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There is no doubt that many bishops in the Catholic Church have failed miserably in their duty to protect children and should be removed. However, the orchestrated media rush to tar the pope with these offenses — of which Gwynne Dyer’s March 26 article, “Pedophile-priest coverup transcends ‘secular’ belief,” and the March 27 AP/Reuters article “Pope’s office shielded priest who abused deaf kids” are a part — is malicious.

The timeline of the Lawrence Murphy case shows that the crime here was the failure, over more than 20 years, of three successive American bishops to report or act upon these horrible outrages. The matter came to the attention of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) in 1996, 25 years after the facts and when Murphy had long been reported to civil authorities and was on his deathbed. Ratzinger’s focus was rightly on practical steps to get filth out of the active ministry and away from children rather than on what would at most have been a symbolic defrocking of Murphy before he died.

Dyer also advances the discredited notion that the instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was a “secret directive” aimed at covering up child abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth. Taking the lessons of the Murphy case to heart, wherein local diocesan officials kept the information from Rome, the instruction — available on the Vatican’s Web site — required all cases where there was a credible assertion of abuse to be forwarded to the CDF.

The same document actually extended the statute of limitations in church trials to allow more prosecutions and raised the “age of consent” for abuse-of-minor claims from 16 to 18 to facilitate prosecutions under church law. No one reading the document can come away with the notion that this was a coverup unless, of course, he has animus against the pope.

thomas clark

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