Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I don't know if it makes any difference, but. . .

. . . given the absolute glee in the media over the latest pedophile scandal, especially the "what did the Pope know and when did he know it" meme, it might behoove a curious reader to get the actual view of one of the most important participants in unraveling the Lawrence Murphy scandal in Milwaukee. The always excellent Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia has excerpted a long piece from Fr. Thomas Brundage, who was judicial vicar in the Milwaukee Archdiocese and was responsible for overseeing the Murphy case. A small taste:

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.
There is no question that Lawrence Murphy was an evil man. There is also no question that the Church enabled his predations for a period of nearly 25 years, in ways small and large. The Church has much to explain and the explanations must continue. Most of all, I don't begrudge the victims seeking redress for the sins of Lawrence Murphy.

Yet this must be said as well: it also troubles me when leading news organizations don't bother to fact check the information they publish. I would strongly recommend that you click the link I've provided and read the statement of Fr. Brundage.


Night Writer said...

The New York Times: all the news that fits (the storyline).

Anonymous said...

Brundage has recanted what he said last week. He had claimed that he was misquoted by the Times and that the trial was indeed ongoing at the time of Murphy's death. Brundage, now seeing documents he had not seen before, has reversed himself on this. A direct quote from the Times:

Father Brundage, who is now working in the Archdiocese of Anchorage, posted an essay this week saying he was never informed that the trial of Father Murphy had been halted.

He also said that he had been misquoted in both The New York Times and The Associated Press. In an interview on Wednesday, Father Brundage acknowledged that he had never been quoted in any Times articles about the Murphy case — and the paper did not misquote him. He said he was misquoted in an Associated Press article that was posted temporarily on the Times Web site, and he mistakenly attributed that to The Times.

He said the documents show that the Vatican had encouraged the Milwaukee Archdiocese to halt the trial, but they did not use strong language and actually order a halt. He said that he never saw the letter from Archbishop Weakland abating the trial until it appeared on the Times Web site last week.

Looks like you have been misled by Brundage, not the Times. Face the facts. The Vatican made the decision NOT to proceed with a canonical trial, in spite of the fact that Murphy had admittedly raped children in confessionals while performing the sacrament of reconciliation, which is about as grave a canonical transgression as can be imagined. Why anyone would want to carry water for these lying thugs is beyond me. Ratzinger is up to his eyeballs in this and deserves whatever he gets. He had more compassion for an aging paedophile than he ever did for the 200 deaf children who were Murphy's victims and who never got justice, even from the Church. Oh the web we weave...

Mr. D said...


It's a little more complicated than you've made it.

1) The business about Brundage being misquoted is tangential to the story.

2) It's not clear that Cardinal Ratzinger personally ordered a halt to the proceedings. We are told that Ratzinger had correspondence in the matter, but we don't know what he said. We also don't know whether the matter personally crossed his desk or whether an underling handled the matter. For that matter, we aren't privy to any conversations between Weakland and Ratzinger, or the auxiliary archbishop Skiba. Perhaps we should be before we pass judgment.

The larger issue remains this: 22 years passed between the end of Murphy's reign of terror and the events that are now in the spotlight. What happened during that time? Weakland became Archbishop in 1977 and the matter should have been dealt with long before it got to the Vatican. By the time 1998 rolled around, Murphy was dying and while a canonical trial was fully justified -- no one disputes that-- Murphy would have been dead before it concluded. For the sake argument, let's say this: if Ratzinger personally ordered the trial stopped because he was trying to be merciful, it was a mistake. Is it a hanging offense? I'm not so sure.

I'm going to revisit this in another post.