A proper translation of one of the documents the Times relied on has been created, and it tells a different story.
It turns out the documents lean the opposite way of the NYT story. What a surprise, huh?
This will be a long one, so let me summarize the key points right up front:
* One of the documents contained in the New York Times files on the Fr. Lawrence Murphy case is a memo in Italian summarizing a meeting that was held at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about Fr. Murphy.
* This memo has not had a professional English translation until now.
* The new translation is a smoking gun in that it reveals how badly the New York Times and others have botched the story.
* Then-Cardinal Ratzinger was not present at the meeting. It was run by the Secretary of the CDF, then-Archbishop Bertone.
* Cardinal Ratzinger’s name never comes up, making it impossible to determine anything regarding his involvement in this case.
* In the meeting Bertone points out the difficulties in proceeding with canonical trial for Fr. Murphy, but he does not forbid one.
* The chief difficulty, according to Bertone, is gathering the needed proof against Murphy given the passage of time (not Murphy’s advanced age or ill-health, neither of which is mentioned at all).
* Bertone is appalled at how long this case has been allowed to linger and by the fact that Murphy apparently still has the ability to celebrate Mass for the deaf community in Milwaukee. He insists that this be rectified.
* He also insists that Fr. Murphy be made to reflect on the gravity of his crimes and to furnish proof of his repentance.
* If he fails to do so, Murphy can have additional penalties inflicted on him, including “dismissal from the clerical state” (i.e., laicization, “defrocking”).
* The CDF is thus not opposed to defrocking Murphy.
* A note on the same meeting by Bishop Sklba states that Bertone also said that a new canonical process can be initiated against Murphy if he violates directives not to have contact with the Milwaukee deaf community.
* In audio interview referencing the same meeting Archbishop Weakland also characterizes the CDF’s response as a “suggestion,” says that he doesn’t think Cardinal Ratzinger was personally involved with these types of cases at this point, says that everyone—including Weakland himself—moved slowly, and says that trying to initiate a canonical case to defrock a priest was something unusual at the time.
One can still criticize the way the CDF handled the case, but the memo does not reveal a portrait of Bertone—much less Ratzinger—as unwilling to take action against Fr. Murphy. A current trial is not prohibited, and even if one is not held, Murphy is not off the hook. He must be prohibited from contact with the community he has harmed, if he fails to provide proof of his repentance he is at risk of being defrocked, and if he breaks the new rules a further canonical process against him could begin.