Documents: Wis. priest accused of molesting 200 boys |

Documents: Wis. priest accused of molesting 200 boys

VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican on Thursday strongly defended its decision not to defrock an American priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin and denounced what it called a campaign to smear Pope Benedict XVI and his aides.

Church and Vatican documents showed that in the mid-1990s, two Wisconsin bishops urged the Vatican office led by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – now the pope – to let them hold a church trial against the Rev. Lawrence Murphy. The bishops admitted the trial was coming years after the alleged abuse, but argued that the deaf community in Milwaukee was demanding justice from the church.

An American protester in Rome on Thursday called the Murphy case an “incontrovertible case of pedophilia.”

Despite the extensive and grave allegations against Murphy, Ratzinger’s deputy at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ruled that the alleged molestation had occurred too long ago and that Murphy – then ailing and elderly – should instead repent and be restricted from celebrating Mass outside of his diocese.

The official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone – now the Vatican’s secretary of state – ordered the church trial halted after Murphy wrote Ratzinger a letter saying he was ill, infirm, and “simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood.”