April 22nd, 2010
12:51 PM ET

Suit demands Vatican names priests accused of sex abuse

An Illinois man is suing the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI for allegedly covering up sexual abuse by a priest at a Catholic school in Wisconsin.

The lawsuit demands the Vatican release the names of thousands of Catholic priests that the suit says have "credible allegations of sexual misconduct" against them.

The alleged victim, who is now an adult, says he was molested by Father Lawrence Murphy while a student at St. John's School for the Deaf, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

"The defendant, [the] Holy See, has known about the widespread problem of childhood sexual abuse committed by its clergy for centuries, but has covered up that abuse and thereby perpetuated the abuse," the suit says.

Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, declined to comment on the case.

Pope Benedict XVI was named as a defendant because he has the ultimate authority to remove priests and because of his involvement in reviewing sex abuse cases when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the suit says.

"There are a number of priests, brothers, and agents who defendant continued in ministry after defendant knew or suspected that those agents had molested children," the suit says.

Peter Isely, a director with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), estimated the Vatican is investigating 4,000 cases of sex abuse by church employees.

The lawsuit aims to change church policies and practices that conceal sex offenders, Isely said.

"It's going to protect children, we hope, around the world," he said, "This is a historic day and hopefully this is going to result in historic changes."

Arthur Budzinski, a deaf man who said he was sexually assaulted and raped by Murphy, stood with Isely at a news conference Thursday.

He said the priest "may have stolen our bodies," but higher clerics such as cardinals, archbishops and the pope "stole our voices."

He made his comments in sign language and his daughter, Gigi, interpreted his words.

The now-deceased Murphy is believed to have molested up to 200 boys, Isely said

The lawsuit said the church "knew that there was a high probability that these clerics would sexually molest more children, but sought to protect itself from scandal, sought to keep its income stream going, at the peril of children."

Murphy, it says, was a "top fundraiser and recruiter" for the church and the "Holy See wanted to retain Murphy's services."

The same Minnesota law firm representing the Illinois plaintiff also filed suit Wednesday on behalf of a Mexican resident who says he was sexually abused by a priest.

The suit alleges Catholic officials in Los Angeles, California, aided and abetted the abuse by moving the priest to different dioceses as allegations piled up against him. - –CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Church Abuse • U.S. • Vatican
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Brandon

    This should be happening without being compelled by a lawsuit, but it will never be released. The church like any most other multinational organizations has the courts in their pocket.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • HPNIII

      To me we need a legal president whereby a suit is won against a district attorney in one of these counties for failure to prosecute one of these priest juggling Cardinals. It would seem to me for a Cardinal to have knowledge of a molester would be no different than knowledge a Priest committed murder, then moved him to another church where he again murders. To me that is aiding and abetting, as well as obstruction of justice.

      November 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. H.Coulange

    It seems it is the correct thing to do, If they do not publish the names then hopefully the suit can make it happen.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DM

    Epic idea but I hope he has the next 15 years of his life freed up. It should take that long to make it through our "justice" system. That's if it's not dismissed right off the bat.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. j-ro

    I think that religion is a joke!!! How is it that these men who are looked up to by thousands of pepople can get away with such horrible things. I dont care who you are or who you think you are, but when child abuse comes into play they should be charged just like any other persons.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. warren smith

    he that is with out sin
    file law suits against every one else

    April 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Yen Phan

    Feel bad for Pope and for victims of priests too. It should not be covor up. Need justice for all.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RonNoSpam

    I can think of no reason why the Pope should not be held responsible. If a school offical covered up a pedophile teacher's illegal activities, they'd lose their job, be sued, and possibly face criminal charges (failure to report known incidents of sexual abuse of minors ought to be a crime if it isn't). I can think of no credible reason why the Pope should not be treated similarly.

    April 22, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Colin in Florida

      Covering up a crime committed by another makes a person guilty of conspiracy. Under the laws of most states, all conspirators are punishable as though they committed the original crime. Thus, if a bishop transfers a (known or at least suspected) pedophile to another state or area and the transferred person then commits the same crime, the bishop conspired to commit the child molestation and should spend the same amount of time in jail as the priest who committed the crime.

      November 23, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. KS67

    Now THIS is the chance for the pope to do as he said. He said he would take action. If he fails to meet this request, then he is full of crap and is actually an avid fan of child molestors.

    Turn over the names, or you ARE the problem and fully condone molesting kids.

    April 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jen

    why oh why do these nasty priests and other religious offenders keep getting away with it????..they are suppose to be there for guidance and council not child sex and countless ohter things that sicken anyone who reads about it..if the names are not given up then anyone involved should be charged with something and or everything..why are they above the law..this is just one story too,lets think about how many little boys are being molested right now by the family priest...SICK SICK SICK!!!...throw away the key!

    April 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rosa

    If the Vatican wants to regain the trust and faith of the Catholic community than they need to start doing more than just apologizing. They could start with notifying/warning people about priest with a history of sexual misconduct. Why hide it? Who are they trying to protect?

    April 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Linda

    They should be on the sex offender registry with all the others.

    April 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. barbie

    i am too is sexually harassed by a priest when i was in grade six (6). i was studying in a catholic school that time & he was our school priest. the only thing that Sister {our principal) told me was that the priest is punished by the Bishop by relocating him in a another town for me not to see him again, but i must be quite & never told my parents for they might kill the priest & go to jail because of it. as a young girl i was scared that my dad might put the law in his hands thats why i kept it to myself for a long time. until now im 30 years old & already married but my father didn't know anything about that incident.

    i heard that that priest still harassing girls in towns where he was destine. sometimes our paths crosses & he will gave me a BIG smile giving me the creeps that he's still out there on the lose doing things to innocent girls.

    i am a catholic but i never had a confession to a priest coz i dont believe that they are pure ... i confess my sins straight to God through prayers ... i will pray for that law suit to be heard by our government ...

    April 23, 2010 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. bob horn

    has anyone considered that what the pope and those before him are protecting is the very basis for the catholic church? I wonder how many past and present popes, cardinals, bishops, etc. were raped in church and now hold that secret as part of the fraternity of catholic priests......

    April 23, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. darlene

    What? Why are we even going to court? It is just alot of lawyers and abused people gooing to court to get money= buch of greedy people. What about the people that have been sexually abused and don't have anyone to sue?? Money doesn't buy happiness except for the one that need it.

    April 24, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |