The Vatican said it was unaware of an American priest believed to have molested up to 200 boys until 20 years after civil authorities investigated - then dropped - the case.
Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi issued the statement Wednesday in response to a New York Times story alleging that top Vatican officials, including the future Pope Benedict XVI, failed to discipline or defrock the now-deceased Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy of Wisconsin, despite warnings from several American bishops.
"During the mid-1970s, some of Father Murphy's victims reported his abuse to civil authorities, who investigated him at that time," Lombardi said. "However, according to news reports, that investigation was dropped."
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the office ledÂ Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become pope, "was not informed ofÂ the matter until some 20 years later," Lombardi said.