Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Story Remains the Same

Update: Since writing this post, I have had an opportunity to do a bit more research, heard Father Brundage's comments on Charlie Sykes show and have exchanged e-mails with Father Brundage. I should add the following: Abatement is not equivalent to dismissal and it was unclear in the few days before draft of the letter and Father Murphy's death that, if the matter had been abated, it would not have become active again. (An abated action remains pending.) As a practical matter, nothing was going to happen soon since the situation in August of 1998 was that Father Murphy was too ill for the matter to move forward. Second, whether Father Brundage would or would not have been a hero in this case, he literally has been a hero in other matters of child abuse - to the point of risking his life.

In the first bit of new reporting by the Journal Sentinel,Anyssa Johnson now writes that Father Thomas Brundage actually provided Archbishop Rembert Weakland with a draft of the letter sent several days before Father Murphy's death announcing that the case against him had been abated.

If this is accurate, then it reflects poorly on Father Brundage who said that he would never have agreed to abate the proceedings unless Pope John Paul II ordered him to do so. Not because he did it. As Dad29 points out, he worked for Weakland and had undertaken a vow of obedience.

I am sure that he simply did not recall that he drafted the letter that he now claims not to have seen. But his claim that "he would have" objected to the abatement is simply not true. That may, in one sense, be understandable. Priests don't normally go over the head of their Bishops. It is also true that the matter had not been abated at the time of Father Murphy's death but it apparently was going to be. Perhaps Father Brundage would have objected. It is certainly possible that he would have written a draft of a potential response at the direction of his boss, but objected if he learned that this was actually what the Archbishop decided to do. But, just as it was inappropriate for Archbishop Weakland to attempt to blame his own failures on the Vatican, it was inappropriate for Father Brundage to suggest that he would have been the hero that he was apparently not.

But that does not add a single bit of support to the story line, i.e., idea that the final failure - after many earlier failures - to deal adequately with Father Murphy can somehow be blamed on the Pope. We already knew that Archbishop Weakland, after allowing the case to continue for several months following the meeting in Rome, had decided to end it.

We still have the same story that the documents tell. The Milwaukee archdiocese failed spectacularly in the Murphy case and informed the Vatican only years later - perhaps to avoid bad publicity. The Vatican did suggest alternatives to a criminal trial but that is not the scandal it seems to be because of the difficulty of trying decades old allegations against a someone at death's door. (Indeed, Father Brundage had been unable to depose Murphy due to his poor health.) In any event, the the decision was with the local Bishop - Bishop Fliss had already declined to further consider pastoral alternatives after an inquiry from Archbishop Bertone and Archbishop Weakland himself let the proceeding continue for months after the meeting in Rome. Even the alternative suggested by Archbishop Bertone (declaring Murphy to be unfit for ministry) was based upon Murphy displaying true remorse - something that Brundage says - and the documents indicate - never happened.

Now, in fairness to Weakland, continuing the trial was probably largely symbolic at that point. Murphy's death was imminent. His health did not seem to permit his participation in the case. The real scandal here is the failure of Archbishops Meyer, Cousins and Weakland to act sooner. By the time that the trial was commenced, there was little chance that it ever could have been completed so that Father Murphy would be defrocked before his death.

But symbols matter and Archbishop Weakland made the wrong call - in this and so many other cases.

Father Brundage's failure of memory does, perhaps, contribute to another story line. It will cause more people to believe, as one commenter on this blog says, that "you can't believe anything they say." That is tragic. The story broke on Good Friday. Tomorrow is Easter.


Unknown said...

I agree with the general thrust of your article.

But I wonder if you have rightfully ascribed to Archbishop Bertone what his view was of the case.I do not think that he was recommending going down the line of "incapacity"

I think a problem has arisen because the Archdiocese apparently relied on a "Yahoo translation" of the CDF`s memorandum of the meeting in May 1998 when Bertone and the officials of the CDF met with Weakland and others to discuss the case.

If you look at the original Italian in the CDF memorandum and compare it with the Yahoo translation, it is clear that the CDF did not halt the prosecution.

Further, there are major differences (including omissions)between the Italian version of this Memorandum and the "Yahoo" version of the Memorandum which apparently was used by the Archdiocese

The Italian version of paragraph 4 states:

"HE Weakland undertook to seek from Rev Murphy - whom he compared to a "difficult" child- a declaration of repentance. All three psychologists who examined him believed him to be a "typical" pedophile, the type who believes himself to be a victim.

