Pope Benedict XVIIt’s official. Pope Benedict XVI has, in fact, been directly involved in at least one priestly-pedophilia case. It happened while he was Archbishop of Munich and Freising (and a Cardinal as well). The (UK) Times reports on this revelation (WebCite cached article):

The Pope was drawn directly into the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal last night as news emerged of his part in a decision to send a paedophile priest for therapy. The cleric went on to reoffend and was convicted of child abuse but continues to work as a priest in Upper Bavaria.

The priest was sent from Essen to Munich for therapy in 1980 when he was accused of forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex. The archdiocese confirmed that the Pope, who was then a cardinal, had approved a decision to accommodate the priest in a rectory while the therapy took place.

The priest, identified only as H, was subsequently convicted of sexually abusing minors after he was moved to pastoral work in nearby Grafing. In 1986 he was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and fined DM 4,000 (£1,800 today). There have been no formal charges against him since.

Of course, underlings are trying to shield the Pope from culpability:

The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising 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 Mgr 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 not aware of his decision because there were 1,000 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.

It is true that — perhaps — then-Cardinal Ratzinger had not been informed about the details of H’s case, at the time he was sent to therapy, and later restored to pastoral work. However, that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility; Ratzinger signed the reassignment order, and should have known the reasons for it, even if he didn’t ask.

In any event, it’s awfully convenient for the Pope that Fr Gruber is willing to take the fall for him, over this. The trouble is, with 170 claims of priestly child abuse in Germany now being looked into, it may not turn out that H was the only pedophile priest to have been active in the Munich and Freising archdiocese, during Ratzinger’s episcopal administration.

Photo credit: Sergey Gabdurakhmanov.

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