover this story more responsibly than we’ve been seeing."
  • Italian political paper: "New York Times needs consultants more than Vatican does" Catholic News Agency April 6, 2010. Charging a failure in translation, the influential Italian political newspaper Il Foglio published an article today criticizing the New York Times for relying on a computer-generated translation from Italian to English of important responses from the Vatican to a sex abuse case.
  • Cardinal Levada to NY Times: Reconsider 'attack mode' against Pope Benedict March 30th, 2010. Catholic San Francisco's editorial by the current Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. "As I write this response today (March 26, 2010) I have had to admit to them that I am not proud of America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, as a paragon of fairness."
  • Milwaukee church judge clarifies case of abusive priest Father Murphy Catholic Anchor March 29, 2010. Fr. Thomas Brundage, JLC - then-presiding judge for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee gives first-person account of the canonical proceedings against Father Lawrence Murphy.
  • Remarks by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki at the end of the March 30, 2010 Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee:
    The Holy Father does not need me to defend him or his decisions. I believe, and history will confirm that his actions in responding to this crisis, swiftly and decisively and his compassionate response to victims/surviovrs, speak for themselves. The Holy Father has been firm in his commitment to combat clergy sexual abuse; root it out of the Church; reach out to those who have been harmed; and hold perpetrators accountable. He has been a leader, meeting with victims/survivors and chastising bishops for their lack of judgment and leadership.

    Mistakes were made in the Lawrence Murphy case. The mistakes were not made in Rome in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The mistakes were made here, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the Church, by civil authorities, by Church officials, and by bishops. And for that, I beg your forgiveness in the name of the Church and in the name of this Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

  • Cardinal Ratzinger An Evil Monster? Point-by-point analysis by Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin (National Catholic Register March 30, 2010).
  • A Response to the New York Times, by Fr. Raymond J. de Souza (National Review's "The Corner" March 27, 2010).
  • Avvenire: New York Times Contradicts Itself A reconstruction of events by Riccardo Cascioli for Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference. March 26, 2010.
  • The Pope and the Murphy case: what the New York Times story didn't tell you, by Phil Lawler (Catholic Culture. March 25, 2010).
  • Vatican Statement on the “Murphy Case” Statement given to the New York Times on Wednesday by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office. Zenit News Service. March 25, 2010.


  • Explosive sex abuse lawsuit against Vatican dropped, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter February 11, 2012:
    A Wisconsin sex abuse lawsuit against the Vatican, which helped trigger a global firestorm in early 2010, was withdrawn late Friday. It marks the formal end of a case that seemed to cast doubt on Pope Benedict XVI’s role in the abuse crisis, and shifted focus from local bishops to an alleged cover-up in Rome.

    Lawyers for the victim filed a notice of voluntary dismissal on Friday, effectively abandoning the lawsuit.

  • Vatican lawyer's statement on end of sex abuse case February 11, 2012.

The Cases of Rev. Michael Teta and Msgr. Robert Trupia of Tucson, AZ

The Charges

Additional Material on the Tucson Abuse Cases

  • Bishop Kicanas' response to Star's questions Complete written response from the Most Rev. Gerald f. Kicanas, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, to questions from Arizona Daily Star reporter Patty Machelor (3/31/10).
  • Moreno struggled to defrock 2 priests Patty Machelor Arizona Daily Star April 1, 2010.
  • Moreno-Ratzinger letters on the Teta case (Arizona Daily Star)
  • New story trying to implicate Pope Benedict is 'misleading,' says the Vatican Catholic News Agency. April 3, 2010:
    The Vatican Press Office Director observes that “beginning in 2001, all pending appeals have been handled promptly, and the Teta appeal was one of the first to be handled. This took time, because there was a particularly large volume of documentation. In any case, the decision of the trial court was confirmed in toto (in full,) and Teta was defrocked in 2004.”

    Fr. Lombardi concluded: “It must not be forgotten that even when appeals are pending and the sentence is suspended, precautionary measures are imposed by the bishop on the accused. Indeed, Teta had been suspended from the exercise of priestly ministry in 1990."

    The original AP breaking news story did not mention the fact that Fr. Teta was suspended in 1990. The same AP story also missed the fact that it was Tucson Bishop Manuel D. Moreno who failed to notify police about allegations against Teta and another Tucson abusive priest, Robert Trupia until 2000, when the U.S. bishops adopted mandatory reporting policies.

