The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Wednesday, March 24, 2010
New abuse claim hits suspended German priest; sex abuse victims respond
Statement by David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-566-9790)
Our worst fears have been realized: a credibly accused predator priest, put back with kids while under the supervision of now-Pope Benedict, has apparently molested again.
(CNN reports that another victim of Fr. Peter Hullermann has come forward, who was assaulted AFTER Hullermann was ousted, sent to therapy and then re-assigned around children in the Munich archdiocese then headed by Archbishop Josef Ratzinger, who has since become the Pope.)
Catholic officials will no doubt try again to blame the reckless, callous and quiet re-assignment of this pedophile on one of then-Archbishop Ratzinger’s underlings. That is ludicrous.
Those same church officials say Ratzinger knew the predator had been removed and approved his therapy, but reportedly “delegated” the predator’s re-assignment to his staff. (Not once, in 22 years, have we ever heard even one other Catholic prelate make such an absurd claim.)
We challenge them to make available for questioning the current and former Munich diocesan officials who were involved in the cover up, especially then-Vicar General Gerhard Gruber.
It’s distressing when an allegedly responsible leader endangers kids by knowingly giving a predator access to them. It’s particularly distressing when that predator actually strikes again.
And only a fool would think that victim is the only one Hullermann hurt because of the irresponsible and secretive acts of Ratzinger and his self-serving colleagues.
It’s worth noting that even now – after he was convicted of child sex abuse – German Catholic officials are protecting Hullermann by refusing to use his full name in their statements.
If history is any guide, Hullermann may well be punished. But those who enabled him to strike again likely won’t ever be.
(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 22 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)
New abuse claim hits suspended German priest
Berlin, Germany (CNN) -- The German Cabinet met Wednesday to discuss ways of tackling child abuse in the Catholic church and other institutions as a new allegation surfaced against a suspended priest.
Government ministers discussed the makeup of a round table on child abuse and prevention, set to meet April 23.
The new allegation is against the Reverend Peter Hullermann, who was convicted of abusing minors in 1986. Hullermann's case made headlines in Germany last week when it emerged the archdiocese ignored warnings to keep him away from children when it was headed by Pope Benedict XVI, who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
A news release from the Archdiocese of Munich identified him only as "suspended Reverend H" and says the abuse allegedly happened in 1998 in the town of Garching, near Munich, but Hullermann was the only one serving there at the time who has now been suspended.
The statute of limitations on the case has not expired, the archdiocese said. The alleged victim was under age at the time, it said.
After his conviction in 1986, Hullermann was given an 18-month suspended sentence and a fine of 4,000 deutschmarks (about $2,000 at the time). But he was then allowed to resume his priestly work and he continued to work with children, even though a psychoanalyst who had examined him demanded that Hullermann never be allowed to interact with minors again.
The psychoanalyst, Werner Huth, had regularly done psychoanalytical evaluations for the church and had Hullermann in therapy from 1980 to 1992. Huth told CNN last week he does not believe Pope Benedict was ever aware that Hullermann had returned to service, but Huth said he warned other church officials about the priest's pedophilia many times.
Garching Mayor Wolfgang Reichenwallner told CNN the archdiocese never informed him that Hullermann had a history of pedophilia.
The archdiocese said the case has been sent to the state prosecutor's office and that no further information will be given.
Hullermann was suspended earlier this month as information about his past started coming to light.
Doctor Asserts Church Ignored Abuse Warnings
By NICHOLAS KULISH and KATRIN BENNHOLD Published: March 18, 2010
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 Thursday.
“I said, ‘For God’s sake, he desperately has to be kept away from working with children,’ ” the psychiatrist, Dr. Werner Huth, said in a telephone interview from Munich. “I was very unhappy about the entire story.”
Dr. Huth said he was concerned enough that he set three conditions for treating the priest, the Rev. 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 explicit warnings — both written and oral — before the future pope, then Joseph Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich and Freising, left Germany for a position in the Vatican in 1982.
In 1980, after 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. Less than five years later, he was accused of molesting other boys, and in 1986 he was convicted of sexual abuse in Bavaria.
Benedict’s deputy at the time, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, said he was to blame for that personnel decision, referring to what he called “serious mistakes.”
The psychiatrist said in an interview that he did not have any direct communications with Archbishop Ratzinger and did not know whether or not the archbishop knew about his warnings. Though he said he had spoken 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 Monday for ignoring a 2008 church order not to work with youths.
The former vicar general of the Munich archdiocese did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him for comment at home. Phone calls to the archdiocese for reaction on Thursday night were not answered. On Wednesday, speaking generally about the question of Father Hullermann’s therapy, a spokesman at the 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,” Mr. Oostenryck said.
Father Hullermann was transferred in December 1977 to 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 Father Hullermann had 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 in order to protect their children they “would not file charges under the current circumstances.”
For decades it was common practice in the church not to involve law enforcement in sexual abuse cases. Vowing to change that, Bavarian bishops called Thursday for strengthening the duty of church officials to report cases of abuse, and even urged a change in German law requiring them to do so.
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 personally approved by Archbishop Ratzinger.
Dr. Huth said he had recommended one-on-one sessions, which Father Hullermann refused. Instead the priest took part in group sessions, usually seated in a circle with eight other patients, who had a mix of disorders, including pedophilia. Dr. Huth, 80, said that Father Hullermann had problems with alcohol, for which he prescribed 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” and a “fear of punishment,” Dr. Huth said.
The psychiatrist, whom Father Hullermann had authorized to report to church officials about his treatment on request, said he shared his concerns with them frequently. He said the constraints he put on the priest — that he stay away from children, not drink alcohol, and be accompanied and supervised at all times by another priest — were enforced only intermittently. ChangiNot 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 future pope was kept up to date on the case.
After the future pope’s departure in 1982, Father Hullermann was moved in September to a church in the nearby town of Grafing, where he also taught religion at a local public school. Two years later, the police began investigating him on suspicion of sexual abuse of minors.
The court commissioned another psychiatrist, Dr. 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.”
The prosecutor’s office in Munich confirmed Thursday that Father Hullermann was convicted in 1986 of sexually abusing minors and distributing pornographic images, according to a spokeswoman for the office, Andrea Titz, and sentenced to a fine and five years of probation.
Little information is publicly available about the court proceedings. The court file was sealed after Father Hullermann’s probationary period ended. Dr. Kemper said that at the trial the victims waited outside the courtroom and came in one at a time to testify. He did not remember exactly how many victims there were, saying there were “between 5 and 10.”
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 of the priest’s criminal record 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,” Mr. Reichenwallner said.
According to the mayor 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