MILWAUKEE -- Arthur Budzinski (pictured) sits at a coffee shop, using sign language to talk about a new report that top Vatican officials knew about the priest who abused him and hundreds of other boys at a Catholic school for the deaf -- but failed to act out of fear of embarrassing the church.
"This is nothing new for him," his daughter, Gigi Budzinski, said, interpreting her father's signs. "He's known for many, many years that people at the Vatican knew this and ignored it. His innocence was stolen from him when he was just a boy. Now he's 61 years old and he's still fighting this same fight."
As reported in The New York Times on March 25, newly released documents show that bishops in Wisconsin reported the allegations against the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy directly to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now pope, The news comes as Pope Benedict XVI faces accusations about failing to respond to other sexual abuse allegations as an archbishop in his native Germany.
Minnesota lawyer Jeff Anderson, who represents victims of church sexual abuse in Wisconsin and shared the documents, told AOL News that the correspondence shows "a direct line from the victims through the bishops and directly to the man who is now pope."
"What this clearly demonstrates is that the world's top Catholic officials, as a matter of protocol and practice, when a serial predator was reported to them by U.S. bishops, looked at it and chose to do nothing because they were afraid of the publicity and to avoid scandal," he said. "The obvious result is that more kids were abused."
According to the documents, in 1996 then-Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger, then prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, and explained that sexual abuse charges against Murphy dating to the 1950s included accusations that he solicited sexual activity from boys in the confessional.
"My concern now is not simply for necessary justice, I am even more interested in a healing response from the church to the deaf community within the archdiocese so that their anger may be defused and their trust in ecclesiastical ministers be restored," Weakland wrote.
However, according to the documents, a canonical trial that could have led to Murphy's dismissal was halted after the priest wrote to Ratzinger, saying he had repented.
"I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood," wrote Murphy, who died in 1998 at age 72. "I ask your kind assistance in this matter."
The files contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger.
Budzinski said he heard similar claims of repentance from Murphy when he confronted the priest about the abuse after graduating from St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, near Milwaukee.
"He said, 'Please be quiet. Forgive me, please. I have stopped,' " Budzinski said, through his daughter. "But he kept molesting boys."
Budzinski began attending the school, near Lake Michigan in a quiet Milwaukee suburb, in 1953, when he was 5 years old. Although he cried every Sunday night when his father dropped him off at the school, clinging to his leg and begging to go home, Budzinski said he enjoyed going there and connecting with other deaf children.
The young boys particularly enjoyed exploring the sprawling building and its grounds, he said, pointing to pictures in a battered pamphlet from the 1950s. Budzinski's face lit up as he used his hands to describe the stately school grounds, wide stairways, huge parlor and hidden walkways. As an older child, he enjoyed walking to Lake Michigan during breaks from classes.
He first saw Murphy when the priest visited a class where the students used headphones to try to learn speech. Budzinski said it wasn't until he was 10 that he began "hearing whispers" from the older boys about the priest's late-night visits to their dormitories.
When Budzinski was 12, he said, he went to Murphy for confession and instead was molested by the priest in a secluded stairway between two buildings. Budzinski says he was molested by Murphy two more times, once at age 12 and again at 14.
"You're real handsome," Budzinski recalled the priest telling him. "You are a real handsome boy."
When Budzinski graduated eighth grade and began attending a high school for the deaf, he heard other boys talking openly about Murphy, compelling him to confront the priest in the encounter he described, when he saw Murphy at a high school football game. But he didn't go to civil authorities until 1974, with two boyhood friends who also said they had been molested, and by that point they were told the statute of limitations had expired.
His daughter said Budzinski was given $80,000 in 2006 from a fund established to compensate clergy abuse victims.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in a statement issued Thursday in response to the Times' article, noted: "Murphy's actions were criminal and we sincerely apologize to those who have been harmed. ... Most importantly, today, no priest with any substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor serves in public ministry in any way in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee."
Archdiocesan spokeswoman Julie Wolf added in an interview with AOL News: "I think it's important for people to look at these news stories of 2010 not only through the lens of 2010 but then through the lens of 1950 and '60 and '70 -- how as a society things were different and how as a church things were different. We as a church today are really setting the standard for sexual abuse prevention."
However, Budzinski said he hasn't trusted the church for decades. "My only faith," he said, "is right here in my heart."
Budzinski, who became a journeyman printer, married and had two daughters, had this advice to other victims: "You need to tell. Never give up. ... Never give up."
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Meet the deaf man who never gave up in his fight against the Wisconsin priest who sexually abused deaf boys
From AOL News:
Posted by BA Haller at 11:14 AM