Pope’s former diocese admits error over abuse priest in 1980, says pontiff unaware

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pope’s former diocese admits error over priest

BERLIN — Pope Benedict XVI’s former German diocese said Friday it made a mistake when the pontiff was archbishop in allowing a priest suspected to have abused a child to return to pastoral work. However, it said Benedict was unaware of the decision.

The chaplain was sent to Munich in 1980 for therapy, the Munich archdiocese said in a statement. The diocese says it was made aware of the case by the Munich-based daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, which first reported on it.

The man, identified only as H., was allowed to stay in a vicarage while undergoing therapy — a decision in which then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger was involved, the statement said. It said officials believe it was known the therapy was related to suspected “sexual relations with boys.”

However, it says a lower-ranking official — vicar general Gerhard Gruber — then allowed him to help in pastoral work in Munich.

The archdiocese says there were no accusations against the chaplain relating to his February 1980 to August 1982 spell in Munich. However, he was convicted of sexually abusing minors during a stint in nearby Grafing between September 1982 and 1985.

The conviction in 1986 resulted in an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 4,000 marks, now worth nearly $2,800, the archdiocese said.

Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to early 1982.

Gruber told The Associated Press by telephone Friday that he was in sole charge of staffing decisions.

“Personnel matters were delegated,” Gruber said. “I decided that on my own.”

Gruber also said Benedict would not have been aware of his decision because the case load was too big.

“You have to know that we had some 1,000 priests in the diocese at the time,” Gruber said. “The cardinal could not deal with everything, he had to rely on his vicar general.”

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