It has become an increasingly prevailing belief that as a cardinal, before he ascended to the papacy, Pope Benedict enabled a pedophile priest to do enormous harm. This is false.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd took the accusations against the Pope, whose given name is Joseph Ratzinger, to their most extreme. She wrote:
“Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed ‘God’s Rottweiler’ when he was the church’s enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.”
Again, and with certainty: This is false.
As the Daily News reports, then Cardinal Ratzinger’s “office approved the trial and waived the statue of limitations. Those are not the makings of a coverup.” Perhaps Dowd should read her colleague Ross Douthat, who wrote in his column Monday:
Now the scandal has touched the pope himself. There are two charges against Benedict XVI: first, that he allowed a pedophile priest to return to ministry while archbishop of Munich in 1980; and second, that as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the 1990s, he failed to defrock a Wisconsin priest who had abused deaf children 30 years before.
The second charge seems unfair. The case was finally forwarded to the Vatican by the archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland, more than 20 years after the last allegation of abuse. With the approval of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy, the statute of limitations was waived and a canonical trial ordered. It was only suspended because the priest was terminally ill; indeed, pretrial proceedings were halted just before he died.