Pope Benedict knew of the suspected abuse of hundreds of deaf Wisconsin boys by a renegade priest yet the Vatican office he headed as cardinal halted a process to remove the man from the priesthood. A local archbishop wrote a letter to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1996 pleading that Father Lawrence Murphy be spared a hearing to boot him from the priesthood because he had repented. The hearing process was halted and the priest was reassigned from a school for deaf boys to other Wisconsin posts where he had free access to other children, reports the New York Times.
The correspondence has emerged as part of a Wisconsin lawsuit over the abuse, and reveals top Vatican officials appeared to be more concerned about hiding scandal than stopping abuse. The records don't contain a response from Ratzinger, who headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which decides when priests face canonical trial, from 1981 to 2005. Not only was Murphy never disciplined by the church, but police and prosecutors ignored reports from vicitms, according to records. Three archbishops knew of the abuse yet never reported Murphy to law enforcement authorities. A Vatican spokesman called it a "tragic case."
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