MILWAUKEE -- The Vatican says it had no role whatsoever in the abuse of deaf students by a Wisconsin priest and says a new lawsuit naming the pope and other top officials as defendants is just a publicity stunt.
In a statement, the Vatican's U.S. attorney Jeffrey Lena says
most of the complaint is without merit and rehashes theories
already rejected by U.S. courts.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. federal court in
Milwaukee, accusing Vatican officials of covering up allegations of child
sexual abuse against a Wisconsin priest who is accused of molesting
at least 200 deaf children from 1950 to 1975.
Lena says sympathy is due to the victims of the Rev. Lawrence
But he says the Vatican knew nothing of his crimes until decades
after the abuse occurred and that it isn't responsible as a result.
The lawsuit seeks the release of confidential Vatican files
detailing clergy abuse allegations and unspecified monetary
One victim, Arthur Budzinski, says he was 12 years old when he was molested by Murphy for the first time. Alone and away from home at a school for the deaf, he says he asked the Rev. Lawrence Murphy to hear his confession, and instead the priest took him into a closet under the stairs and sexually assaulted him.
Budzinski, now 61, was one of about 200 deaf boys at the St. John's School for the Deaf just outside Milwaukee who say they were molested by the priest decades ago in a case now creating a scandal for the Vatican and threatening to ensnare Pope Benedict XVI.
Some of the allegations became public years ago. But they got renewed attention this week after documents obtained by The New York Times showed that Murphy was spared a defrocking in the mid-1990s because he was protected by the Vatican office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope.
The Vatican on Thursday strongly defended its decision not to defrock Murphy and denounced what it called a campaign to smear the pope and his aides.
In recent weeks, Benedict has also come under fire over his handling of an abuse case against a priest in Germany three decades ago when he was a cardinal in charge of the Munich Archdiocese.
In the Milwaukee-area case, Murphy was accused of molesting boys in the confessional, in dormitories, in closets and during field trips while working at the school for the deaf from the 1950s through 1974. Murphy died in 1998 at age 72.
Budzinski, now a bicycle and furniture assembler at a department store, said Murphy preyed on him during the 1960s. The priest was fluent in sign language and often told the boys they were handsome, Budzinski said Thursday during an interview in which his daughter interpreted his sign language.
He said he avoided Murphy as much as he could afterward, but when he went to Murphy's office the following year to make another confession the priest led him to an adjoining room and sexually assaulted him again.
"It seemed like my father would be walking into a trap every time," said Budzinski's 26-year-old daughter, Gigi Budzinski.
He said Murphy assaulted him a third time the next year in Budzinski's bed in his dormitory room. Other boys were similarly assaulted, he said.
"They would sleep in a large open room in bunk beds," Budzinski's daughter said. "My father saw other boys being molested, too. They'd never talk about it."