About this, the Under Secretary P. Gianfranco Girotti, repeated what he said that the priest must give clear signs of repentance otherwise he must go to trial.

HE the Secretary (Bertone) proposed that he be ordered to a period of spiritual retreat together with a stern warning that he should be penitent otherwise he would expose himself to the risk that that there would be imposed on him more rigorous measures including the removal of his clerical state. He would be placed in the care of a priest as his spiritual director with meetings with him every one or two months."

The "Yahoo" version of paragraph 4 as prepared by the Archdiocese states:

"4. S.F. Mons. Weakland should .try to have the Rev. Murphy declared impeded from ministry; Three psychologists would have to examine him, decide if he is a typical pedofile, which therefore. To the The Secretary, Gianfranco Girotti, stated that the priest must give clear signs of repentance, otherwise he must be appl.ied to a trial.. It is recommended that Fr. Murphy be entrusted it to a priest who like his spiritual director then would have periodic meetings with him every one or two months."

The Italian version of paragraph 5 of the CDF memorandum states:

"HE the Secretary (Bertone) summarised the two main avenues to follow in the disputes with the priest:

1. the territorial restriction for the celebration of the Eucharist and
2. the warning to be given to him to show penitence"

The "Yahoo version" of this paragraph states:

"5. F. finally the Secretary restates the two central points to be followed towards the priest in question: 1 () the territorial restriction of the celebration eucharist and 2 () the needed remorse and reform of the priest."

Dad29 said...

Terry's right.

(BTW, "HE" stands for 'His Excellency' in the translations.)

The sense of the documentation I read a week ago or so was that while Bertone acknowledged that there IS an SOL which applied, Bertone (and implicitly Ratzinger) WAIVED the SOL for purposes of continuing the trial.

Now as to Rick's comment: "But his claim that "he would have" objected to the abatement is simply not true"...


Brundage could very well, under obedience, write a letter which requests 'abatement' of the case for Weakland AND--as the judge in the case--draft a brief which objects to such 'abatement' if the Vatican agreed with Weakland's request. In limping analogy, the prosecutor may appeal a judge's decision, regardless of the apparent authority of the judge.

Why do you state otherwise?

The timeline is important. No 'abatement' was granted, so obviously, we'll never know what Brundage woulda/shoulda/coulda done in that case.

Anonymous said...

This whole debacle is just that. Way over-blown! Dredging history to find something that could damage someone or the Catholic Church. It's sad and should be dropped as a none story. At least half of those recieving millions from the Church are most likely fakes. Every Tom Dick and Harry has or is coming out of the wordwrok to get s slice of the pie. Remember the case in California, when many lives were destroyed and businesses destroyed only to find out that it was based on all lies and nothing had happened. This happens all the time.

Dad29 said...

Clarification from Brundage issued April 5:

in the file e-mailed to me by reporter Johnson was a August 15, 1998 draft of a letter that I wrote and Archbishop Weakland slightly edited. This draft letter became the text of the August 19, 1998 letter from Archbishop Weakland to then-secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone in which Archbishop Weakland declared that he had instructed me to formally abate the case. This letter was not part of the file that I had access to and I had not seen that letter in nearly 12 years.

In all honesty, I do not remember this memo but I do admit to being wrong on this issue and I apologize for my mistake. Father Murphy’s death 2 days after Archbishop Weakland’s August 19, 1998 letter made the matter moot as de-facto death permanently abated the case.


Locke said...

This gets at one thing I've never quite fully understood about our criminal justice system (and applies to the Church's process as well).

I understand how in many cases, the death of the accused may make it less...I guess productive might be the right continue charges against him. But this appears to be absolute (correct me if I'm wrong). Why should death of the accused always mean the end to the charges? I don't believe punishment of the guilty is the only purpose of a trial. To me, justice is also about determining guilt for the sake of the victims and society.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

And the benefit of organized religion is...?

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Might want to update this post again.

Dad29 said...

Rick doesn't need to update the post.

That story is almost totally bogus.

Sorta like the Murphy story, and the "India priest" story.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Organized religions are like government programs - they develop constituencies that will justify and deflect anything.

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