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CNN Larry King Live

Bullied to Death?; Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal

Aired March 30, 2010 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, will the latest Catholic sex scandal bring down the Pope? Victims reveal right here. What a priest allegedly did to them as children decades ago. They claim that conspiracy and cover-up kept the abuse of as many 200 boys quiet until now.

Singer Sinead O'Connor is with us and speaking out about her personal pain at the hands of the church.

Then was a Massachusetts girl bullied to death? Nine teens charged in the case, accused of harassing, stalking and, in two instances, raping the 15-year-old who hung herself. Students and adults knew about the torment. Why didn't they stop it?



KING: Good evening. We begin with a really strange story. Nine Massachusetts teenagers -- boys and girls -- have been charged in connection with the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince.

Phoebe's body was found hanging in the stairwell leading to her family's apartment January 14th. The district attorney calls it a torturous day, a day on which Phoebe was subjected to verbal harassment and physical abuse, after months of relentless taunting, apparently witnessed by or known about by others including school authorities.

We're joined by Darby O'Brien, a family friend of Phoebe Prince. His stepdaughter, in fact, is a senior at South Hadley High School which Phoebe attended.

And Tina Meier, you may remember her. Her daughter Megan committed suicide after being cyber-bullied by another teen's mom. That mother, by the way, was acquitted after being charged in that case.

Her Web site, MeganMeier, M-E-I-E-R,

All right, Darby. Some of the charges include statutory rape, assault by means of a dangerous weapon, violation. Why were they doing this to your daughter's friend? DARBY O'BRIEN, FAMILY FRIEND OF PHOEBE PRINCE: That's a good question. And it went on for quite a long time. And, you know, I think the district attorney, Betsy Scheibel, and the state trooper, Jerry Bresnahan, and Mark Dominic (ph), the South Hadley detective, did an intense investigation and did a really good job.

And I think the question now is if the school authorities knew, why didn't they do anything? That's a question that I've been asking for months.

And, you know, they didn't do anything.

KING: Did your stepdaughter know all about it?

O'BRIEN: No, I think she knew some things. I think most kids in the school knew that things were going on. The district attorney indicated that -- you know, for over three months, that teachers, administrators, had witnessed bullying.

I think the thing that was reported nationally was that this was more cyber-bullying and DA Scheibel indicated that it was really old- school bullying. It was verbal and it was in classrooms. It was in hallways. It was in the library. It was in, you know, the -- on the school grounds. And it went on for a long time.

Now in discussions with the media that the superintendent and the high school principal had, they suggested that this happened in the last week, the week that Phoebe Prince died. And the DA, you know, pretty strongly indicated this has been going on a long time, and they knew about it.

KING: Is this allegedly because she was dating some boy that bothered them? That she was --

O'BRIEN: Yes, I guess that's how it started. But I think that Phoebe herself apologized when she found out that -- you know, she apologized I believe to the ex-girlfriend. And then it continued on.

You know, the other thing that's interesting is that the school -- the principal and the superintendent had consistently said that nobody from the Prince family, Anne or Jeremy Prince, the parents, had said anything to the school.

And the DA indicated yesterday that the -- Ian Prince had actually spoken to the school on at least two occasions.

KING: How is your daughter handling it? Your stepdaughter?

O'BRIEN: I think everybody in the school is -- first of all, I think they're shocked about the decision that came down yesterday. And I think they've been reeling ever since this happened. And I think there was a real strong sense until yesterday that nothing was going to happen. That nothing would change.

KING: Yes, all right.

O'BRIEN: And you know, the DA's press conference yesterday changed everything. But you know I think --

KING: Unbelievable.

O'BRIEN: The question that South Hadley parents have is OK, now you've punished the kids. What about the adults? Because if anybody could have stepped in and saved this kid, the school could have. The administration of the school could have.

KING: Tina -- refresh our memories. I got it. Tina, your daughter committed suicide after being cyber-bullied by another teen's mom, right?


KING: And that mother was acquitted. Do you know why she was acquitted?

