Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Milwaukee Canonical Judge Speaks On What NYT Ignored

Source: Catholic Anchor Online » Setting the record straight in the case of abusive Milwaukee priest Father Lawrence Murphy

With all the smears about the Milwaukee case, isn't it odd that nobody actually sought to contact the people who took part in the case to defrock Fr. Murphy?

I find this article interesting, as it makes more clear information which seemed muddled when taken out of context (learning that it was the Rota which had the competency to oversee the case prior to 2001 was new to me)

Fr. Thomas Brundage, who was the judge [In the sense of the canonical trial… not civil prosecution] in the case of Fr. Murphy has come forward to speak about his involvement in the case.  He describes his purpose in doing so:

I will limit my comments, because of judicial oaths I have taken as a canon lawyer and as an ecclesiastical judge. However, since my name and comments in the matter of the Father Murphy case have been liberally and often inaccurately quoted in the New York Times and in more than 100 other newspapers and on-line periodicals, I feel a freedom to tell part of the story of Father Murphy’s trial from ground zero.

As I have found that the reporting on this issue has been inaccurate and poor in terms of the facts, I am also writing out of a sense of duty to the truth.

The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself.

My intent in the following paragraphs is to accomplish the following:

To tell the back-story of what actually happened in the Father Murphy case on the local level;

To outline the sloppy and inaccurate reporting on the Father Murphy case by the New York Times and other media outlets;

To assert that Pope Benedict XVI has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured;

To set the record straight with regards to the efforts made by the church to heal the wounds caused by clergy sexual misconduct. The Catholic Church is probably the safest place for children at this point in history.

I find it interesting to note that contrary to the claims of the NYT, Fr. Brundage considers that his own actions have been misquoted in this feeding frenzy of the media, and explicitly denies that the CDF had halted the case.  Let's look at what he says about the case.

Considering the Claims the Vatican Halted the Trial

The NYT had alleged that Fr. Murphy wrote to the Vatican and the Vatican stopped the trial.  Fr. Brundage contradicts this claim directly.

In the summer of 1998, I ordered Father Murphy to be present at a deposition at the chancery in Milwaukee. I received, soon after, a letter from his doctor that he was in frail health and could travel not more than 20 miles (Boulder Junction to Milwaukee would be about 276 miles). A week later, Father Murphy died of natural causes in a location about 100 miles from his home

So we see some falsehoods about the allegations that Fr. Murphy wrote to then Cardinal Ratzinger in January and then Ratzinger had the trial ended.  Fr. Brundage points out that in the summer of 1998, the deposition was scheduled, but Fr. Murphy's doctor said he could not travel more than 20 miles due to health… far too short a travel range to bring him to Milwaukee.

He also denies that it was the CDF that caused the trial to end.  Fr. Brundage says:

Additionally, in the documentation in a letter from Archbishop Weakland to then-secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone on August 19, 1998, Archbishop Weakland stated that he had instructed me to abate the proceedings against Father Murphy. Father Murphy, however, died two days later and the fact is that on the day that Father Murphy died, he was still the defendant in a church criminal trial. No one seems to be aware of this. Had I been asked to abate this trial, I most certainly would have insisted that an appeal be made to the supreme court of the church, or Pope John Paul II if necessary. That process would have taken months if not longer.

Notice that it was Archbishop Weakland telling the CDF that he gave the order to Fr. Brundage to abate the trial.  Also that Fr. Brundage says that when Fr. Murphy died, he was still a defendant, and that Archbishop Weakland had not told him to abate the trial.  Indeed, if the archbishop had told him to abate the trial, he would have appealed to Rome.

This is quite damning for the NYT indeed.  So much for the accusation that now Pope Benedict XVI halted this.

NYT Wrongly Attributes Documents to Fr. Brundage

I find it significant that Fr. Brundage flat out denies that the documents attributed to him were written by him.  He writes:

With regard to the inaccurate reporting on behalf of the New York Times, the Associated Press, and those that utilized these resources, first of all, I was never contacted by any of these news agencies but they felt free to quote me. Almost all of my quotes are from a document that can be found online with the correspondence between the Holy See and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In an October 31, 1997 handwritten document, I am quoted as saying ‘odds are that this situation may very well be the most horrendous, number wise, and especially because these are physically challenged , vulnerable people. “ Also quoted is this: “Children were approached within the confessional where the question of circumcision began the solicitation.”

The problem with these statements attributed to me is that they were handwritten. The documents were not written by me and do not resemble my handwriting. The syntax is similar to what I might have said but I have no idea who wrote these statements, yet I am credited as stating them. As a college freshman at the Marquette University School of Journalism, we were told to check, recheck, and triple check our quotes if necessary. I was never contacted by anyone on this document, written by an unknown source to me. Discerning truth takes time and it is apparent that the New York Times, the Associated Press and others did not take the time to get the facts correct. [Emphasis added]

I find it rather damning that the NYT never bothered to ask any questions of the person they cited as a source.  In most places, this would be considered negligence.  If the story is so badly flawed in facts, it casts doubts on the accuracy of the whole thing.  Combined with the rejection of the idea that the CDF prevented this, the NYT seems to be either guilty of gross incompetence or malicious intent.


The story is being denied by both Rome and those involved in America.  It seems we have a problematic scenario:

  1. Certain individuals, who oppose the Church and the Pope, have created a false story.
  2. Their news organizations, through neglect or through malice gave the ok for these stories to go forward.
  3. Numerous news organizations repeated the stories of this newspaper
  4. People with a hatred of the Church took advantage of this story to promote their personal agendas.

I don't doubt some will allege some huge Church conspiracy and that Fr. Brundage is lying.  However, this requires proof… something the NYT has yet to provide.

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