Pope's handling of case queried
Published 13/03/2010 | 05:12
Germany's sex abuse scandal has now reached Pope Benedict XVI: His former archdiocese disclosed that while he was archbishop a suspected paedophile priest was transferred to a job where he later abused children.
The pontiff is also under increasing fire for a 2001 Vatican document he later penned instructing bishops to keep such cases secret.
The revelations put the spotlight on Benedict's handling of abuse claims both when he was archbishop of Munich from 1977-1982 and then the prefect of the Vatican office that deals with such crimes -- a position he held until his 2005 election as pope.
And they may lead to further questions about what the pontiff knew about the scope of abuse in his native Germany, when he knew it and what he did about it during his tenure in Munich and quarter-century term at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Benedict got a firsthand readout of the scandal from the head of the German Bishop's Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, who reported that the pontiff had expressed "great dismay and deep shock" over the scandal, but encouraged bishops to continue searching for the truth.
Hours later, the Munich archdiocese admitted it had allowed a priest suspected of having abused a child to return to pastoral work in the 1980s, while Benedict was archbishop.
It stressed that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger didn't know about the transfer and that it had been decided by a lower-ranking official.
The archdiocese said there were no accusations against the chaplain, identified only as H, during his 1980-1982 spell in Munich, where he underwent therapy for suspected "sexual relations with boys".
But he then moved to nearby Grafing, where he was suspended in early 1985 following new accusations of sexual abuse. The following year, he was convicted of sexually abusing minors.
The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, issued a statement noting that the Munich vicar-general who approved the priest's transfer had taken "full responsibility" for the decision, seeking to remove any question about the pontiff's potential responsibility as archbishop at the time.