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Lawrence Murphy, William Cousins, Rembert Weakland and the Sedevacantism of Alex Gibney: Part 4

Part 4: 1994 to May, 1998

In the first week of January, 1994, Weakland announced that the Archdiocese was setting aside two million dollars to cover claims arising from sexual abuse cases; a lawyer representing several plaintiffs said the amount was probably too low.(1)

November, 1994:  Victim writes to Weakland

Terry Kohut wrote to Weakland about Murphy in early November.  Although he is one of the victims featured in Mea Maxima Culpa, the film does not mention this letter.  In it, he expressed relief that Murphy had finally been “defrocked,” an erroneous impression that had been created by a newsletter circulated in late 1993 or early 1994.(2)

Mr. Kohut’s purpose in writing to Weakland was to tell him how Murphy had sexually assaulted him repeatedly from the age of 12, to relate the tremendous burden of suffering and guilt he had carried ever since, and to describe the disastrous long-term consequences the abuse had for him and for friends who had also been Murphy’s victims.  The letter clearly describes Murphy’s use of the sacrament of confession to identify and pursue him.

The letter closed with notice that Mr. Kohut had hired a lawyer to begin a lawsuit against Murphy, St. John School for the Deaf and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.  He asked for an out-of-court settlement of 1.5 million dollars, though he expressed the opinion that a court would award more than twice that much.

Many have told me that it would make a great book or movie and that I am morally obligated to have a big ugly public trial, but I would like to avoid all of that as the Catholic Church has had enough bad press.  They don’t need the story of a poor fatherless deaf boy left in the care of the Catholic priest only to be molested.(3)

We do not know if Weakland responded to the letter.  The amount requested by Mr. Kohut to settle his single case would have consumed most of the money the Archbishop had set aside in January to cover all cases.

1994:  Murphy disobeys directive

Shortly after being assigned to St. Anne’s parish in Boulder Junction some time in 1994, Fr. James Bartelme, unaware of the restrictions on Murphy, allowed him to perform a baptism. This violated the directive Murphy had received from Weakland at the end of 1993.(4)  Bishop Sklba heard about it and wrote to Fr. Bartelme, warning him not to let Murphy function as a priest.  Fr. Bartelme confirmed the restriction with his own bishop.

February, 1995:   Victim writes to Murphy and Cardinal Sodano

Subsequently, Mr. Kohut was enraged to learn that Murphy was still saying mass.  In February, 1995, he wrote  a lengthy, angry and anguished letter directly to “Mr.” Lawrence Murphy:(5)

Last year I learned that Archbishop Weakland fired you. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. But then I heard you still serve Mass in your home. How dare you! You cannot serve Mass because you are not a priest anymore. God does not accept you as a priest because you molested and ruined us. You must stop serving Mass. YOU ARE NO LONGER A PRIEST!!!

The letter recalled particulars of Murphy’s assaults on him and describing the terrible impact they had.  It was an excruciating exposition of his experience and heartache.  It is not reading for the faint of heart.

Mr. Kohut noted in the letter that copies of it were being sent to Weakland and to Pope John Paul II.  We do not know when Weakland received his copy.  On 5 March, 1995, Mr. Kohut mailed copies of his November letter to Weakland and his February letter to Murphy to Angelo Cardinal Sodano, the Secretary of State for the Holy See.  The covering letter he sent with them is the one that is typed onto the screen at the beginning of Mea Maxima Culpa:

. . . I am furious at a Catholic priest named Lawrence Murphy and want to know if Pope John Paul II will excommunicate him . . . Enclosed are copies of letters I have written . . . Please read them to Pope John Paul. . . I want to know will Pope John Paul II excommunicate Lawrence Murphy, who admittedly molested 34 deaf children?  Why is he allowed to receive the Sacraments if he has never professed any remorse . . .?  You have denied Communion to thousands of Catholics for sins far less heinous.  I must say I will never understand.  Can you please explain it to me?(6)

May, 1995: Cardinal Sodano ignores the letter

The letter was sent by registered mail and a receipt was returned for it. (7)  Cardinal Sodano did not reply to it.  Mr. Kohut wrote again two months later, seeking the courtesy of a reply.(8) This, too Sodano ignored.

