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Pope accused of inaction over US abuse case

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests hold a news conference in St Francis, Wisconsin on 25 March, 2010 Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI has been accused of failing to take action while he was a cardinal in the Vatican against a US priest accused of abusing up to 200 deaf boys. A report in the New York Times alleges that the Pope neglected to respond to letters about the case.

The case dates from 1996 when the future pope Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was part of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which dealt with sex abuse allegations. 

The report suggests that the archbishop of Wisconsin alerted Ratzinger to the accusations against Reverend Lawrence C Murphy, who worked at a school for deaf children in the US state.

The New York Times said a secret canonical trial was halted after Murphy wrote to the future pope in 1998 to ask that proceedings be stopped on health grounds.

The documents the paper obtained contain no response from Ratzinger. Murphy, who worked in the school from 1950 to 1974, died two years after contacting Ratzinger. He was still a priest at the time of his death.

At a news conference outside the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Thursday, Arthur Budzinski, who is deaf and attended the school where the abuse occurred, said the Pope should be held accountable. 

Speaking through sign language, he described how Murphy would come into the boys' dormitory at night, take them into a closet and sexually molest them.

The church files are included in four lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The lawsuits are being brought by five men whose lawyers handed the documents to the newspaper over opposition from the Catholic Church.

The latest revelations come as the Pope tries to deal with a wave of clerical sex abuse scandals across Europe, including in Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands and Germany.