MEIER: Well, the judge decided that because so many people get on social networking sites and they click a terms of service button, and they lie about their age, they might lie about their unemployment, they might lie about their address or what their last name is.

He felt that it would be unconstitutional to convict Lorry Drew because he would have to convict everybody else who lied on social networking sites. You know he completely missed the mark. He could have done something that would have protected many other families and children. But unfortunately he decided to go a different way.

KING: You never get over this, do you?

MEIER: Oh, there is no way. It is with me every single day. And I am so -- my heart is breaking for the family of Phoebe. I unfortunately know everything that they're feeling. You know, I had a year or two wait before the media came to me.

And they have been thrust into this. And, you know, they're just trying to grieve over the loss of a daughter and try and understand why, why did this happen? How could somebody -- how could kids do this to their daughter?

KING: Do you at all understand, comprehend taunting to this degree?

MEIER: You know, since I started the foundation, I do. I go out and speak to thousands of kids, middle school, high school students, to try to prevent this from ever happening. And, you know, I think that they -- if there are parents out there, educators listening, the everyday bullying that children go through can be devastating to these kids.

We always try to push it off as boys being boys, girls being girls, you know, it's part of a ritual that you have to get through in school. And that is not the way it needs to be. We have to start taking this seriously.

KING: Yes.

MEIER: We do not need to lose another child to this.

KING: That's the Megan Meier, M-E-I-E-R, Foundation. Go to that .org. And we shall with Darby and Tina and others follow this story because it is incredible.

Three men who say they were sexually abused as children by Catholic priests tell their story all these years later, hoping someone is going to listen to them now. That's next.


KING: By the way, on that Massachusetts story we just talked about, Alina Cho will follow it up in detail tomorrow morning on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

The Catholic Church is reeling over the latest sex scandal. A priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, is believed to have sexually abused as many as 200 boys in Wisconsin decades ago.

Father Murphy, by the way, died in 1998.

Arthur Budzinski alleges that he was molested by Father Murphy while a student at St. John's School for the Deaf. Gigi Budzinski, Arthur's daughter, will serve as his interpreter.

Gary Smith says that he too was sexually molested by Father Murphy.

Arthur, when did this -- when did this start? How old were you?

GIGI BUDZINSKI, FATHER SAYS HE WAS MOLESTED BY FATHER MURPHY: I was 12 years old when Father Murphy molested me.

KING: How did it happen to start with?

BUDZINSKI: I asked to make a confession, and Father Murphy asked me to go into a closet, and then he molested me in the closet. I was shocked.

KING: Did he -- did Arthur understand what was going on?

BUDZINSKI: He knew he was wrong. And he was sweating. He was upset.

KING: Why didn't Arthur report it?

BUDZINSKI: He did tell -- he did talk to another priest. Because they would switch over once like for a week, and he told Father Walsh. He had a confession with Father Walsh, and he told him that Murphy molested him. Because he didn't want to talk to his parents. He was embarrassed. He thought he should talk to a priest who would talk to another priest.

KING: What did Father Walsh say? BUDZINSKI: He waited until Murphy came back, and then -- I saw Father Walsh talk to Murphy in the hallway, and I knew immediately that they were talking about me. I walked and I peek around the corner.

And he saw them arguing with each other. And then they noticed me peeking around the corner, and they went down around the corner to the library.

KING: Did it happen many times?

BUDZINSKI: It happened three times to me.

KING: All at age 12?

BUDZINSKI: When I was 12, 13, and 14.

KING: And Gary Smith, you were in the school at the same time with Arthur?

BUDZINSKI: At the same time. I became Catholic when I was 10 years old, and then when I was 12, Father Murphy molested me. And I was shocked about that. And it was also when I was in -- I would make a confession in his office.

He'd take me up north, and on a senior trip, and he went to New York. And the last time he went to Minnesota, for the senior trip, and he was molested then. Fifty to 60 times. The last time was when he was 20 years old.

KING: Did he report it at all?

BUDZINSKI: No. He was scared. He didn't know if he should tell anyone. He -- felt like Murphy was so powerful that he couldn't do anything.

KING: Why now?

