The New York Times Is Lying About the Pope

On March 25, 2010, the New York Times claimed that then Cardinal Ratzinger acted to prevent the defrocking of Lawrence C. Murphy.  Here is the crux of the story:

“In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee’s archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy’s dismissal.

But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.”

The New York Times is lying and they know they are lying.

Father Raymond J. de Souza at National Review Online explains how I can make the statement above about the New York Times.

The New York Times on March 25 accused Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, of intervening to prevent a priest, Fr. Lawrence Murphy, from facing penalties for cases of sexual abuse of minors.

The story is false. It is unsupported by its own documentation. Indeed, it gives every indication of being part of a coordinated campaign against Pope Benedict, rather than responsible journalism.

Before addressing the false substance of the story, the following circumstances are worthy of note:

• The New York Times story had two sources. First, lawyers who currently have a civil suit pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. One of the lawyers, Jeffrey Anderson, also has cases in the United States Supreme Court pending against the Holy See. He has a direct financial interest in the matter being reported.

• The second source was Archbishop Rembert Weakland, retired archbishop of Milwaukee. He is the most discredited and disgraced bishop in the United States, widely known for mishandling sexual-abuse cases during his tenure, and guilty of using $450,000 of archdiocesan funds to pay hush money to a former homosexual lover who was blackmailing him. Archbishop Weakland had responsibility for the Father Murphy case between 1977 and 1998, when Father Murphy died. He has long been embittered that his maladministration of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee earned him the disfavor of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, long before it was revealed that he had used parishioners’ money to pay off his clandestine lover. He is prima facie not a reliable source.

• Laurie Goodstein, the author of the New York Times story, has a recent history with Archbishop Weakland. Last year, upon the release of the disgraced archbishop’s autobiography, she wrote an unusually sympathetic story that buried all the most serious allegations against him (New York Times, May 14, 2009).

• A demonstration took place in Rome on Friday, coinciding with the publication of the New York Times story. One might ask how American activists would happen to be in Rome distributing the very documents referred to that day in the New York Times. The appearance here is one of a coordinated campaign, rather than disinterested reporting.

It’s possible that bad sources could still provide the truth. But compromised sources scream out for greater scrutiny. Instead of greater scrutiny of the original story, however, news editors the world over simply parroted the New York Times piece. Which leads us the more fundamental problem: The story is not true, according to its own documentation.

The New York Times made available on its own website the supporting documentation for the story. In those documents, Cardinal Ratzinger himself does not take any of the decisions that allegedly frustrated the trial. Letters are addressed to him; responses come from his deputy. Even leaving that aside, though, the gravamen of the charge — that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office impeded some investigation — is proven utterly false.

The documents show that the canonical trial or penal process against Father Murphy was never stopped by anyone. In fact, it was only abandoned days before Father Murphy died. Cardinal Ratzinger never took a decision in the case, according to the documents. His deputy, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, suggested, given that Father Murphy was in failing health and a canonical trial is a complicated matter, that more expeditious means be used to remove him from all ministry.

To repeat: The charge that Cardinal Ratzinger did anything wrong is unsupported by the documentation on which the story was based. He does not appear in the record as taking any decision. His office, in the person of his deputy, Archbishop Bertone, agreed that there should be full canonical trial. When it became apparent that Father Murphy was in failing health, Archbishop Bertone suggested more expeditious means of removing him from any ministry.

Furthermore, under canon law at the time, the principal responsibility for sexual-abuse cases lay with the local bishop. Archbishop Weakland had from 1977 onwards the responsibility of administering penalties to Father Murphy. He did nothing until 1996. It was at that point that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office became involved, and it subsequently did nothing to impede the local process.

The New York Times flatly got the story wrong, according to its own evidence. Readers may want to speculate on why.

Go here to read the rest.  This is part of a coordinated effort by enemies of the Church to drag down our Pope.  Shamefully, some elements within the Church are cheering this effort on.   Faithful Catholics need to react strongly to this attempted coup in the Church.

UpdateI: Father Daren J. Zehnle has a superb analysis of the New York Times story at his blog Servant and Steward.  Go here to read it.

Update II: The Anchoress has comments here by the Judicial Vicar, a Church judge, who presided over the case of Father Murphy, Father Thomas Brundage, and his comments are absolutely devastating to the Times story.

32 Responses to The New York Times Is Lying About the Pope

  1. Joseph says:

    What do you expect? It’s Holy Week. It seems every year as Easter approaches, the media give us some story that’s supposed to shake the Church by its foundations. In political elections, it’s the equivelant of an October Surprise. I don’t remember what it was last year, but a few years ago it was the “bones of Jesus”, courtesy of movie director James Cameron, and one year it was the “Gospel” of Judas, who, we were told, wasn’t really such a bad guy after all. What will it be next year?

  2. Ivan says:

    The media is throwing a lot of mud in the expectation that some of it will stick. My impression is that much of the energy behind this latest push to demonise the Pope is coming from the LGBT crowd. Which is ironic considering that much of Church’s current troubles can be traced to the charitable attempts to protect the homosexuals among the clergy. The sheer malice with which some of these people regard a mild man like the Pope, has convinced me that they are not driven by the substance of the charges, or any concern for abused children but rather an unappeasable hatred of the Roman Catholic Church. It is time for Catholics too to take their gloves off, or better yet put on their boxing gloves in the manner of the old pugilistic priests.

  3. Mike Petrik says:

    You should be ashamed of yourself. This blog should be about news, and the NYT lying about the pope is hardly news. Very lame, Donald.
    Now if the NYT should report something positive about the pope, THAT would be news. Clear now?

  4. Anthony says:

    I just wanted to say that the last week or so has been particularly exhausting with this news cycle.

    Pope Benedict’s works, both before and after being made Holy Father, were the first books that really started to make my Catholic faith work for me. Jesus Christ, through Benedict’s labors, became much more real for me than any lame youth retreat, flamboyant vestment or rendition of ‘On Eagle’s Wings’.

    As silly as it is, I’ve taken the NYT stories personally, and I’ve been shocked and saddened at the lack of support for the Pope both within and out the Church. I’m gratified some, a few, in the media have chosen to stick their neck out and defend one of the defenders of our Catholic faith and Catholic identity.

    He should be in all our thoughts and prayers most especially now, as he faces the hatred of the world. Courage!

  5. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Now if the NYT should report something positive about the pope, THAT would be news. Clear now?”

    I do agree Mike that the New York Times (a) lying and (b) attacking the Pope with lies does have a certain dog bites man quality about it! 🙂

  6. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “He should be in all our thoughts and prayers most especially now, as he faces the hatred of the world. Courage!”

    Amen Anthony!

  7. Terry says:

    Yes indeed, Anthony. Saint John Chapter 15.

  8. Dale Price says:

    “But what about his allowal of a pedophile priest to return to ministry…”

    That’s the thing: what exactly did he “allow”? It seems clear that he was copied on a memo announcing that Hullerman was being returned to a pastorate, which puts him more in the loop than was originally stated by the Munich archdiocese. Can’t say as I’m untroubled by that discrepancy.

    However, it would be nice if the NYT actually published a copy of the memo, and got to brass tacks on exactly what it was that then Abp. Ratzinger knew about the situation. Priestly assignments and reassignments in a large archdiocese usually aren’t personally vetted and micromanaged by the local ordinary. But followup is definitely needed to explain the situation, which is potentially far more damaging than the nothing story about Fr. Murphy, which can be better described as “Rembert Weakland’s exercise in post-hoc excuse-making.”

  9. Anthony says:


    Your sentence is very loaded, in my opinion. The priest in question was ‘allowed’ to take up residence in Munich while undergoing PROFESSIONALLY RECOMMENDED therapy, which we all know now did not work.

    All that is technically ‘proven’ is that his office was copied on memos and that he attended meetings. What precisely his role was and how much interest he took remains very much unclear. I do not think there is anything to fear in the truth of the case— no matter how ‘bad’ it might look— so my advice would be to clear the air as much as possible.

    I do not think there is no criticism at all to be had. As a follower of Benedict in both his works and his track record in pursuing justice within the Church on this very issue I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Very serious details of the case are not given much light: the role of parents who did not want the public humiliation, the shifting back and forth of professional advice and least but not least— the very fact that once secular justice had been done to the offender it was a weak, mild sentence without much in the way of penance.

    Every time I read about this case it takes on the appearance of errors MADE IN GOOD FAITH, not a mustache-twirling effort to avoid the truth and justice. This case profoundly stinks of an effort to make these unproven, but possibly substantive errors into more than what they are, combined with a very changed 21st century, post-American crisis attitude and dangerous political motivations.

    If this is the stuff that brings down papacies and breaks faith, then I tremble to think how we would have responded to errors in judgement much more grave by individuals WHILE they were Bishop of Rome in past centuries.

  10. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Jim, I have previously banned you from this blog. I have deleted your comments.

  11. Tito Edwards says:

    Laurie Goodstein has written some anti-Catholic columns in the past for the New York Times.

    The bigotry over there is palpable in their newsroom.

  12. Michael Denton says:

    It really puzzled me why the NYT thought Milwaukee was a good story to run with. Relying on Weakland as a major source was just inviting a backlash even from non-Catholics. People tend to think stealing from a church to cover up a lover is bad.

    I think they’ve hurt their credibility on the whole story by running with Milwaukee. It’ll be interesting to see how they try to revive it, as I’m sure the NYT has not finished with the Holy Father.

  13. Phillip says:


    Just got offered a job in Baton Rouge but don’t know. Guess you like it down there.

  14. Michael Denton says:

    Why thank you! I figured this blog needed some representation from the Who Dat Nation.

  15. Michael Denton says:


    Baton Rouge isn’t a bad town. I prefer New Orleans or Lafayette, but an hour isn’t a far drive at all if you’d like to experience the rest of Louisiana culture. Not a whole lot to do here except go to LSU events and drive to either NO or Lafayette but the people are nice. The traffic can be bad until you figure out the back ways.

