Editor’s note: Below is a statement written by Fr. Thomas Brundage, correcting part of his column, which was published April 1 in your Catholic Herald (“Parts of the Fr. Murphy story you haven’t read”). Fr. Brundage was the ecclesial judge in the church trial against Fr. Lawrence Murphy, the priest accused of sexually abusing deaf students at St. John’s School of the Deaf, Milwaukee. The first paragraph below is the incorrect portion of the column by Fr. Brundage, in italics. His corrections follow.
Original paragraph: “Additionally, in the documentation in a letter from Archbishop Weakland to then-secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone on August 19, 1998, Archbishop Weakland stated that he had instructed me to abate the proceedings against Fr. Murphy. Fr. Murphy, however, died two days later and the fact is that on the day that Fr. Murphy died, he was still the defendant in a church criminal trial. No one seems to be aware of this. Had I been asked to abate this trial, I most certainly would have insisted that an appeal be made to the supreme court of the church, or Pope John Paul II if necessary. That process would have taken months if not longer.”
Correction: In service to the truth, it is important for one to admit when they make a factual error as I did in the above paragraph. On Good Friday (April 2, 2010) I received an e-mail from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Annysa Johnson with some documents that clearly show I was aware of then-Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland’s intention to have the Fr. Lawrence Murphy case abated. Since I do not have access to the Fr. Murphy file, last week as I worked on my column, I downloaded the case files that were on the Journal Sentinel’s website. Those were the documents I had to reconstruct the events of 12-14 years ago.
However, in the file e-mailed to me by reporter Johnson was an August 15, 1998 draft of a letter that I wrote and Archbishop Weakland slightly edited. This draft letter became the text of the August 19, 1998 letter from Archbishop Weakland to then-secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone in which Archbishop Weakland declared that he had instructed me to formally abate the case. This letter was not part of the file that I had access to and I had not seen that letter in nearly 12 years.
In all honesty, I do not remember this memo but I do admit to being wrong on this issue and I apologize for my mistake. Fr. Murphy’s death two days after Archbishop Weakland’s August 19, 1998 letter made the matter moot as de-facto death permanently abated the case.
I again, am sorry for my mistake and for making a very complicated and painful case even more complicated and painful.
Fr. Brundage is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee currently serving in the Archdiocese of Anchorage.