The Vatican says there was no cover-up in the church's handling of the case of an American priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys in the state of Wisconsin two decades ago. But more allegations of failure by the church and Pope Benedict himself of dealing with cases of sexual abuse continue to surface, the latest in the pope's native Germany.
In an editorial, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano has angrily attacked the media over its reports that the church has been covering up cases of sexual abuse by priests. It denounced what it says is a smear campaign and clear effort at discrediting Pope Benedict and his closest aides at all costs.
According to just released documents, in 1996 Rembert Weakland - then Milwaukee's archbishop - wrote to the future pope, who was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the time, about the problems with Father Lawrence Murphy. Ratzinger did not answer. Instead, Weakland got a reply from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who worked for Ratzinger, advising the Wisconsin bishops to hold a secret trial of Murphy.
Murphy then appealed to Ratzinger for mercy, writing that he had repented his "transgressions" and at 72 was ailing. He pleaded with him to stop the trial, and Bertone halted it. Murphy died in 1998.
Victims of the abuse perpetrated by Father Murphy at a school for deaf children in Wisconsin have now come to Rome to voice their discontent with the church.
"His case came to the Vatican specifically to Cardinal Ratzinger in his office because Father Murphy was sexually assaulting these children in the confessional at the school. These are all deaf children," said one victim.
They say if the pope were sincere he would be exposing the whole truth and opening up files instead of protecting priests at the expense of victims.
Meanwhile more allegations have surfaced that the pope, when he was archbishop of Munich, failed to do enough about a German priest involved in acts of pedophilia.
Cardinal Ratzinger is believed to have been copied on a memo informing him that Father Peter Hullerman, whom he had approved sending to therapy to overcome his problem, would be returned to pastoral work elsewhere within days of beginning psychiatric treatment. The priest was later convicted of molesting boys in another parish.
But the pope's former archdiocese of Munich on Friday insisted that Cardinal Ratzinger had no knowledge of the decision to reassign Father Hullerman.
As pressure continues to mount on the Catholic Church and on Pope Benedict over cases of clerical sexual abuse, an influential Catholic priestly order apologized on Friday to victims of sex abuse whose accusations were ignored.
The late founder of the Legion of Christ was discovered to have been a sexual molester and to have fathered at least one child. The apology was made by the leaders of the order "to all those who have been affected, wounded, or scandalized by the reprehensible actions of our founder."
Earlier this month, the pope issued an unprecedented papal letter to Irish Catholics, designed to defuse the spiraling scandal over clerical abuse in Ireland.