BUDZINSKI: He wants to protect other people from it happening to other people and helping them come forward.

KING: So all these years, both of these men have held this in?

BUDZINSKI: In 1972, he got really angry, and then another classmate of theirs, Robert Bolger, and Arthur Budzinski, they went to the Milwaukee Police Department.

KING: Were charges filed?

BUDZINSKI: No. Nothing happened.

KING: We'll ask our guests what they would do to authorities now. What they would tell the Pope if they had the chance to meet with him, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Arthur Budzinski, did the police do anything?

BUDZINSKI: No, they did nothing. There was a statute of limitations at that time. So they couldn't for him. But right now what they -- what Wisconsin needs to do is remove the statute of limitations on child sex abuse.

KING: It still exists, of course?

BUDZINSKI: Yes. You have until you're the age of 35 to come forward, and that's all. And when -- at that time, you're only allowed six years.

KING: Gary, are you surprised that all of this was going on?

BUDZINSKI: Yes. It's about time that people start to know about this.

KING: We're joined in Milwaukee by Donald Marshall, who alleges he was sexually abused by Father Murphy while a resident at juvenile detention center. The alleged molestation occurred after Murphy had left St. John's School for the Deaf.

How old were you when it happened, Donald?


KING: What was the -- tell us what occurred.

MARSHALL: I was at Lincoln Hills School for Boys in Irma, Wisconsin. Father Murphy would come into the institution about three or four times a week to talk with kids. That's how I first met him.

I ended up getting myself into trouble, and I ended up in the security cottage. Father Murphy found out and he came to visit me. He was locked in my cell with me. First it started out with just reading the bible.

And then he moved over, put his hand on my knee. I just -- you know I just thought of it as, you know, a friendly gesture. I didn't think anything of it. Then he leaned over and started kissing and fondling me.

I don't know -- it went on for a few minutes. I don't know how I -- I got him to back off somehow. I don't even know how. A few minutes later, he left my cell.

I, for one -- I did immediately report it to one of the security officers who --

KING: What did they do?

MARSHALL: Well, he took me to -- well, he left for a minutes and went and made a phone call. He then took me up to the superintendent's office. I told my story to the superintendent. He said he would get back to me in a day or two. I was brought back to his office the next day.

I was told that he reported Father Murphy. At that time he was told that Father Murphy had been accused of doing this several different times before. He said that he didn't know what they were going to do on their end. But as far as he was concerned, Father Murphy would never be allowed in the institution again.

After that I had never seen Father Murphy again.

KING: Wow. What -- what, Arthur, would you say to the Pope?

MARSHALL: You know --


KING: Hold on, Don. Then you.

MARSHALL: I'm sorry.

BUDZINSKI: I think the Pope should resign. He needs -- somebody needs to clean up the church.

KING: You don't think he has done enough?

BUDZINSKI: That's right. He hasn't done enough.

KING: What about Gary?

BUDZINSKI: He forgave Father Murphy. He didn't take him -- they set up a trial and --

KING: This is when he was a bishop, right?

BUDZINSKI: When he was -- yes, when he was still a priest.

KING: A priest.

BUDZINSKI: Yes. And they set up a trial, and then Father Murphy wrote a letter. He was sick. And they dropped the trial.

KING: Gary, what do you think the Pope should do?

BUDZINSKI: He should resign. He should be like his brother. His brother told the truth about how he was abusing children, his older brother. But the Pope still denies that he knew anything.

KING: Donald, what do you think? What should the church do?

MARSHALL: The church -- there is nothing the church can do. You know they can't clean up what they've allowed to happen for decades. These priests have been allowed to abuse children for years.

And with the man who is now the Pope knowing about what Father Murphy alone was doing and not doing anything about it, he needs to resign. He has no business being in the position he is in.

KING: We will have a major panel discussion on all of this. We thank our guests for being with us.

Sinead O'Connor sounds off on the Catholic Church sex scandal. It's personal with her.

And a courageous young man you might recognize will tell us about his abuse by a priest, next.


KING: Sinead O'Connor is here from Dublin, Ireland. The singer ignited global controversy in 1992 when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II on "Saturday Night Live."