It can be argued that, as Secretary of State for the Holy See, a position comparable to that of a prime minister, Sodano could not be expected to provide a personal reply to all of the letters his office receives from private individuals. That is true.

However, in 1994 an assessor in Cardinal Sodano’s office replied to a 9 year old girl who had written to Pope John Paul II with a question about Catholic teaching; he referred her to her parish priest.(9)  It is obvious that an assessor in the Secretariat could easily have acknowledged Mr. Kohut’s letter and referred him to Archbishop Weakland for a personal response from the prelate directly responsible for Murphy.  It seems that Cardinal Sodano’s office had a policy of replying to “cute” and “friendly” letters and ignoring “difficult” ones.  The failure to respond to Mr. Kohut was insensitive: extremely so, in view of the nature of his concerns.

Granted Sodano’s callous disregard for Mr. Kohut, he was not obliged to bring the letter to the personal attention of the Pope.  Further: this was six years before Cardinal Ratzinger ordered that all cases of clerical sexual abuse had to be referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, so there was no reason for Sodano to refer the letter to Cardinal Ratzinger.  In 1995, the responsibility for dealing with offending priests lay with diocesan bishops.

Since Mr. Kohut had told him that he had already sent the letters to Archbishop Weakland, Sodano could reasonably assume that Weakland would respond appropriately.  That should have been especially true of Weakland.  After all, Weakland himself had said that “[h]is religious profession and breadth of experience in world affairs” gave him “a ‘certain independence’ of thought and action.”(10)

In sum, the first time that anyone in “the Vatican” knew about Murphy was in March, 1995, more than 20 years after his most recent offences, and 18 years after Weakland “inherited” him from Cousins.  Further: Sodano’s personal knowledge of the situation did not, in the circumstances, require him or anyone else in “the Vatican” to intervene in the case at that point.  It was safely in the hands of “one of the most outspoken representatives of an innovative breed of American Catholic leaders.”(11)

A few days after Mr. Kohut sent his second letter to Cardinal Sodano, Milwaukee’s Vicar for Clergy, Fr. Straub, wrote to the Bishop of Superior expressing his view that the pastor at Boulder Junction, Fr. Meyett, was not capable of monitoring Murphy’s continuing contacts with the hearing impaired because Meyett “couldn’t imagine why the Archdiocese of Milwaukee would restrict Father Murphy’s public sacramental ministry.”  The vicar concluded that they would have to find another way to monitor Murphy,(12) but there is no indication that they succeeded.

September, 1995: Report of past solicitation

A synopsis of the Murphy file compiled in about April, 1998 states that, in 1995, Weakland began to receive letters from lawyers representing Murphy’s victims.(13)  In September, 1995, Dr. Elizabeth Piasecki, the Archdiocesan sexual abuse response coordinator(14) who was working with Murphy’s victims, reported the details of a complaint by a victim who was 12 or 13 years old in 1962 when Murphy began to sexually assault him.  The report described Murphy’s abuse of the sacrament of confession.(15)

We cannot be certain about what transpired over the next couple of months, but it may be that it was during this period that Fr. Thomas Brundage became involved.  Recalling the events years later, without the benefit of the file, he said:

Courageous advocacy on behalf of the victims (and often their wives), led the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to revisit the matter in 1996. In internal discussions of the curia for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, it became obvious that we needed to take strong and swift action with regard to the wrongs of several decades ago. With the consent of then-Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland, we began an investigation into the allegations of child sexual abuse as well as the violation of the crime of solicitation within the confessional by Father Murphy.(16)

December, 1995: Investigation authorized

On 11 December, 1995, Weakland sent a markedly formal letter to Murphy on that date notarized by Fr. James Connell, his Vice Chancellor.  The letter noted “ongoing concerns about allegations of your past misconduct.”

I am not certain that you are convinced of the serious nature of these accusations.  Past efforts on our part to limit your public functioning as a priest or as a representative of the church within the deaf community have not always met with your cooperation.

Weakland reiterated the restrictions he had previously imposed, and added a new one: to cease wearing clerical attire in public.  He closed by warning Murphy that a violation of the instructions could result in “canonical penalties” and reminded him of his duty of obedience.(17)  Ten days later, Weakland instructed his Fr. Connell, to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct and solicitation in the confessional by Murphy.(18)

July, 1996: Weakland writes to Cardinal Ratzinger

From 1 January until 1 July, 1996, Weakland was absent on sabbatical leave.  On his return, he consulted with Fr. Connell, and he wrote to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on 17 July for advice on how to proceed.  This, then, marks the first time that “the Vatican” became involved in the Murphy case, 22 years after Murphy was removed from St. John School, and 19 years after Weakland became his superior.

Weakland’s letter warrants scrutiny.

First: he claimed that the offence of solicitation had “only recently come to light” and referred to a single complainant who had given sworn testimony.  This must be the victim who was the subject of Dr. Piasecki’s September report.  Weakland added that the witness had identified many other student victims, and that the Archdiocese was gathering testimony from some of them.  He expanded upon the purported recent discovery of the offence:

Although allegations against Father Murphy had been brought to my predecessor, allegations that resulted in a civil suit that was later dropped, this is the first that I had heard of the abuse of the confessional.  I find that the deaf community tends to keep its problems and embarrassments to themselves, thus explaining the reluctance of these victims to bring forth allegations earlier.

. . .it was only less than one year ago when I learned of the possibility that solicitation in the confessional might be part of the situation. That is when I decided to have Father Connell conduct an investigation.(19)

With respect to the date on which he “learned of the possibility” of the offence, Weakland was simply lying.  Kathy Walter had reported the abuse of the confessional to him two and a half years earlier, in December, 1993,(20) and Weakland revoked Murphy’s faculties (permission) for hearing confession about two weeks later.(21)

Why did Weakland write to Cardinal Ratzinger?

The explanation he offers in Mea Maxima Culpa is that the canonical limitation of action period had expired with respect to the sexual assaults.

Then it became evident that it might be possible to still submit the Murphy case on the basis of the way in which he used the confessional.  That was one where the statute of limitations never expires.  I submitted that to Cardinal Ratzinger’s office.(22)

In his letter, Weakland said that he understood that the crime of solicitation was reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under canon 1362(1)1, and asked for his direction.

Canon 1362 is the canonical equivalent of the “statute of limitations.” In 1995 it specified that, with a few exceptions,  a charge must be laid within three years of the date of the last offence.  The exception to which Weakland referred was “offences reserved to the Congregation of the Faith,” but the Code of Canon Law did not identify any offences as falling within this category.  The question as to which offences were serious enough to be included was disputed among canon lawyers until 2001,(23) when the problem was settled by an instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.(24)

The fact that an offence “is reserved to the Congregation of the Faith” does not mean that the diocesan bishop cannot proceed to investigate it and prosecute offenders. It means only that, once a preliminary investigation establishes that an offence has occurred, a bishop must report the case to the Congregation, which will either direct him to prosecute or, in unusual cases, take over the prosecution itself.(25)

“Finally, I think after a year,” Weakland says in Mea Maxima Culpa, “[I] got an answer back saying yes.  We could open the case.”(26)

October, 1996: Judicial process begins

Weakland’s memory failed him on this point.  The reply must have come back long before that, because on 15 October, 1996 he issued the decree ordering the prosecution to proceed.(27) Given the complaints about delays alleged to have been caused by “the Vatican,” it would be helpful to have the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger that authorized the trial.  Unfortunately, it has either been lost or destroyed, or not disclosed by the Archdiocese, or not among the papers Mr. Anderson selected for release to the New York Times.

There followed several administrative procedures preliminary to the trial: the formal proposal of charges,(28) the formation of the tribunal to hear the case,(29) formal acceptance of the charges, (30) and notification of the accused, giving him 15 days to respond.  All of this was done by 10 December.(31)  What is missing from the publicly available documents is a letter from Weakland to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dated 11 December, 1996, in which he asked for direction regarding the procedure to be followed in trying the case.(32)

When Weakland authorized the judicial process to begin, his decree stated that the investigation had ended, but it also directed the promoter of justice, Fr. Reifenberg, “to gather whatever additional testimony or information he considers necessary to properly demonstrate the truth in this matter.”(33)  Hence, an investigation actually continued even though the decree said it was over.  This probably accounts for Fr. Brundage’s recollection that the investigation authorized by Weakland took place in 1996.(34)

The continuation of an investigation after the laying of charges is not uncommon in serious cases under the law of the land, particularly in the case of serial offenders.  The significant difference between common law and canon law judicial proceedings is that the latter are inquisitorial in nature; judges take an active part in the investigation.  Hence, we see Fr. Thomas Brundage, one of the judges, directly involved in taking statements from the witnesses.

February, 1997: Procedural roadblock

Over the next few weeks, Murphy consulted a canon lawyer, who argued that the case could not proceed because the limitation of action period had long since passed.  Murphy’s lawyer pointed out that the offences were alleged to have occurred when the Code of Canon Law of 1917 and canonical norms of 1962 were in force, requiring action within 30 days.  This would prove to be erroneous, but that was not known at the time.  At a meeting of interested parties on 24 February, Fr. Thomas Brundage explained that limitation period of five years had been passed even under the Code of Canon Law of 1983.  He said that the case could not proceed unless the limitation period was waived by Rome.  Fr. Brundage also reported that information from the Diocese of Superior indicated that Murphy was continuing to disregard the restrictions on his ministry by helping out at deaf retreats and at Mass.(35)

Accordingly, on 10 March, 1997, Weakland wrote to Gilberto Cardinal Agustoni, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatory.  It is not clear why he wrote to the Apostolic Signatory because the offence was reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  In any case, Weakland again lied about the date of his first knowledge of the offence, at one point saying that it was in July, 1996, and at another that it was in 1995.  He asked for a waiver of the limitation period , explaining the problem presented by the facts of Murphy’s case, and referring to his correspondence with Cardinal Ratzinger:

I wrote to [Cardinal Ratzinger] in July of 1996 when I first became aware of the details of the situation.  My hope was that, given the condition of the penitents, the length of time since the alleged crimes, and that the subject matter seems to be reserved [to his Congregation] . . . perhaps his Eminence would grant special norms for a penal process in this case.  So far, however, I have received no response.(36)

The letter to Cardinal Agustoni was sent to Rome by diplomatic pouch through the Papal Pro-Nuncio.(37)

It appears that Weakland’s recollection was confused. His July letter to Cardinal Ratzinger did not request “special norms,” and he appears to have received a reply from Ratzinger because he initiated the judicial process in October. Only in his letter of 11 December did he request direction as to trial procedures. Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, replied to that letter on 24 March, 1997, directing him to proceed in accordance with an attached Latin document.(38)

On 9 April, 1997, Cardinal Agustoni wrote to advise Weakland that he was forwarding his letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had jurisdiction.(39)

May, 1997: Process continues

Although Archbishop Bertone did not specifically address the question of a waiver of the limitation period, probably because it was not known to be an issue when Weakland wrote in December, it appears that Weakland decided to take his letter of 24 March as authorizing a waiver.  He wrote to Archbishop Bertone on 14 May, 1997, stating his intention to proceed despite the fact that the limitation periods under both current and former norms had passed.(40) That put the onus on Archbishop Bertone to intervene if he disagreed, or to confirm the waiver by making no response.  The decision to proceed had been communicated to the victim witnesses two days earlier.(41)

The investigation continued from May until the end of October, 1997.  Fr. Brundage described his part:

. . . I interviewed, with the help of a qualified interpreter, about a dozen victims of Father Murphy. These were gut-wrenching interviews. In one instance the victim had become a perpetrator himself and had served time in prison for his crimes. I realized that this disease is virulent and was easily transmitted to others. I heard stories of distorted lives, sexualities diminished or expunged. These were the darkest days of my own priesthood, having been ordained less than 10 years at the time. . .

I also met with a community board of deaf Catholics. They insisted that Father Murphy should be removed from the priesthood and highly important to them was their request that he be buried not as a priest but as a layperson. I indicated that a judge, I could not guarantee the first request and could only make a recommendation to the latter request.(42)

October, 1997: Another procedural problem

On 31 October the results were summarized, apparently by Fr. Thomas Brundage, though the summary is not in his handwriting and the author is unknown.(43)  It was thought that there were over 100 victims, making the case “horrendous” due to the numbers of victims and their extreme vulnerability.  At least three remained “persistent in their desire for retribution, clarification, etc.”  Other members of the deaf community clearly wanted Murphy laicized. The notes indicate that only one monetary request had been made, and was settled for $70,000.00.(44)  This suggests that the investigators were unaware of Terry Kohut’s request for 1.5 million dollars.

