The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Thursday, March 18, 2010
Doctor Asserts Church Ignored Abuse Warnings; SNAP responds
Statement by David Clohessy, National Director 314-566-9790
This afternoon, the New York Times ran a very disturbing story about the Hullmerman case.
The Pope, and his German successors – can duck and dodge no longer.
They must publicly face the music and take the hard questions about this awful case.
This is a textbook clergy sex abuse and cover up case, painfully similar to hundreds of others that have been documented across the globe. It’s the same, initially self-serving but ultimately devastating pattern. First, a professional clearly and repeatedly tells bishops to keep an admitted serial pedophile priest away from children. Then, bishops ignore the advice, conceal the crimes, put the predator back with kids, and restrict him only “intermittently,” which enables him to re-offend. Next, when pressured, Catholic officials belatedly and begrudgingly respond with a carefully crafted partial truth, and are embarrassed later when independent sources discover and divulge a more thorough and damaging truth.
Ratzinger compounds this harm by decades of timidity, callousness and inaction. He allegedly read hundreds of clergy sex cases while he was at CDF. But he apparently didn’t ask his Bavarian successors, even once, about the predators he managed (like Hullerman) back home. Not even in 2002, or in the eight years since, did Ratzinger follow through on a convicted pedophile priest.
Certainly the Pope has massive global responsibilities. Still, one would hope that the safety of his first real flock might have crossed his mind and warranted one ‘follow up call.’
Look carefully at the repeated deceitful and reckless decisions by Ratzinger and his peers. No matter how big the diocese or important the prelate or how long ago the case, who can justify these moves:
There’s no other way to characterize this: it is, at best, calculated indifference to children’s safety.
The Pope, and Bavarian church officials – past and present – must face the tough questions about this case, and other similar ones we suspect will soon surface.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 21 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)
Doctor Asserts Church Ignored Abuse Warnings
Psychiatrist Says Church Was Warned About Priest
ESSEN, Germany — The German archdiocese led by the future Pope Benedict XVI ignored repeated warnings in the early 1980s by a psychiatrist treating a priest accused of sexually abusing boys that he should not be allowed to work with children, the psychiatrist said.
“I said, ‘For God’s sake, he desperately has to be kept away from working with children,’” the psychiatrist Werner Huth said in an interview Thursday. “I was very unhappy about the entire story.” Dr.
Huth said he was concerned enough that he set three conditions for treating the priest, Peter Hullermann: that he stay away from young people and alcohol and be supervised by another priest at all times.
Dr. Huth said he issued the warnings — explicit, both written and oral — before the future pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, left Germany for the Vatican in 1982. In 1980, following abuse complaints from parents in Essen that the priest did not deny, Archbishop Ratzinger approved a decision to move the priest to Munich for therapy.
Despite the psychiatrist’s warnings, Father Hullermann was allowed to return to parish work almost immediately after his therapy began, interacting with children as well as adults. He was promptly accused of molesting other boys and was convicted in 1986 of sexual abuse in Bavaria.
Benedict’s then-deputy, Gerhard Gruber, said that he was to blame for that personnel decision, which he called a “serious mistake.”
The psychiatrist said in an interview he did not have any direct communications with Archbishop Ratzinger and did not know if the archbishop knew about his warnings. Though he said he spoke with several senior church officials, Dr. Huth’s main contact at the time was a bishop, Heinrich Graf von Soden-Fraunhofen, who died in 2000.
Even after his conviction in 1986, Father Hullermann, now 62, continued working with altar boys for many years. He was suspended just this past Monday for ignoring a 2008 church order not to work with youths.
Mr. Gruber did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him for comment at home. Attempts to reach the archdiocese for reaction on Thursday night were also unsuccessful. On Wednesday, speaking generally about the question of Father Hullermann’s therapy, a spokesman at the Munich archdiocese, Bernd Oostenryck, said, “Thirty years ago the subject was treated very differently in society.”
“There was a tendency to say it could be therapeutically treated,” said Mr. Oostenryck.
Father Hullermann began working in 1978 as a chaplain in the St.
Andreas church in Essen, an industrial city in the Ruhr region not far from where he was born in Gelsenkirchen. The three sets of parents who complained to the church, said that Father Hullermann had “sexual relations” with their children in February 1979, according to a statement this week by the diocese in Essen.
In the minutes taken by the priest in charge of the parish at the meeting with the parents, he noted that they “would not file charges under the current circumstances” in order to protect their children.
For decades it was common practice in the church not to involve law enforcement in cases of sexual abuse. Vowing to change that, Bavarian bishops on Thursday called for a law making it mandatory for church officials to report any suspected sexual or physical abuse to prosecutors.
Spared prosecution after his transgressions in Essen, which according to the statement released by the diocese he “did not dispute,” Father Hullermann instead was ordered to undergo therapy with Dr. Huth. The archdiocese said that order was approved personally by Archbishop Ratzinger.
Dr. Huth said that he had recommended one-on-one sessions, which Father Hullermann refused. Instead he took part in group sessions, usually seated in a circle with eight other patients, who had a mix of different disorders including pedophilia. Dr. Huth, 80, said that Father Hullermann had problems with alcohol for which he prescribed him with medication, but that he was “neither invested nor motivated” in his therapy.
“He did the therapy out of fear that he would lose his post,” he said, adding that he did it out of “fear of punishment.”
Dr. Huth, who was authorized by Father Hullermann to report to church officials about his treatment on request, said he shared his concerns with them frequently. He said that the three constraints he put on Father Hullermann — that he stay away from children, that he not drink alcohol, and that he be accompanied and supervised at all times by another priest — were only intermittently enforced.
Not long after the therapy began, Father Hullermann returned to unrestricted work with parishioners. Archbishop Ratzinger was still in charge in Munich, but church officials have not said if the pope was kept up to date about the case.
After the future pope’s departure in 1982, Father Hullermann moved to the nearby town of Grafing in September of that year, where he taught religion at a local public school. Two years later police began investigating him on suspicion of sexual abuse of minors.
The court commissioned another psychiatrist, Johannes Kemper, to examine him and write an expert opinion for the 1986 trial. “Alcohol played a big role,” said Dr. Kemper, 66, who had examined Father Hullermann in his practice for half a day. As a prelude to sexual abuse, Dr. Kemper said, “He drank and then under the influence of alcohol he watched porn videos with the youths.”
Little information is publicly available about the court proceedings.
The court file was sealed after Father Hullermann’s probationary period ended. Dr. Kemper said at the trial the victims waited outside the courtroom before and came in one at a time to testify. He did not remember exactly how many victims there were, saying there were “between five and ten.”
The prosecutor’s office in Munich confirmed Thursday that Father Hullermann was convicted of sexual abusing of minors and for distributing pornographic images, according to a spokesperson for the office, Andrea Titz.
Little information is publicly available about the case. The court file was sealed after Father Hullermann’s probationary period ended.
The mayor of Garching an der Alz, where Father Hullermann worked for 21 years after his conviction, was sharply critical of the church Thursday for failing to inform the community at the time he was sent to work there, saying that they had been used “as guinea pigs.”
“Had we known, we definitely would have done something,” said Wolfgang Reichenwallner, the mayor, and a friend of Father Hullermann. “We just can’t afford the risk that children in our community are put in harm’s way.”
“We got lucky that nothing seems to have happened.” According to Mr.
Reichenwallner and church officials, there have been no new accusations of sexual abuse since Father Hullermann’s 1986 conviction.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests