Now Pope linked to child abuse cover-up
He was in charge of diocese when pervert was transferred
Published 13/03/2010 | 05:00
Pope Benedict was personally drawn into the sex abuse scandals last night after revelations of a cover-up in the Archdiocese of Munich in Germany the 1980s, when he was in charge there.
His former archdiocese acknowledged it transferred a suspected paedophile priest while Pope Benedict was in charge -- as criticism mounted over a 2001 Vatican directive he penned instructing bishops to keep abuse cases secret.
The Pope agreed to send a priest for therapy in 1980 for allegedly forcing an 11-year-old boy to engage in oral sex. The priest was secretly shifted from Essen to Munich, which was Cardinal Ratzinger's See.
It emerged that Cardinal Ratzinger gave his approval of a decision by his archdiocese to give the priest refuge in a rectory in the capital city of Bavaria while the therapy took place.
Even more damaging for the Pope in the current spate of cover-up scandals is that the priest, identified as 'H', was later convicted of sexually abusing minors after he returned to pastoral work in nearby Grafing.
In 1986, four years after Cardinal Ratzinger moved to Rome to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fr H was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence and fined about €2,000.
Although there have been no further formal charges against Fr H, commentators in Rome last night pointed out that Cardinal Ratzinger in his capacity of dealing with all sexual complaints against paedophile priests would have known the full background to the cover-up.
The church has been accused of a cover-up after over 300 allegations of child abuse by German Catholic priests.
The scandal broke in January but the claims, which continue to emerge, span three decades.
Critics say that priests were redeployed to other parishes rather than dismissed when they were found to be abusing children.
The revelations come as the Pope faces increasing criticism for a 2001 Vatican letter he sent to all bishops advising them that all cases of sexual abuse of minors must be forwarded to his then-office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and that the cases were to be subject to pontifical secret.
However, the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising last night rallied to play down Pope Benedict's role in the scandal.
A spokesman said that there had been no complaints against the priest during the therapy at a church community in Munich.
It said that the decision to let him continue working in Grafing was taken by Gerhard Gruber, now 81, who was vicar general of the archdiocese.
The Vatican said that Monsignor Gruber had taken "full responsibility" for the priest's move back into pastoral work but did not comment further.
Mgr Gruber said that the Pope, who was made a cardinal in 1977, had not been aware of his decision because there were a thousand priests in the diocese at the time and he had left many decisions to lower-level officials.
"The cardinal could not deal with everything," he said. "The repeated employment of H in pastoral duties was a serious mistake . . . I deeply regret that this decision led to offences against youths. I apologise to all those who were harmed."
He did not indicate whether the convicted paedophile would be allowed to continue working in the church.
The Pope was Archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982 and then moved to Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post that he held until his election as pontiff five years ago after the death of John Paul II. Fr H worked in an old people's home for two years after his conviction. He then moved to the town of Garching.
In May 2008 he was removed from his duties in Garching and was not allowed to work with young people. He still works in the diocese, according to the newspaper 'Suddeutsche Zeitung', which broke the story.
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