CNN special on Pope repeats ‘debunked’ information on Milwaukee sex abuse priest, authors say

Pope Benedict XVI / Gregory Erlandson
Pope Benedict XVI / Gregory Erlandson

.- The CNN special “What the Pope Knew” repeats “widely debunked” inaccuracies while trying to link Pope Benedict XVI to sexual abuse scandals, two authors say. They contend that the evidence in fact shows then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was not “in any way tolerant of, or insensitive to, the actions of abusers."

Gregory Erlandson and Dr. Matthew Bunson, authors of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing’s book “Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal,” discussed in an OSV press release a preview of the CNN special set to air on Sept. 25 and 26.

"How exactly does CNN have so little journalistic integrity that it can repeat inaccuracies that were widely debunked seven months ago, and for which there is clear, incontrovertible documentary evidence available?" Erlandson and Bunson asked, discussing the show preview posted on CNN’s Belief Blog on Sept. 23.

The special focuses on the case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, a priest who is accused of molesting about 200 deaf children in Milwaukee in the 1950s and 1960s.

Earlier this year, the New York Times claimed that evidence from the Murphy case shows that the Vatican declined to defrock Fr. Murphy. The OSV press release claims that the article sought to depict then-Cardinal Ratzinger as obstructing the prosecution of the priest in the mid-1990s when he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The New York Times report used dozens of internal church documents provided by a lawyer who is suing the Vatican. Erlandson and Busnon said the documents show that the Vatican had approved the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s effort to investigate the charges and proceed with a church trial.

When informed that Fr. Murphy was seriously ill, a Vatican official working under Cardinal Ratzinger recommended that the priest be stripped of any ministerial duties in order to expedite the process. The priest died soon afterward.

"While the Murphy case is a glaring example of the poor oversight and inadequate communication that typified many abuse cases in the U.S. dioceses in the past 50 years, it does not show Cardinal Ratzinger in any way tolerant of, or insensitive to, the actions of abusers," the two authors commented.

"There is an important story here to be told about the Church's attempt to address the abuse scandal, but getting to it will require news organizations to strip off ideological blinders and pay closer attention to the facts.”

The authors have posted what OSV calls a “document by document” rebuttal on their blog at the website


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