While everyone involved agreed that Murphy should be laicized, the 1962 norms under which they had been proceeding required that the trial be held in the diocese where the accused was living: in the Diocese of Superior.(45)  In order to overcome the procedural obstacle, it was decided to dissolve the Milwaukee tribunal and reconstitute it and continue its operation under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of  Superior.(46)

December, 1997: Judicial process continues

On 14 December, 1997, the Bishop of Superior issued a decree ordering the case to proceed to trial.(47)  In the first week of January, Murphy was cited(48) and the victim witnesses were notified of the change of jurisdiction; they were advised that the case might be completed by the spring.(49)  Clergy to be involved with the process were notified on 10 January,(50) and Murphy formally appointed a canon lawyer to act for him two days later.(51)

January, 1998: Murphy writes to Cardinal Ratzinger

The day he retained his canon lawyer, Murphy wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger, probably with his lawyer’s assistance.(52)  He referred to the  “accusations” that led to his “resignation” at St. John School for the deaf, but made no admission of wrongdoing.

My ministry was never restricted, but I received no further pastoral assignments.  Because of my ability to communicate in sign language, however, I was called upon to assist in this area from time to time.  Also, because my ministerial priesthood had not been restricted in any way, I also assisted local parishes . . . when called upon.  There have been no further accusations against me . . .

Murphy was lying.  This was an accurate description of his status from 1974 until some time in the fall of 1993, but his ministry was formally restricted beginning in December, 1993.

He went on to explain that, five years previously, former students to accuse him of misconduct between 1963 and 1969, including solicitation in the confessional.  “Without examining these accusations according to the 1962 norms,” he wrote, “the Archdiocese of Milwaukee began penal proceedings against me, to dismiss me from the clerical state.”  He went on to describe the investigation and proceedings as a form of persecution, and then asked Cardinal Ratzinger to intervene:

I ask that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declare the decree of citation by the Diocese of Superior invalid.  The accusations against me were for actions alleged to have taken place over twenty five years ago.  This goes against the 1962 norms which state that an action must be brought within one month of the alleged solicitation.

In American terms, he wanted the case dropped “because the statute of limitations had run out.”  This was exactly the kind of legal point that precludes prosecution and civil suits under the law of the land, though it is the kind of legal point that laymen denigrate as a “technicality.”  In Murphy’s case, however, the argument carried unusual weight; it was not just a matter of dates.

Limitations of action are intended to prevent civil or ecclesiastical authorities from attacking individuals under the pretext of prosecuting a wrongdoing from the distant past, especially one that could have been addressed at the time or soon after, and was not.  Cousins had been obliged by canon law to investigate in 1974.  Instead, he ignored his obligation, covered up the allegations and later perjured himself to keep the crimes secret and avoid civil liability. Weakland continued the policy of concealment and did nothing for more than 16 years.  He failed to act when he learned of the abuse of the confessional in December, 1993, but was eventually compelled to take action by persistent and courageous victim advocates and lawyers.  Murphy could reasonably argue that the limitation period had passed because of episcopal malfeasance and incompetence, and that was not reason to grant a waiver.

None of this was mentioned in Mea Maxima Culpa.  Instead, the film offers the audience only Murphy’s emotional appeal:

I am seventy two years of age . . . and am in poor health.  I have just recently suffered another stroke which has left me in a weakened state. I have followed all the directives of both Archbishop Cousins and Archbishop Weakland.  I have repented of any of my past transgressions, and have been living peaceably in northern Wisconsin for twenty-four years.  I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood. I ask your kind assistance in this matter. (Emphasis added to identify the passage quoted in Mea Maxima Culpa)

Even here, Mea Maxima Culpa presents only a fragment of the passage, the two sentences marked in bold face.  Richard Sipe makes much of this in the film:

It’s not just “I’m an old man.” “I’m an old priest.”  “I’m an old priest.  Don’t throw me away because I have this special mark.  Another Christ.(53)

On the other hand,  most people familiar with the prosecution of criminal offences will recognize Murphy’s plea as one of the typical gambits used by defence counsel at sentencing hearings.  And, with respect to canon law, it will presently be seen that there is more to this plea than meets the eye.

