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Accountability

Priest at Wis. trial calls news reports inaccurate

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A priest who was involved in the canonical trial of a priest accused of abusing deaf children decades ago says news reports about Pope Benedict XVI's involvement in the case are based on "sloppy and inaccurate reporting."

"I have no reason to believe that (then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) was involved at all" in the case of Father Lawrence Murphy, who served at St. John's School for the Deaf in Milwaukee from 1950 to 1974, said Father Thomas Brundage, who was presiding judge in the 1996-98 trial against Father Murphy on charges of child sexual abuse and solicitation within the confessional.

Bishops voice concern for abuse victims, praise pope's leadership

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WASHINGTON -- Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voiced concern for victims of clergy sexual abuse while offering praise for Pope Benedict XVI's long-standing leadership in dealing with abuse cases.

In a Holy Week statement issued March 30, members of the Executive Committee of the USCCB said they are aware of the pope's concern for abuse victims and "how he has strengthened the church's response to victims."

'Abuse tsunami'

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News of the long-standing, systematic abuse of pupils by Jesuit teachers at prestigious schools in Germany in the 1970s and ’80s first hit world headlines Jan. 29, when Jesuit Fr. Klaus Mertes, rector since 1994 of the “Canisius-Kolleg,” an elite Jesuit high school in Berlin, broke the story to the press.

While both the Vatican and the order had known of the abuse, the accusations had been suppressed. Mertes said two abuse victims had approached him six years ago, but both had begged him not to tell anyone about the abuse and so he did not report it at the time.

Church reformers have second thoughts on pope

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To many advocates of reform in the Catholic church, the election of conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as pope in April 2005 was a blow to hopes the Vatican would change positions on gender, sexuality, divorce, and the church hierarchy.

Yet the result encouraged three prominent reformers who were appointed to a U.S. bishops' National Review Board. The three American Catholics -- a judge, an attorney and a newspaper publisher -- were concerned mainly with the clergy sex scandal.

They had met with Ratzinger in his Vatican office in 2004 for an extensive discussion on the cover-ups of clergy sex abuse of children, and came to view Ratzinger as the best churchman anywhere on the issue. A year later, when he became Pope Benedict XVI, they were often quoted praising him in American news articles.

But that was then.

The recent clamor over media revelations about two priests whose abuse cases were adjudicated under Ratzinger's watch have led two of the three panel members who met with Ratzinger to reconsider their views.

Hierarchy rallies around beleaguered pope

VATICAN CITY -- Prominent bishops in Europe and North America are rallying behind a beleaguered Pope Benedict XVI, trying to fend off charges that Benedict mishandled cases of clerical sex abuse before becoming pope.

"Our earthly shepherd [is] now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus," said New York's Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, at the conclusion of a Palm Sunday,March 28, Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Scandal hits close to popeís home

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MUNICH, GERMANY -- Ever since it was reported here earlier this month that a priest suspected of child abuse entered the Munich and Freising archdiocese for treatment in 1980, was eventually allowed to do parish work, and went on to abuse more children, Catholics here have speculated about the complicity of their former archbishop, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in the debacle.

Such speculation is at the center of wider interest, marked by both outrage and shame, as Catholics painfully follow German media reports of new sex abuse cases that seem to surface almost daily. In all, more than 250 cases of abuse have emerged, dating back five decades.

Legion of Christ acknowledge founder abused seminarians

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ROME -- Top officials of the Legionaries of Christ acknowledged that the order's founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, sexually abused young seminarians, and they asked forgiveness for failing to listen to his accusers.

A statement released March 26 by the Legionaries and its lay branch, Regnum Christi, said that any members of the order who were guilty of cooperation in Father Maciel's crimes would be held accountable.

The March 26 statement said the Legionaries were looking to the future with the hope of continuing to serve the church, but with a greater emphasis on reconciling with those who suffered from Father Maciel's actions and greater cooperation with local pastors and other church officials.

Victims' group confronts Vatican over abuse

VATICAN CITY -- American victims of clerical sex abuse protested at the Vatican on Thursday (March 25), charging that Pope Benedict XVI had personally mishandled the case of a Wisconsin priest who molested up to 200 deaf boys more than 35 years ago.

"What the pope will not admit is what he knew and the Vatican knew," said John Pilmaier, Milwaukee leader of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, at an informal press conference a few yards from St. Peter's Square.

Pilmaier and three other SNAP members sought to draw attention to the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who was the subject of an article in Thursday's edition of the New York Times.

Credibility gap: Pope needs to answer questions

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The Holy Father needs to directly answer questions, in a credible forum, about his role -- as archbishop of Munich (1977-82), as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1982-2005), and as pope (2005-present) -- in the mismanagement of the clergy sex abuse crisis.

We urge this not primarily as journalists seeking a story, but as Catholics who appreciate that extraordinary circumstances require an extraordinary response. Nothing less than a full, personal and public accounting will begin to address the crisis that is engulfing the worldwide church. It is that serious.

To date, as revelations about administrative actions resulting in the shifting of clergy abusers from parish to parish emerge throughout Europe, Pope Benedict XVI's personal response has been limited to a letter to the Irish church. Such epistles are customary and necessary, but insufficient.

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July 18-31, 2014

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