Tuesday 21 November 2017

Three allegations overseen by Pontiff during church career

In his time as an archbishop in Germany, a cardinal at the Vatican and after becoming Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger has overseen at least three cases involving allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and church workers. A glance at the cases.

Wisconsin, US



  • Allegations: About 200 deaf boys at St John's School for the Deaf near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, alleged they were molested by Fr Lawrence Murphy, including in the confessional, in dormitories, in closets and during field trips during his years at the institution from the 1950s through to 1974.
  • Handling: Church and Vatican documents show that in the mid-1990s, two Wisconsin bishops urged the Vatican office handling abuse cases to let them hold a church trial against Fr Murphy. The office, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, was led by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.
  • Resolution: Fr Murphy died in 1998, still a priest, after sending a successful appeal to Cardinal Ratzinger to avoid defrocking. The wish was granted by Cardinal Ratzinger's deputy at the time, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who, as secretary of state, is now the Holy See's number two official. Cardinal Bertone ruled that Fr Murphy, old and ailing, should stay a priest, although restricted from celebrating Mass outside his diocese. The diocese began mediation with victims in 2004, paying unspecified compensation.


Essen, Germany



  • Allegations: Three sets of parents in the northwestern city of Essen alleged that priest Peter Hullermann abused their children.
  • Handling: After the allegations, Hullermann, in 1980, was transferred to the Munich archdiocese in southern Germany. He underwent psychotherapy but then returned to work with youngsters. A spokesman for the diocesan's council of priests says he and colleagues were not informed by Cardinal Ratzinger, who then led the Munich archdiocese, that Hullermann was an offender.


The diocese has said Cardinal Ratzinger knew about the transfer but didn't know the priest had continued to work with rank-and-file faithful. A diocesan underling has assumed full responsibility for Hullermann's reassignment to pastoral work, and the Vatican is sticking by that version.



  • Resolution: Hullermann was convicted of abuse in 1986. He continued to work in several congregations until he was suspended this month.


Spain and Italy



  • Allegations: Mexican prelate Fr Marcial Maciel, who founded the conservative Legionaries of Christ order in 1941 and enjoyed particular favour from the late Pope John Paul II, was accused of molesting seminarians.
  • Handling: The Vatican began investigating allegations against Fr Maciel in the 1950s, and again in 1998 after nine former seminarians said he abused them when they were youths in Spain and Italy.


The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Cardinal Ratzinger's direction, begins an investigation in 2004, a year before he was elected Pope. In 2006, after Benedict became Pope, the Vatican ordered Fr Maciel to lead a "reserved life of prayer and penance".



  • Resolution: A special Vatican inspection of the order by five bishops wrapped up this year and the Pope's recommendations for the order are expected in a few months. Fr Maciel died in 2008 at age 87. The order issued an apology to victims yesterday.


Irish Independent

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