Mea Maxima Culpa claims that “Rome may have refused to move against Murphy” because of this letter.(54)  The assertion is not only nonsense; it is deliberately misleading.  The parts of the letter Mr. Gibney did not present to his audience (to say nothing of all of the other available documents) make it abundantly clear that Rome was not being asked “to move against Murphy” and had no reason to do so, since the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was moving against him.

April: 1998: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responds

Archbishop Bertone of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to Bishop Fliss on 6 April, 1998, in response to Murphy’s letter.  Taking note of Murphy’s argument that the limitation period had passed, and of his appeal for clemency on account of his age and illness, he responded to each in turn.

The one month limitation period, he explained, was not a limitation on prosecution.  It referred to the duty imposed by the 1917 Code of Canon Law on a priest guilty of the act of solicitation to denounce himself within one month to the local bishop or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.(55)

With respect to Murphy’s plea of illness and old age, he said that before embarking upon a judicial process, Bishop Fliss should “give careful consideration to what Canon 1341 proposes as pastoral measures destined to obtain the reparation of scandal and the restoration of justice.”(56)

Canon 1341: The Ordinary is to start a judicial or an administrative procedure for the imposition or the declaration of penalties only when he perceives that neither fraternal correction or reproof, nor by any methods of pastoral care, can the scandal be sufficiently repaired, justice restored and the offender reformed. (emphasis added)

Mea Maxima Culpa and Richard Sipe construe this advice as exemplifying inordinate concern for Murphy because he was a priest, and none for the victims.  However, Bertone’s carefully phrased advice directed Bishop Fliss’s attention to something that could have derailed the case.

Canon 1341 makes it clear that prosecution under canon law is a last resort, to be used only when other measures have been unsuccessful, or could be reasonably anticipated to prove unsuccessful.  More important, it actually forbids prosecution unless the bishop has explicitly turned his mind to this issue and concluded that measures short of prosecution are not feasible.  Within this context, that alleged offences occurred in the distant past, that bishops failed to act at the time, that no more recent misconduct has been alleged, and the advanced age and infirmity of the accused are all factors that become legally significant.  It becomes more difficult to explain why a pastoral solution is not feasible.

At this point, one should compare the decrees ordering the judicial process issued by Archbishop Weakland(57) and Bishop Fliss.(58)  Weakland’s decree expressly refers to Canon 1341 and his conclusion that prosecution is necessary; Bishop Fliss’s decree makes no reference to Canon 1341, nor does it indicate that he considered the issues it raises.  Of course, it is quite likely that he did, but what was missing from the record was evidence to that effect.

May, 1998: Judicial process continues

This omission was quickly rectified.  The letter from Archbishop Bertone was forwarded to Fr. Brundage on 30 April, 1998.(59)  He met with members of the deaf community to seek their opinion.  They overwhelmingly indicated that prosecution was necessary.  He then contacted Bishop Fliss and communicated the substance of their response.  Bishop Fliss was satisfied that all appropriate pastoral measures had been exhausted, and that the case should proceed.(60)

On 13 May, 1998, he wrote to Cardinal Bertone:

After having carefully considered your request that the pastoral measures expressed in Canon 1341 be employed, it is my judgment that all reasonable pastoral measures have been exhausted.(61)

He concluded that a judicial trial was necessary.  With this loophole covered, Murphy would not succeed in securing the intervention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the possibility of a successful appeal against conviction was reduced to some extent.

What is noteworthy is that, like many subsequent media commentators, Bishop Fliss thought that Archbishop Bertone had suggested that pastoral measures rather than a judicial process should be used.  That was not the case.  The Archbishop asked Bishop Fliss only to consider what Canon 1341 had to say, using language that seems to have been calculated to avoid compromising the independence of the bishop’s judgement.

As a result of the Archbishop’s letter, concern about the limitation of action had been cleared up, and Fr.  Brundage and Bishop Fliss took action that addressed another “technicality” that could have provided Murphy with an opportunity to stall the case or successfully appeal a conviction.

By this time, Murphy had three months to live.  Rather than obstructing or hindering proceedings against him,  “the Vatican” had cleared the way for them to proceed.

