The Pope was named in a lawsuit in a new court action in America yesterday by a man who says that he was abused as a child by a Roman Catholic priest.
The legal action, which will put even more pressure on the Catholic Church over its legacy of child abuse scandals around the world, came as two more bishops resigned and new allegations came to light.
The US plaintiff, who was not identified in the court papers, accuses Benedict XVI and other senior Vatican figures of failing to protect children from a man they knew was a paedophile.
He says that he was molested repeatedly by Father Lawrence Murphy while a student at St John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, and that on some occasions the priest even solicited sex in the confessional.
The victim is seeking the release of confidential Vatican files detailing clergy abuse allegations as well as financial damages and a trial by jury.
Father Murphy taught at the school from 1950 to 1974, when he abused about 200 boys. The priest died in 1998.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman, declined to comment on the lawsuit but has previously said that the Vatican was informed of the Murphy case 20 years after the diocese knew of the allegations and after civil authorities dropped their investigation. As a head of state, the Pope has diplomatic immunity. A previous attempt to sue him in Texas for covering up abuse failed.
The action was brought in the US as Catholic bishops in England and Wales issued an unprecedented collective apology for child-sex abuse, describing the offences as a “profound scandal” that brought “deep shame” to the Church. Led by the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, the bishops said: “We express our heartfelt apology and deep sorrow to those who have suffered abuse, those who have felt ignored, disbelieved or betrayed. We ask their pardon and the pardon of God for these terrible deeds done in our midst. There can be no excuses.”
They invited Catholics in England and Wales to make the four Fridays in May special days of prayer. “Even when we are lost for words, we can place ourselves in silent prayer,” Archbishop Nichols said as he issued the statement after the bishops’ meeting this week at Hinsley Hall, Leeds.
The fallout continued in Ireland, however. The Pope accepted the resignation of the Bishop of Kildare, James Moriarty, who apologised to victims of abuse and admitted that he should have challenged the prevailing culture of cover-ups. He is the second Irish bishop to have his resignation accepted after a damning government report into sexual abuse in the Dublin diocese. Cardinal Seán Brady, the leader of Catholics in Ireland, is expected to offer his resignation next month over revelations that he took part in secret Church trials during which alleged victims of abuse were made to swear oaths of silence.
In Germany the Pope accepted the resignation of a friend and ally, the conservative Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg, who is said to have thrashed pupils with sticks, a carpet beater and, when that broke, his fists.
Bishop Mixa, 68, is said to have counted on papal support as he stood firm against claims from at least six former pupils at a Catholic-run orphanage in Bavaria. He declared at an Easter service that he had a “clean heart”. There is no suggestion that he sexually abused children. As he stood down yesterday, he said: “I beg forgiveness from all those to whom I may have been unfair, from all those to whom I have caused anxiety.”
A special investigator and a Munich lawyer are investigating the claims of physical abuse and also allegations that he used church funds to buy art.
Source : timesonline