German Church: Law Firm to Publish Report on Handling of Abuse

In mid-January, the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl is scheduled to publish a report on the handling of clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

Newsroom 14/01/2021 7:35 PM, Gaudium Press) The potentially explosive aspect is that three highest-ranking officials are still alive: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now-retired Pope Benedict XVI — and Cardinals Friedrich Wetter and Reinhard Marx, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA.

The investigation followed two years of research and covered the period from 1945 to 2019, centring on who knew what sexual abuse and when, and what action they took, if any, KNA reported.

Much of the public interest is focused on the retired pope’s 1977-1981 tenure as archbishop of Munich. The case concerns the assignments of a priest accused of a vast number of offences.

In early summer 2021, Cardinal Marx — the current archbishop of Munich — tried to resign from office to take responsibility — explicitly also for possible mistakes of his predecessors. Pope Francis rejected his request.

Peter H. came from the Diocese of Essen in 1980 to undergo therapy in Bavaria after he had already committed abuse as a chaplain. But he was soon reassigned to providing pastoral care — and reoffended. There are now 29 victims on record in Munich and Essen, and it is said the number could be even higher.

Even when Peter H. received a suspended sentence in 1986, senior church officials again assigned him to a parish.

He was not removed from pastoral care until 2010. He currently lives in the Essen Diocese, subject to restrictions. According to the Essen Diocese communications office, a church law case against the cleric is about to end.

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What happened when the story first broke

The Hullermann case to light in March 2010 by the Munich-based daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

On March 12, 2010, the Munich archdiocese released a statement in which its former vicar general Msgr. Gerhard Gruber took “full responsibility” for failing to prevent Hullermann from exercising pastoral ministry.

The archdiocese offered a detailed account of the case, saying that the Diocese of Essen requested that the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising accept Hullermann as a chaplain in January 1980 so that the priest could undergo therapy.

Hullermann was given accommodation in a rectory to attend therapy sessions. “The archbishop at the time [Ratzinger] took part in this decision,” the archdiocese said.

“In a departure from this decision, however, H. was then assigned without any restrictions to pastoral assistance in a Munich parish by the vicar general ,” the statement said.

“From this time (February 1, 1980, to August 31, 1982) there were no complaints or allegations about H.”

The statement quoted Gruber saying: “The repeated use of H. in parish pastoral care was a grave error. I take full responsibility for it. I deeply regret that this decision resulted in that offence and apologize to all those who were harmed.”

In 2010, Father Gerhard Gruber, Munich vicar general in 1980, took sole responsibility for Peter H. being allowed to resume his work as a priest under Archbishop Ratzinger. That exonerated then-Pope Benedict XVI. Father Gruber later told a friend he was forced to sign a statement taking responsibility; church officials denied that and said he only was assisted in writing his report.

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Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, told Die Zeit: “The claim that he had knowledge of the previous history [allegations of sexual assault] at the time of the decision on the admission of Father H. [to the archdiocese] is wrong. He had no knowledge of his previous history.”

Compiled By Raju Hasmukh

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