12 March, 2013


Next – Part 5: 1998: The End of the Road


1.    Rohde, Marie, “$2 million set aside for abuses cases: Attorney for several past and future plaintiffs says amount may be too low.”  Milwaukee Journal, 7 January, 1994 (Accessed 2013-03-07)

2.   Letter dated 7 November, 1994 to Rembert Weakland. (Accessed 2013-03-12) The on-line letter has been redacted to remove Kohut’s name, but it is part of a single digital file that includes two other letters from him, one of which was presented, in part, in Mea Maxima Culpa.  The text of the letter mentions a number of points made in the subsequent letters.

3.   Letter dated 7 November, 1994 to Rembert Weakland. (Accessed 2013-03-12) The on-line letter has been redacted to remove Kohut’s name, but it is part of a single digital file that includes two other letters from him, one of which was presented, in part, in Mea Maxima Culpa.  The text of the letter mentions a number of points made in the subsequent letters.

4.   Letter dated 29 December, 1993 from Archbishop Rembert Weakland to Lawrence Murphy (Accessed 2013-03-12)

5.   Letter dated 12 February, 1995 from Terry Kohut to Mr. Lawrence Murphy (Accessed 2013-03-05)

6.   Letter dated 5 March, 1995 from Terry Kohut to Cardinal Angelo Sodano (Accessed 2013-03-06)

7.   Return Receipt for International Mail, stamped 14 March, 1995. (Accessed 2013-03-06)

8.   Letter dated 10 May, 1995 from Terry Kohut to Cardinal Sodano. (Accessed 2013-03-06)

9.    Letter dated 5 January, 1994 from Monsignor L. Sandri, Assessor, Secretariat of State, First Section, General Affairs.

10.      Buursma, Bruce, “Archbishop Asks Rome to Ease Up.”  Chicago Tribune, 28 September, 1986. (Accessed 2013-02-28)

11.      Steinfels, Peter, “Bishop Weakland, Critic of Vatican, Lends Women his Ear on Abortion.”  New York Times, 27 March, 1990 (Accessed 2013-03-11)

12.   Letter dated 16 May, 1995 from Fr. Carrol C. Straub to Bishop Philip J. Heslin (Accessed 2013-03-07)

13.   Synopsis of case against the Reverend Lawrence Murphy, undated, ca. April, 1998 (Accessed 2013-03-08)

14.      Franzen, Ernst-Ulrich, “Archdiocese picks psychologist for sex abuse response post.Milwaukee Sentinel, 27 July, 1993. (Accessed 2013-03-07)

15.   Piasecki, Liz, Entry for chart of _____, 6 September, 1995. (Accessed 2013-03-07)

16.    Archdiocese of Milwaukee, “Fr. Tom Brundage’s Statement on Fr. Lawrence Murphy Case.”  1 April, 2010 (Accessed 2013-02-19)

17.   Letter dated 11 December, 1995 from Archbishop Rembert Weakland to Father Lawrence Murphy (Accessed 2013-03-05)

18.   Decree of Archbishop Rembert Weakland dated 15 October, 1996. (Accessed 2013-03-07)

19.   Letter dated 17 July, 1996 from Archbishop Rembert Weakland to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Accessed 2013-03-05)

20.   Notes of Kathy Lyn Walter, p. 14.; p. 21 (Accessed 2013-03-06)

21.   Letter dated 29 December, 1993 from Archbishop Rembert Weakland to Fr. Lawrence Murphy (Accessed 2013-03-05)

22.     Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. (1:08:26)

23.    Peters, Edward, Much Ado About Not Much.  27 April, 2005. (Accessed 2013-03-05)

24.     De Delictis Gravioribus (On More Serious Crimes) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 18 May, 2001 (Accessed 2013-03-07)

25.    De Delictis Gravioribus (On More Serious Crimes) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 18 May, 2001 (Accessed 2013-03-07)

26.      Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. (1:08:26)

27.   Decree issued by Archbishop Rembert Weakland dated 15 October, 1996 (Accessed 2013-03-07)

28.   Libellus, dated 22 November, 1996 (Accessed 2013-03-07)

29.   Decree Constituting the Tribunal, dated 1 December, 1996 (Accessed 2013-03-07)

30.   Decree Accepting the Libellus and Citing the Accused, dated 9 December, 1996 (Accessed 2013-03-07)

31.   Letter dated 10 December, 1996 from Fr. Thomas Brundage to Fr. Lawrence Murphy (Accessed 2013-03-08)

32.    The letter is cited (as 11 December 1966) in the reply.  See Letter dated 24 March, 1997 from Cardinal Bertone to Archbishop Rembert Weakland (Accessed 2013-03-08)