  • Statement of Fr Federico Lombardi on the case of Rev. Michael Teta of the Diocese of Tucson Arizona. Vatican Radio. April 3, 2010.
The Case of The Rev. Stephen Kiesle of Martinez, CA

The Charges

Critical Responses on the Case of Stephen Kiesle

Cardinal Ratzinger, John Paul II and Fr. Marcial Maciel (Legionaries of Christ)

  • Benedict’s defense may mean tainting John Paul II, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter May 12, 2010.
  • The Cost of Father Maciel, by Joseph Bottum. First Things May 12, 2010.
  • How Fr. Maciel built his empire, by Jason Berry. National Catholic Reporter April 12, 2010.
  • Money paved way for Maciel's influence in the Vatican, by Jason Berry. National Catholic Reporter April 6, 2010:
    One cardinal who rebuffed a Legion financial gift was Joseph Ratzinger.

    In 1997 he gave a lecture on theology to Legionaries. When a Legionary handed him an envelope, saying it was for his charitable use, Ratzinger refused. "He was tough as nails in a very cordial way," a witness said. [...]

    After the ex-Legion victims filed a canonical case in 1998 against Maciel in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Sodano as secretary of state -- essentially, the Vatican prime minister -- pressured Ratzinger, as the congregation's prefect, to halt the proceeding. [...]

    But in December 2004, with John Paul's health deteriorating by the day, Ratzinger broke with Sodano and ordered a canon lawyer on his staff, Msgr. Charles Scicluna, to investigate. Two years later, as Benedict, he approved the order that Maciel abandon ministry for a "life of penitence and prayer."

  • Legions of scandals behind the scandal? (Get Religion April 7, 2010). "Maciel used his clout to find supporters in very high places, including the papal apartment of Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Polish secretary of John Paul. Ultimately, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI had seen enough and personally authorized an investigation into Maciel."

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos

Coverage and Helpful Analysis from John Allen Jr.

Additional News

Catholic News Service

Additional Articles and Commentary

The Bishops Speak Out

Taking on the Critics

  • Correcting Christopher Hitchens | Correcting Christopher Hitchens II, by Ross Douthat. New York Times April 14, 2010.

  • 'Pope not intimidated by petty gossip' is a media fabrication Kevin Jones (Philokalia Republic) responds to the spurious speculations of Phil Pullella (Reuters). March 29, 2010.

  • "Why can't the media treat the Pope fairly?" asks the Telegraph's Andrew M. Brown:
    I read the coverage of the Pope every day in the newspapers and listen to the BBC news and as a Catholic and a journalist I feel like crying out pathetically: “This is not fair!” And it isn’t fair, or reasonable. Intelligent journalists who are normally capable of mental subtlety and of coping with complexities have abandoned their critical faculties. There is an atmosphere of unreason.

    I cannot help feeling that a lot of it is down to sheer, blind hatred. It amounts to the demonisation of a whole institution and its leader. We have come to a stage where nothing good whatever, no good faith can be assumed of anybody involved in the Church – however senior, however greatly respected, loved, admired, including the Pope.

  • Diogenes (Off The Record) notices the appearance of "the usual suspects":
    Desperate for new witnesses who will join in the calls for the Pope's resignation, the media have rediscovered Hans Küng, who-- having honed his skills through decades of complaints that his old faculty colleague is responsible for all the world's ills-- sure, enough, thinks the Pope should resign.

    In other news, the sun rose in the east again this morning.

  • The dour, unhinged, and factless, Maureen Dowd seeks papal whipping boy (Carl Olson, Insight Scoop).

  • George Weigel and Rev. Jay Scott Newman respond to Sinead O'Connor (National Review):
    If Irish singer Sinead O’Connor wishes to denounce her mother publicly as an abusive parent, that is her privilege. If Ms. O’Connor wishes to shred a photograph of Pope John Paul II on stage, as she did almost two decades ago, she is, one supposes, within the boundaries of “performance art.” If Ms. O’Connor wishes to “separate” the God she believes in from the Catholic Church in which she was raised, as she put it in a March 28 article in the “Outlook” section of the Washington Post, she is free to do so.

    What Sinead O’Connor is not free to do is to misrepresent the teaching and law of the Catholic Church in the Post in order to buttress her claim that the Church is an “abusive organization” and that the Church threatens with excommunication those who would blow the whistle on clerical sexual abusers. That is utterly false. If Ms. O’Connor is aware of that falsehood, she has lied.

  • Creative Minority Report points out "the worst headline ever".

  • The Telegraph's Damien Thompson responds to the high priest of atheism, Richard Dawkins:
    [Dawkin's] article conjures up the image of a nasty old man who’s losing his marbles. It’s not very nice about the Pope, either.

  • Fr. John Zuhlsdorf takes apart Fr. Richard McBrien's Newsweek screed ("I think McBrien is pissed off that Hans Kung got press on this issue before he did").