    All in all, I would say if you have a chance to live in Louisiana, I would take it.

  16. Tito Edwards says:


    For the first time ever, LSU no longer is the best football team in Louisiana.

    Will you switch over to an LSU icon once the town of New Orleans football team reverts to their old ways?

  17. Michael Denton says:


    Let’s just say that I might be celebrating my freedom from the crazy random whirly icon by spicing up my icon every now and then. Who knows what this means. Perhaps some LSU icons; perhaps some others.

  18. Matthew says:

    I am both saddend and angry to see the Church and the Pope being attacked and be falsely accused. If I was not Catholic, I would had beat up the people who are being all this. Probably get the mafia to get rid of them. I urge all Catholics to come out and defend the Pope …. tell the world that all that are report by the secular papers are a bunch of lies developed by Satan!

  19. Leo Holahan says:

    Dear Sirs:

    What happened to the Catholic League?????

    Why is the Catholic Church not suing the NYT for damages?????

    What is wrong with this picture????

  20. Donald R. McClarey says:

    The Catholic League would not have standing to sue. The Pope could sue but since he is a public figure he would lose. Under current US case law it is almost impossible for a public figure to prove that he has been libeled.

  21. Leo Holahan says:

    Dear Mr. McClarey,

    If you say you can or you say you can’t your right! I don’t agree that sueing is not a viable idea. If the Church can spend milions and millions defending and settling on sex abuse cases I believe it can waste a few million to discourage false reporting and perhaps get a few retractions. The Pope and the Bishops are not typical american public figures and should not be treated as such. Perhaps the current laws need to be changed. Are you so willing to rollover and give up without a trying to make the system work? Isn’t that proof of the problem the Church has in defending Truth and promoting Justice in the US? Is your thinking part of the solution or a symptom of the problem?

  22. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Litigation would be a complete waste of time and money. A far more productive approach is to expose the New York Times for what it is: an agenda driven scandal sheet that routinely lies in order to attain the political goals of its owners.

  23. Leo Holahan says:

    Perhaps a lawsuit would get the attention of competing national news outlets like Fox news and provide some effective exposure unlike that provided by a few well intntioned “ivory tower” Catholic blogs.

  24. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Perhaps a lawsuit would get the attention of competing national news outlets like Fox news and provide some effective exposure unlike that provided by a few well intntioned “ivory tower” Catholic blogs.”

    I’ve earned my bread and butter every day of my adult life engaging in litigation. Your idea of a lawsuit is completely without merit. It would expose the Vatican to the discovery process which would allow the lawyers for the New York Times to romp merrily through the Vatican archives, it would ramp up the circulation of the New York Times, allow the Times to portray itself as a victim and the Pope would lose the case. Decisions about litigation should really be left to those who have some idea of what they are talking about.

  25. Leo Holahan says:

    Dear Sir,

    I have spent my entire life avoiding litigation because I am not a lawyer. I was a police officer many years ago. It sounds like the US Legal system is completely broken if the Catholic Church and the Pope cannot even defend their good name against the blatantly dishonest actions of the reporters and news outlets described in the article. I have no doubt that much of what you say is true and good advice to heed before acting. However It would seem that a law suite in a civilized society should confine itself to the specific issues in question and should not become the “circus” or “kangaroo court” or “witch hunt” as you have described. Is the justice system really that “lame” in the US today? Perhaps it is time for a “Legal Reform Tea Party Movement” led by Catholics in the US.

  26. […] Yeah, totally by accident, and too bad Father doesn’t spend time mentioning how spurious this piece of tripe by the New York Times was. […]

  27. […] is now inclined to evil and subject to error [3]. Anderson reacted with pleasure to the news that Vatican officials had dismissed the New York Times article [4], which has been widely decried as inaccurate and slanderous, as “gossip.” […]

  28. […] increased attacks on Holy Mother Church in the United States and in western Europe, especially on Pope Benedict XVI, to see government officials to exhibit such disrespectful behavior towards the Vicar of Christ is […]

  29. Leo Holahan says:

    Dear Mr McClarey,

    Since the Vatican is now defending itself splendidly in the US Courts and there is no need for a “Tea Party” movement (thank heaven I can barely tolerate public gatherings of any kind) could you please remove any trace of me from your Blog. I promise if you do I will never come back.




  30. Donald R. McClarey says:

    You made the comments Mr. Holohan and I will not delete them. Mentioning the Tea Party in regard to this post strikes me as a non sequitur.

  31. Leo Holahan says:

    True. I was however under the entirely incorrect impression that this blog was meant to be read primarily by Catholics. Unfortunately the internet being what it is my comments are getting “top billing” on all the major search engines where many people of good faith without a Catholic formation will misunderstand my comments causing needless pain and confusion which was not my intent. There was nothing mean spirited or untrue in any of my statements within the framework of Catholic Dogma and I stand by them proudly. As for “Tea Party” I have never gone to one but I have nothing against them publicly expressing their desire to limit government spending.

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