Former Judicial Vicar denounces Times reporting

By  Catholic Register Special
  • April 1, 2010

{mosimage}In a harsh indictment of The New York Times, the former Judicial Vicar for the archdiocese of Milwaukee has accused the newspaper of using “sloppy and inaccurate reporting” to wrongly link Pope Benedict XVI to the scandal of priest abuser Fr. Lawrence Murphy.

Fr. Thomas Brundage, who presided over the canonical proceeding against Murphy in the 1990s, released a letter March 29 in which he states The Times never contacted him for comment and that documents allegedly authored by him and quoted in newspaper articles were not his.

“The documents were not written by me and do not resemble my handwriting,” wrote Brundage. “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 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 . . . Discerning truth takes time and it is apparent that The New York Times, the Associated Press and others did not take time to get their facts correct.”

The Times had reported that the Vatican’s Doctrine for the Congregation of Faith, led at the time by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), ignored the recommendation of the local bishop and suspended proceedings to laicize Murphy, who was near death. Brundage said he has no reason to believe Ratzinger was involved and that, “Placing this matter at his doorstep is a huge leap in logic and information.”

In any event, says Brundage, contrary to The Times report, the case against Murphy had not been closed. Brundage had been instructed to abate proceedings but when Murphy died two days later “he was still the defendant in a church criminal trial.”

“No one seems to be aware of this,” said Brundage, adding that he was unwilling to cease proceedings  without first appealing to the highest Vatican authorities. He is clearly shocked that so much incomplete and inaccurate information has been circulated.

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

Brundage said that, rather than turning a blind eye to abuse, Benedict has been a champion of reform.

“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,” Brundage said.

As one directly involved in investigating and prosecuting priest abusers, Brundage said he saw first hand that after Benedict took charge of the issue in 2001, abuse cases that once “languished for years in court” were handled “expeditiously, fairly and with due regard to the rights of all parties involved. I have no doubt this was the work of then-Cardinal Ratzinger.”

After remaining silent on the scandal for almost a week, Brundage received permission from his archbishop in Anchorage, Alaska, to speak out against the inaccuracies in media reports.

“I am also writing out of a sense of duty to the truth,” he said.

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