Friday, March 12, 2010

Munich "Admits Error"

(11.10pm ET: Updated below with further developments....)

The AP reports:
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 wasn't involved in the decision.

The details came hours after Germany's top bishop briefed Pope Benedict XVI on the spiraling cases of clerical sex abuse in the pontiff's native Germany and said the pope encouraged him to pursue the truth and assist the victims....

In Germany, the Munich archdiocese said the chaplain was sent to Munich in 1980 for therapy. The diocese says it was made aware of the "serious errors" by the Munich-based daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung which first reported on it for its Saturday edition.

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, a decision for which he takes "full responsibility."

The Vatican press office noted in a brief statement Friday evening that Gruber was assuming "full responsibility" for the transfer of the priest, after therapy, to pastoral duties. Without further comment, the statement included a link to the Munich archdiocese's statement in German....

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."
Tip to NCR.

SVILUPPO: As noted above, in his rapid response to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung story, the director of the Holy See Press Office Fr Federico Lombardi SJ referred reporters to a statement released this evening by the archdiocese of Munich and Freising -- a text which, according to the lead Vatican spokesman, "explains the facts."

Thanks to these pages' one-man German Desk, here below is a full English translation of the said release from the Munich Curia:

Priest placed in pastoral ministry despite accusations of abuse and a conviction

The Archdiocese admits serious errors in personnel management in the 80’s.
Previous Vicar General Gerhard Grüber assumes “full responsibility”

Münich, March 12, 2010. With the investigation of possible incidents of sexual abuse in earlier decades the archdiocesan administration [chancery] has been shaken by serious errors in the handling of priest personnel in the 80’s. According to a report in the “Süddeutschen Zeitung” on Thursday, March 12, the committee for the investigation of past incidents [of sexual abuse] established by the Vicar General Msgr Peter Beer has determined that a priest, originally from the Diocese of Essen, was returned to parish ministry by the then Vicar General despite accusations of sexual abuse and even a conviction. Grüber has taken full responsibility for the mistaken decision.

According to the investigation of the committee, the crisis of the administration unfolds as follows:

H. was taken on as a chaplain in the Archdiocese in January, 1980 at the request of the Diocese of Essen. He was supposed to undergo therapy in Munich. According to the records, the committee has had to conclude that it was known at the time that he had to undergo this therapy presumably on account of sexual relations with a teenager. In 1980 it was decided to provide accommodations in a rectory to H so that he could avail himself of this course of therapy. The then Archbishop approved this decision. Deviating from this decision, however, H. was assigned by the then Vicar General to assist with pastoral care without restriction care in a Münich parish.

From this period (February 1, 1980 to August 31, 1982) there are no complaints or accusations against H. on file.

From September, 1982 to the beginning of 1985 H. was active assisting with pastoral care in Grafing. After reports of accusations of sexual abuse and the initiation of a police inquiry, H. was removed from service by decree on January 29, 1985. In June, 1985, Chaplain H. was sentenced by the court of Ebersberg to 18 months of imprisonment with probation, and fined 4000 marks. The probation period was set at five years. The convict was ordered to place himself in a program of psychotherapy.

From November, 1986 to October, 1987 H. was assigned as the curate in a senior citizens’ home. Finally, until September, 2008, he served in a parish in Garnach/Alz, first as curate [parochial vicar/associate], later as priest administrator. Apparently the relatively mild punishment of the Ebersberg court and the completion of the psychological therapy were decisive in returning him to pastoral ministry.

After the sentence in 1986 no further incidents were reported to the archdiocesan administration [chancery].

On May 6, 2008 H. was removed from his assignment as priest administrator in Garching and from October 2008 he was assigned to spiritual care in health work and tourism/to health spas and travelers. He was given the restriction that he was no longer permitted to work with children, youth or altar servers. A forensic assessment produced at the request of the new Archbishop Reihnard Marx justified the decision of the administration [chancery] not to leave H. in pastoral ministry.

The previous Vicar General Gerhard Grüber stated: “The reassignment of H. to pastoral ministry was a serious mistake. I take full responsibility. I most deeply regret that this decision could have led to offenses against the young, and I apologize to all who were harmed.”
In another significant development to emerge through the day, the Italian service of Vatican Radio reported late Friday that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has undertaken a comprehensive "examination" of the various particular law on handling sex-abuse cases approved over recent years by the episcopal conferences (e.g. the US' 2002 Dallas norms, Ireland's 1996 "Framework" document, and the German bishops' new, stringent "Catalog" guidelines), "with the objective of crafting a revision of the supervisory norms for the universal church."