And now she is tearing into Pope Benedict and the Catholic hierarchy about the church's sex abuse scandal.

Thomas Roberts was sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest as a teenager. He testified against Father Jeff Touhey in 2005. Touhey pled guilty to abusing a minor, ended up serving only about 10 months in prison.

Thomas was formerly an anchor at CNN and HEADLINE NEWS.

William Donahue is president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. His books include "Secular Sabotage: How Liberals are Destroying Religion and Culture in America."

And Father Edward Beck. A Roman Catholic priest of the Passionist Community. He is an ABC News contributor, and his books include, "God Underneath: Spiritual Memoirs of a Catholic Priest."

Before we get into Thomas's case individually, Sinead, what did you think about what you just -- did you hear the earlier guests talk about this? And what did you think about what they said?

SINEAD O'CONNOR, SINGER: I did, Larry. Thanks for having me. I'm kind of thinking, you know, it's important that we all take a step back. And this is a very emotional subject for both sides.

It's very hard for all of us to think clearly when actually we're all so very emotional. And I think we can make good use of tonight to say how can we use this opportunity to discuss amongst each other how do we go forward together into the 21st century?

So now I'd like to start, if you don't mind, with saying a small piece from the Prophet Isaiah, versus 1:18.

"Come, let's reason together, says the Lord. Although your sins are like scarlet, they can be made white as snow."

So here's the thing. If -- let's say that if the reports are wrong that were conducted in Boston, Philadelphia, Ferns and Dublin. If they are wrong in their feeling that there was a systemic cover-up of abuse, then a great harm has been done to the reputation of the Catholic Church, and unwittingly another crime is actually being committed which is the harboring of known criminals. Because no one has denied the fact that for decades thousands of clergy did not going to --

KING: Yes. I want to -- Sinead, I don't mean to interrupt. But I want to get --


KING: I want to get back to you but I want to get the thoughts of our other guests.

O'CONNOR: It's more or less -- well, I just wanted to say quickly, that look, you know, a great -- a way -- I think I have come up with an idea of a win-win situation here. If it's not true that there was a cover-up, then it looks bad that the church haven't told whoever did not going go to the police to turn themselves in for prosecution.

I think the way the Vatican can now save their reputation and gain again the trust of Catholic people or the world's people is to actually tomorrow morning let the Pope get up and order every person living who did not go to the police and therefore are accessories to the crime of child abuse, accessories by silence to the crime.

KING: All right. We'll pick right up. Hold it, Sinead. Hold it.

O'CONNOR: Let them go to the police --

KING: OK, I got it, I got it. I want to hear what our other guests have to say. We'll be going around. This is a round-robin panel.

Thomas, what happened to you?

THOMAS ROBERTS, ABUSED BY PRIEST AS TEENAGER: I was abused when I was a student at Calvert Hall, which is a high school in Baltimore. I stayed quiet for a very long time. And it was during my time when I was employed with CNN that I actually reported the abuse that happened to me. The church responded.


ROBERTS: Well, first, the church investigated me to find out if I had a plausible story and if I was believable. Then it was turned over to the state's attorney office in Baltimore County in Maryland. And that's when they started their prosecution. And Father Touhey eventually admitted his guilt and went to jail.

KING: What do you think of Sinead's idea that all people whoever did anything come forward, and all people who were ever -- people who things have happened to them come forward?

ROBERTS: I think it will be fantastic if people would have the courage to do that. I think, you know, a lot of people live in silence, suffer in silence out there. I know for me that it was a ring of fire that I had to walk through for myself, my family.

But I'm glad that I did it because being on the other side is definitely a lot better.

KING: William Donahue, the National Catholic reporter, recently editorialized that this is the largest institutional crisis in the church in century, possibly in the church's history.

How do you assess the scope of this problem?

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRES., CATHOLIC LEAGUE FOR RELIGIOUS & CIVIL RIGHTS: Well, they're wrong as usual. Look, the Pope has been libeled on this show tonight, and he has been libeled throughout the past week.

