By Gisèle Plantec and Jesús Colina
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- It was not the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, who gave a new pastoral assignment to a pedophile priest at the beginning of the 1980s.
A communiqué issued Friday evening by the Vatican press office clarified claims by a German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, which implicated Benedict XVI in the reassignment of a pedophile priest, while the former was archbishop of Munich.
The article wrote “about a priest of the Diocese of Essen with a history of sexual abuse, who transferred into the Diocese of Munich in Bavaria and who, after a period of treatment, was given a pastoral assignment during the time when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop.”
The Vatican note referred to a press release published by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising that “explains the facts, for which the diocesan vicar general of the time, Father Gerhard Gruber, assumes ‘full responsibility.'”
The Archdiocese of Munich explained that the current vicar general, Monsignor Peter Beer, put together a team to study the procedures adopted in the past in confronting the accusations of sexual abuse attributed to clergy during the 1980s.
This team made it known that a priest — whose identity was not revealed but who is simply referred to as “H” — at the request of the Diocese of Essen, was received into the Archdiocese of Munich to undergo therapy in January of 1980.
Studying the dossier, the archdiocesan team determined that the priest received psychotherapeutic treatment as a result of his having had sexual relations with boys.
In 1980, the note continues, the decision was made to permit the priest to stay in a rectory at the end of his treatment.
“This decision was made by the archdiocese,” which was headed by Cardinal Ratzinger at that time. But rather than follow through with this decision, the archdiocese explained, “the vicar general at the time assigned ‘H’ to pastoral ministry in a parish in Munich without any restrictions.”
This provision, therefore, was not the work of Cardinal Ratzinger, who a short time later, on November 25, 1981, was nominated prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II.
The priest was then removed from his ministry in 1985 when the diocese became aware of the accusations of sexual abuse against him and of the fact that he was at the center of a judicial inquest.
In June of 1986, in fact, the district court of Ebersberg gave him an 18-month suspended prison sentence and fined him for the sexual abuse of minors. He was also ordered to undergo psychotherapeutic treatment.
From November 1986 to October 1987 the presbyter was chaplain in a nursing home. Afterward he was assigned to a parish in Garching on the basis of two elements: the relatively light sentence given him by the court and the help offered to him by the psychologist who was treating him.
Since the 1986 sentence, no charges of sexual abuse have been made against the priest.
On May 6, 2008 he was removed from his position as parish administrator in Garching. In October of that year he was reassigned to pastoral work in tourism and barred from having contact with children, young people and altar servers.
A dossier prepared at the request of Archbishop Reinhard Marx, head of the Munich Archdiocese since 2008, confirmed that he was not to be given parish ministry.
The former vicar general, Father Gruber, himself stated in the communiqué that “the reassignment of ‘H’ to pastoral work was a grave mistake.”
He continued: “I assume full responsibility for this action. I deeply regret that this decision allowed crimes to be committed that involved young people and I ask forgiveness from all those who have been harmed.”