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Mistakes were made but not in Rome

· Archbishop Listecki and Cardinal Levada on the Murphy case ·

“Mistakes were made in the Lawrence Murphy case. The mistakes were not made in Rome in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The mistakes were made here, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the Church, by civil authorities, by Church officials, and by bishops”. These were the words of Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee in his homily for the Chrism Mass on 30 March at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist. “And for that, I beg your forgiveness in the name of the Church and in the name of this Archdiocese of Milwaukee”, he added.

“As a bishop, a priest, and as a man of faith, I apologize to anyone who has been a victim of clergy sexual abuse”, he said. “This crime, this sin, this horror, should never occur, especially by a priest. Those who committed these crimes and those, including some bishops, who didn't do everything in their power to stop it, go against everything the Church and the priesthood represent. For those actions, I offer my sincere apology”.

The Church, however, is committed to taking decisive measures. “We know it is not words, but actions that will demonstrate our resolve. And, in some ways, regardless of what I say, tonight or any other time, our critics will say it is not enough. But that cannot and will not prevent me from making every possible effort at moving forward toward healing and resolution with those who have been harmed, and, determined, to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again”.

To those who have blamed the Pope, the Archbishop said: “His actions in responding to this crisis, swiftly and decisively and his compassionate response to victims/survivors, speak for themselves. The Holy Father has been firm in his commitment to combat clergy sexual abuse; root it out of the Church; reach out to those who have been harmed; and hold perpetrators accountable. He has been a leader, meeting with victims/survivors and chastising bishops for their lack of judgment and leadership”.

Also regarding the Murphy case, Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and thus Benedict XVI's successor in the role, wrote an article entitled “ The New York Times and Pope Benedict XVI: How it looks to an American in the Vatican”, which was posted on the Vatican's website. In it, he outlined the problems and errors in Laurie Goodstein's article of 26 March – “Warned about abuse, Vatican failed to defrock priest” – defended the Pope, and offered what he called a “fair reading” of the actual circumstances involved in the Murphy case.

“We owe Pope Benedict a great debt of gratitude for introducing the procedures that have helped the Church to take action in the face of the scandal of priestly sexual abuse of minors”, wrote the Cardinal. “These efforts began when the Pope served as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and continued after he was elected Pope. That the Times has published a series of articles in which the important contribution he has made – especially in the development and implementation of Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela , the Motu Proprio issued by Pope John Paul II in 2001 – is ignored, seems to me to warrant the charge of lack of fairness which should be the hallmark of any reputable newspaper”. The full text of his article can be found on




St. Peter’s Square

Feb. 17, 2020