Let me be specific. These monstrous crimes took place in the '50s and '60s. And it was never brought to the attention of the police until the mid 1970s. It didn't get to the Vatican until 1996. Now even the "New York Times" doesn't have a shred of evidence that Ratzinger, the Pope, ever even knew of the case.

Now we have a further development, Larry, which I want to mention here very quickly. Father Thomas Brundage -- Father Thomas Brundage was the judicial Vicar who put Murphy on trial in Milwaukee. He should know something about this case, shouldn't he? Because the trial took place between '96 and '98. Brundage has said that in all his conversations in Washington, in Milwaukee, and in the Vatican, Ratzinger's name never came up, which is why he was shocked to read about him being indicted in the papers.

And "the New York Times," the great Old Lady, all the news fit to print, they mentioned Brundage's remarks and hand-written comments. Never once did they bother to pick up the phone and call him. The Pope has been libelled. There has been wrong-doing, yes. It was in Wisconsin.

KING: You don't see this as an example of things occurring elsewhere in the church?

DONOHUE: I'm dealing with the question of the Pope. That's what this -- these people have the nerve tonight to come on television -- and people have been saying it all week long, that Ratzinger should resign because he is culpable. There is not one shred of evidence that he knew anything about it. Don't you think "the New York Times" would have played it by now?

You're telling me that Father Thomas Brundage, who was in charge of the trial, he is lying too? There is no evidence. People should -- you know it's amazing. Al Qaeda suspects are presumed innocent much more than priests and certainly much more than the Pope.

KING: Let me get a break and come back with more on this scandal next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Before we make it a total panel discussion, let's get the thoughts of Father Edward Beck. What is your reading on all of this, father?

REV. EDWARD BECK, CATHOLIC PRIEST: Well, I think this is an opportunity for the Pope to really take the lead on this. I was interested that on Palm Sunday, the day that we read the passion narrative of Christ, the suffering of Christ, here is the church suffering. Here are victims who have suffered. Here are priests who are suffering.

And I would have loved the Pope to address this issue in his homily, get out in front of it, admit some of the wrong-doings, maybe talk a little bit about that case in Germany that kind of happened on his watch. Now whether or not he was totally aware of that priest being reassigned, if it happens on your watch, maybe apologize for it.

Just get out there and begin to talk about it. People want to hear him say something. And you know, of course, when he was in the United States, more than any Pope before him, he spoke five times about abuse. He met with victims individually, the first Pope to do so. He has put in some of the strictest laws and legislation in the church around this issue of anyone previous to him.

So he has done a lot of good. But I think the perception is that he is stonewalling or the Vatican is. And I think whenever you have that perception, people are going to say you're hiding something. There is more here. I think he has to get out in front of it, talk openly and directly with people. And I think there can be more of a conversation that way.

KING: Sinead, what do you think his holiness should do?

O'CONNOR: Well, what I think is, look, I'm prepared to open my mind now and say that perhaps the four reports are wrong when they say there was a systemic cover-up. Perhaps they're wrong. So let's open our minds.

If that is true, then there is an -- accidentally. another crime is being committed, because no one is denying that for decades clergy from priests and bishops haven't gone to the police. No one has denied that on either side. So if it is true there wasn't a systemic cover-up, as the reports say there was, then I think how the church can save their reputation now and heal and help the victims and the rest of us, and restore trust in the Catholic church, is that tomorrow morning the Pope should get up and say we are not going to allow these criminals to bring Catholicism into disrepute anymore.

So any cleric who was involved at all living should be sent tomorrow morning, instructed by the Pope to go to the police, turn themselves in for prosecution, as accessories to the crime, by silence to the crime of child abuse or to the crime of covering up such crimes. So the Pope has been maligned here. The Vatican is being maligned. I'll be the first person to put my hands up and apologize.

I think the best way they can show that that is true is -- accidentally, it looks like they don't really care about the guys who didn't go to the police, because there has been no punishment to anybody who didn't go to the police. There was never a document that came out of the Vatican that ordered anyone to go to the police. So it looks bad there is no punishment being meted out to people who haven't gone to the police. See?

KING: All right, Mr. Donohue, does that make sense?

DONOHUE: I'm not really sure what to make out of that one.

KING: Well, the buck stops here. Shouldn't he just --

DONOHUE: That's right. There is no document which says you have to report it to the police. What is in the papers, what Associated Press is reporting tonight is that there was a 1962 document by the Vatican which said that the priests were not allowed to report incidents of sexual abuse to the police. I brought the document on the air, Larry. I know you can't read it right now.

If you don't trust my word, it's up on the Internet. If somebody else wants to look at it, they can call my office. It's all a lie. I stand with the bishops, and I stand with the Vatican, which says this is a lie. This 1962 document, what it basically says is that if a priest hears about solicitation of a sexual matter in the confessional, that there will be punitive measures taken against him. If he even nods his head in a suggestive way, he can be thrown out of the priesthood. This has nothing to do with what AP is reporting.

KING: I got to get a break. We'll come back and get the other panelists in. Don't go away.


KING: Before we go back to our panel, the Vatican had something to say today about the scandal and Pope Benedict. Let's go to CNN's Diana Magnay in Rome for the latest. Diana?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Larry. Well, it was really U.S. bishops who came out with the statement expressing their support for the Pope. And this is echoing a kind of growing voice from bishops all around the world that we've seen, where they have been defending the Pope's record since 2001, when these cases started landing on his desk. These bishops are spelling out how he has implemented zero tolerance policies, how he has met with victims, and all these other measures that he has taken to rid the church of sex abuse.

But the questions still remain about these instances that you have been discussing when he was archbishop in Munich in 1980, the Murphy case, why he acted so slowly and so ineffectually, some people say, in 1996 when that did finally come to his desk. And those are really the questions which put his ability to bring his bishops to account into question, Larry.

KING: Thank you, Diana. We'll be talking a lot more with you on this because it ain't going away. All right, Thomas Roberts, what do you make of all this? The Pope? Do you go that high? You're a victim. You're the only victim here.

ROBERTS: I think that --

KING: Sinead is too. I'm sorry.

ROBERTS: I would think, though, that what probably Pope Benedict knows or the amount of information he knows would probably have the hair on our arms stand up. I mean, bottom line, the buck stops with him. And in his position as Cardinal Ratzinger, he knew a lot about this stuff.

I know he is a theologian and took to books and wanted to talk about ideas of Catholicism. But in his position, he is a manager. He is the Pope, and needs to be aware of this. I mean, it's 2010. In modern times, if you want people to come into this religion that is blemished by this scandal, you need to be completely transparent about it.

And to Bill, I would ask him why the Catholic League doesn't use its vast resources, millions of dollars that you get in donations, to stand up and say that we need to stand up for the victims and stop shielding Pope Benedict or anybody else that is accused of these crimes because we know they exist.

KING: Before we have Bill respond, we have another panelist, Father John Bartunek, the Roman Catholic priest, congregationist of the Legionnaires of Christ. His most recent book is "The Better Part, a Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer." What do you make of all this, father?

REV. JOHN BARTUNEK, CATHOLIC PRIEST: The first thing that I really want to say as a priest, as a Catholic priest, is that I share the expression of sorrow and pain the Pope has expressed at various times, that the bishops have expressed. These crimes, these sins of priests, the Pope actually said in a letter to the people of Ireland recently -- he called it the betrayal of a sacred trust. And every time we hear about more cases, and every time we hear from the victims, it just tears your heart out. And I want to express that. I want to make sure that's clear. There is -- one case is too many. And we've had too many cases.

But at the same time, as a young priest in the Catholic Church, I feel a lot of hope right now, because I know in the last few years, my ordination and right after my ordination, that the policies that have begun to be put into place by the bishops here in the states and now in other countries as well are addressing the issue of protecting children.

We are being screened when we're in the seminary. We are being trained to recognize potential predators and to act. We are having norms put in place across the country. And this is all the initiative of the bishops in response to -- as we came to understand the depth and the extent of the problem, the bishops have respond not -- it would have been great if we could have responded more quickly and more thoroughly. And all the bishops here in the states says Cardinal Ratzinger was one of the key people in Rome that encouraged that to happen, to go towards zero tolerance. So I have a lot of hope for the future.

KING: Let me get a break. When we come back, we'll ask William Donohue why he doesn't appear again -- this is a perception -- to be angrier at what the priests have done? We'll ask about that when we come back.


KING: William Donohue, we certainly understand your defense of the Pope. But why do you not appear angrier at the sins of the church?

DONOHUE: Well, not -- for one very good reason, because tonight the Pope has been libeled and framed. Let me make it very clear to you. Just the other day, if it makes people feel any better, I said on another network that it's too bad Murphy wasn't alive today because I would personally like to knock his teeth down his throat. I was accurately quoted in "the New York Times" in 2002 that I am not the Catholic Church's water boy and I will never defend the indefensible.

I personally have brought charges against people in different places where I worked involved in sexual abuse. I am second to nobody. I think the Catholic church has been too lenient, too therapeutic, dependent in trying to resolve this issue.

But I will say this: Tom Roberts says I'm spending my resources shielding the Pope. You bet I am. I didn't hear one word of evidence. I deal in evidence. I am a social scientist. I want to know where the evidence is. If "the New York Times" has no evidence that Ratzinger knew of this case here in 1996 to 1998, if Father Thomas Brundage, who put this bum Murphy on trial, doesn't know of any evidence that Ratzinger even knew about it, I am not going to sit here and see the Pope's good name maligned by people who are totally irrational.

And I understand, let's get somebody. Get the guilty, don't get the innocent. That's my message.

ROBERTS: If you can get pope Benedict in an interview, take me along with you, OK? Because I'd like to ask him these questions, the same questions we all have.

DONOHUE: I have never met a single Pope in my life.

ROBERTS: OK, I would imagine you probably have some of the better ins to be able to do that.

DONOHUE: You'd be surprised how I get out of a lot of things.

ROBERTS: But if Pope Benedict wants to sit down and answer these questions, I think it's great that you want to defend him and I respect you as a man of faith. But I think Benedict needs to answer them. KING: Sinead, what responsibility does the Pope have in this do you believe?

O'CONNOR: Well, like I say, I'm willing to open my mind. And I think we should all be willing to open our hearts and our minds to listening to each other carefully here. OK, we've been fighting and fighting now for years. Let's see how do we go forward.

I always think Obama in this situation, this fantastic thing he said in his inauguration ceremony. "We'll give you our hand if you'll unclench your fist." So let's unclench our fists towards each other and see how can we actually hold hands and lead each other into trust in the 21st century.

KING: But that is hard to do when you're talking to someone who's victimized.

O'CONNOR: Sure. Oh, absolutely, absolutely. And I understand that entirely. I'm just saying, we need to be constructive here. If the Pope wants to salvage the reputation of the Vatican, or if the Vatican wants to salvage the reputation of not just the Pope but the whole Catholic church -- at the moment, unfortunately, it's been brought under such disrepute that when people hear the word Catholic, they almost shudder.

I think if the Pope has been wronged and been lied about, then we all need to stand up and defend that. If he's been lied about and the Vatican have been lied about, and the four reports from Boston, Philadelphia, France and Dublin are mistaken when they say there was a systematic cover-up, then let the Vatican and the Pope tomorrow, with the blessing of all Catholic people, get up and urge those who did not go to the police to turn themselves in for prosecution.

KING: We're repeating it. You wanted to say something?

ROBERTS: One fact in regard to Pope Benedict, who I think there are over a billion Catholics in the world. I think they would all like to believe that maybe he doesn't know anything. But when the priest abused me confessed and went to jail, it took Benedict three years to defrock him. So Father Tuey (ph) had already served his time in jail, was done with that, and was out when he was notified about being defrocked. I don't think --

KING: Father Bartunek, it's hard to understand your optimism in the face of all this.

BARTUNEK: Yes, I think the reality of the fact -- the problem of sexual abuse, you know, through the last few decades and the way it was handled and the gross errors in judgment, those are real problems, real sins. There's real pain that was caused. There's real damage that was caused.

My optimism comes from actually if you look at the effort that's been made, especially in the last ten years, to begin to change the procedures and put in protocols in place and parameters in place so as to protect children in the future -- that's where my optimism comes in.

As a matter of fact, one of the reason that things took so long 20 years ago when we were dealing with these cases -- first of all, we didn't understand the depths of the problem of these abusers, these predators. We've come to understand it more deeply now.

Secondly, it wasn't centralized. As a matter of fact, when Cardinal Ratzinger was prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 2001, when they -- they raised the level of jurisdiction so that his congregation could look at all these cases and make sure that they were being followed up on. Since then, the system has -- unfortunately not as quickly as we want, but it's getting better.

As a matter of fact, the parameters put into place by the United States bishops in the last decade in response to the difficulties here have really improved the situation. Their audit last year, there were only six alleged cases of abusers. So the situation is improving. We'd love to be able to eliminate sin completely --

KING: Good to hear.

BARTUNEK: Little by little.

KING: Stay tuned. We'll have have the wrap up in a minute and lots more coming on this. Stay tuned for Anderson Cooper's special on Scientology. It's at the top of the hour. More on the Pope, Catholic church after this.


KING: William Donohue, is it going to get better before it gets worse?

DONOHUE: It's already gotten better. The time-line of the damage was the mid-'60s to the mid-'80s. But Ratzinger has taken a number of steps. It's harder for practicing homosexuals to get into the priesthood. That's a very good thing. Like father said before, we've only had six cases of allegations in the last year or so.

I'm very encouraged about the future. I just hope that the other religions and the public schools will look at the Catholic church today as a model of excellence because we have a lot to teach them.

KING: Sinead, are you optimistic?

O'CONNOR: I feel that maybe we might have got somewhere tonight in this idea that let's -- let's say, for argument's sake, there was no cover-up, despite what the reports say. If that's true, the Pope, Vatican and Catholicism have been brought into disrepute by those member of the clergy over the years who did not go to police. So accidentally, unknowingly, another crime has been happened by the Vatican, which is that they have not reported these people. They're harboring criminals by accident then.

These people have covered up crimes of child abuse, covered up the cover up. They brought Catholicism into disrepute. If that's true, then they should be told in the morning by the Vatican, every one who covered up, go to the police and turn yourself in for persecution.

KING: Thomas?

ROBERTS: Bill is good. But you cannot link homosexuality to a pedophelia crisis in the Catholic church.

DONOHUE: It's not pedophelia. Most of the victims are post- pubescent. You have to get your facts straight. I'm sorry. If I'm the only one who is dealing with facts tonight, that's it. The vast majority of the victims are post-pubescent. That's not pedophelia, buddy. That's homosexuality.

ROBERTS: Bill, I don't think, as a person of faith, that you really know what you're talking about when it comes to --

DONOHUE: If the study of criminal justice -- it's not my opinion. Take a look at the social science data. I never said they're homosexuals in that way.

ROBERTS: They said they cut down on --


KING: Sinead, quickly.

O'CONNOR: Can I just ask very quickly with that gentleman -- sorry, I don't know your name, sir. I'm not quite sure what post- pubescent means. Would you mind explaining that to me?

DONOHUE: Explain what?

O'CONNOR: Post-pubescent.

DONOHUE: Post-pubescent means beyond puberty. In other words, you're adolescent. That's what homosexuals do, and of the molesters have been homosexuals in the Catholic church.

ROBERTS: So the boys deserved it because they're post-pubescent.

DONOHUE: If you want to take that conclusion, I think that's scurrilous. I never said that. Why would you say that about homosexuals?

O'CONNOR: Larry, what age does somebody become, you know, become post-pubescent in America, as a matter of interest?

KING: What is the age?

ROBERTS: I don't know. Let's ask Bill. He seems to know.

KING: Well, folks --

DONOHUE: Twelve, thirteen years of age.


KING: We're out of time. We just touched the surface. Now we have Anderson Cooper coming, and he's going to look at Scientology. It's religion night on CNN. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you again tomorrow -- Anderson?