33.   Decree issued by Archbishop Rembert Weakland dated 15 October, 1996 (Accessed 2013-03-07)

34.      Archdiocese of Milwaukee, “Fr. Tom Brundage’s Statement on Fr. Lawrence Murphy Case.”  1 April, 2010 (Accessed 2013-02-19)

35.   Piasecki, Liz, Entry for the Chart of Lawrence Murphy, 24 February, 1997 (Accessed 2013-03-08)

36.   Letter dated 10 March, 1997 from Archbishop Rembert Weakland to Gilberto Cardinal Agustoni, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatory. (Accessed 2013-03-08)

37.   Letter dated 12 March, 1997 from Fr. James E. Connell to the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio (Accessed 2013-03-08)

38.   Letter dated 24 March, 1997 from Cardinal Bertone to Archbishop Rembert Weakland (Accessed 2013-03-08)

39.   Letter dated 9 April, 1997 from Gilberto Cardinal Agustoni, to Archbishop Rembert Weakland (Accessed 2013-03-08)

40.   Letter dated 14 May, 1997 from Archbishop Rembert Weakland to Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone (Accessed 2013-03-08)

41.   Letter dated 12 May, 1997, from Fr. Thomas Brundage to __________. (Accessed 2013-03-08)

42.    Archdiocese of Milwaukee, “Fr. Tom Brundage’s Statement on Fr. Lawrence Murphy Case.”  1 April, 2010 (Accessed 2013-02-19)

43.    Archdiocese of Milwaukee, “Fr. Tom Brundage’s Statement on Fr. Lawrence Murphy Case.”  1 April, 2010 (Accessed 2013-02-19)

44.   Notes dated 31 October, 1997: Investigation results. (Accessed 2013-03-08)

45.   Notes dated 31 October, 1997: Investigation results. (Accessed 2013-03-08)

46.   Notes dated 31 October, 1997: Investigation results.  (Accessed 2013-03-08)

47.   Decree of Bishop Raphael Fliss dated 14 December, 1997 (Accessed 2013-03-08)

48.   Decree citing the accused dated 6 January, 1998 (Accessed 2013-03-08)

49.   Letter dated 5 January, 1998 from Fr. John Aiello to ______ (Accessed 2013-03-08)

50.   Letter dated 10 January, 1998 from Fr. Thomas Brundage to Bishop Raphael Fliss and three priests (Accessed 2013-03-08)

51.   Appointment of procurator and advocate dated 12 January, 1998 (Accessed 2013-03-08)

52.   Letter dated 12 January, 1998 from Lawrence Murphy to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Accessed 2013-03-08)

53.     Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (1:11:46)

54.     Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (1:11:17)

55.    Can 904. Ad normam constitutionum apostolicarum et nominatim constitutionis Benedicti XIV Sacramentum Poenitentiae, 1 Iun. 1741, debet poenitens sacerdotem, reum delicti sollicitationis in confessione, intra mensem denuntiare loci Ordinario, vel Sacrae Congregationi S. Officii; et confessarius debet, graviter onerata eius conscientia, de hoc onere poenitentem monere.  1917 Code of Canon Law (Accessed 2013-03-08)

56.   Letter dated 6 April, 1998 from Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone to Bishop Richard Fliss (Accessed 2013-03-08)

57.   Decree issued by Archbishop Rembert Weakland dated 15 October, 1996 (Accessed 2013-03-07)

58.   Decree of Bishop Raphael Fliss dated 14 December, 1997 (Accessed 2013-03-08)

59.   Letter dated 30 April, 19998 from Fr. Philip J. Heslin to Fr. Thomas Brundage (Accessed 2013-03-08)

60.   Note  undated, ca. 1-15 May, 1998 from Fr. Thomas Brundage to bishops (Accessed 2013-03-08)

61.   Letter date 13 May, 1998 from Bishop Raphael Fliss to Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone (Accessed 2013-03-08)

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