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Deaf, but not silent: Priest abuse victim speaks out

By Sarah Hoye, CNN
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Victim of abusive priest discusses pain
  • Arthur Budzinski says he was abused by a Milwaukee priest as a child at a school for the deaf
  • He received a settlement from the church in 2006
  • The New York Times recently reported the priest abused up to 200 deaf children

Milwaukee, Wisconsin (CNN) -- Arthur Budzinski wiped away the tear running down his cheek.

He had just returned from the basement, where he was talking to Gary Smith, a longtime friend and former classmate.

The two men, both deaf, feverishly gestured to one another in sign language over a videophone, discussing the recently released documents relating to a Milwaukee priest molesting students -- the same priest they said had molested them.

The New York Times reported the documents showed top Vatican officials, including the future Pope Benedict XVI, had failed to discipline the now-deceased Milwaukee priest, the Rev. Lawrence Murphy. According to the report, Murphy abused as many as 200 deaf boys in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 1950 to 1974. Read the article

Back upstairs, Budzinski, 61, sat next to his daughter, Gigi, who translated his story. Her father, she said matter of factly, was abused three times by Murphy while a student at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, a suburb of Milwaukee nestled on the banks of Lake Michigan. Timeline of Father Murphy's case

Budzinski said he was 12 the first time it happened.

"It was in the closet. I asked for a confession, and then he molested me," he said, adding the abuse occurred once a year for three years. "I was wondering ... 'You're a man from the church, why are you molesting me?'"

He was unable to tell his story at the time, because his parents did not know sign language.

For years, he blocked out the memories of the abuse, until they came flooding back when he was in his 20s. It was during the 1970s that Budzinski, Smith and another friend and classmate, Robert Bolger started sharing their experiences with each other.

"If you don't tell people, it gets worse, and it will happen more and more," Budzinski said. "You need to speak out and be open."

The three friends found strength in numbers. It was time to tell their secret and put an end to the sexual abuse against deaf boys by Murphy, Budzinski said.

They held public protests where they circulated "Wanted" fliers with Murphy's image. They went to the Milwaukee County district attorney's office and the St. Francis Police Department to file complaints against the priest. Murphy denied the allegations, and no criminal charges were filed.

"Robert Bolger always said 'It's the three of us,'" Budzinski said. Bolger died in 2006. "I'm sad that Robert's gone, but I am in his place fighting, because Robert was the leader."

Budzinski has been sharing his story since the 1970s, but now the world is aware. The headlines from the March 25 New York Times story had circled the globe.

"I fought for 37 years, it finally broke open, I'm surprised," Budzinski said. "What's next, I don't know. But something should happen."

Days after the Times' report, the archbishop of Milwaukee apologized repeatedly for the way his archdiocese handled the priest. He also defended the Vatican, which has come under fire for not disciplining or defrocking the man.

Video: Vatican paper defends Pope
Video: Why did defrocking take 6 years?
Map: Catholic church abuse scandal

"Mistakes were made in the Lawrence Murphy case," said Archbishop Jerome Listecki at the end of a special Holy Week mass at St. John's Cathedral in Milwaukee. "The mistakes were not made in Rome in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The mistakes were made here, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the church, by civil authorities, by church officials, and by bishops.

"And for that, I beg your forgiveness in the name of the church and in the name of this Archdiocese of Milwaukee."

The Vatican said it did not know about the allegations until 20 years after civil authorities investigated and later dropped the case. Murphy died in 1998.

The Holy See has criticized The New York Times' coverage of Murphy's case, saying it lacks fairness. More on the Vatican's criticism

Budzinski moved on with his life, becoming a journeyman printer, a husband and a father to two daughters.

But the memories of the abuse stayed with him. He said he repeatedly told church officials about Murphy.

If you don't tell people, it gets worse, and it will happen more and more.
--Arthur Budzinski, priest abuse victim

"When he was 26 he had to go to the police, he was talking to Archbishop Cousins, he was doing all this," said Gigi, who began to weep. "I could never imagine right now, me having to do that."

In 2006, Budzinski said he received $80,000 from the archdiocese for his suffering. Despite being haunted by the abuse and upset with how his case was handled, he said he has been blessed.

"He always thought, 'I want to have children,'" Gigi said. "Now he's happy he has me and my sister."

The Budzinskis vow to continue sharing their story to help all victims of abuse, whether deaf or hearing.

"I want to help people," he said. "Father Murphy died and I'm still doing it. ... I keep fighting."