The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, April 19, 2010
German priest 'pressured' to 'take the fall' for Pope; SNAP responds
Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, national president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747)
Several news outlets, including Der Speigel, report that a Munich Catholic official has said he “was pressurised last month into taking the blame” for the reassignment of a predator priest when a media firestorm erupted showing that the reassignment happened while Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) headed the Munich archdiocese.
This is a very serious and troubling allegation which directly implicates top Catholic officials in very recent deceit. An independent investigation is needed to get to the bottom of this. If even now high ranking church staffers are lying to protect one another from criticism, that bodes ill for any real internal church reform.
Just four years ago, regarding the church’s abuse and cover up scandal, the Pope told Irish bishops, “It is important to establish the truth of what happened.” It’s especially important to do so in this case, in which the Pope is accused of re-assigning a predator priest and now, top church officials are accused of pressuring a cleric to ‘take the fall’ for his boss.
It’s important to remember five facts. First, church officials admit that Ratzinger knew of the allegations against the priest. Second, they admit Ratzinger sent him to ‘treatment.’ Third, church records show that a memo about the predator’s reassignment was sent to Ratzinger. Fourth, church records show Ratzinger chaired the meeting at which the predator’s re-assignment was discussed. And fifth, we know of no other case in church history in which a bishop claims that an underling re-assigned a predator priest without his knowledge or input.
In spite of all this, Catholic officials quickly absolved Benedict of any role in transferring the predator, insisting that then-Vicar General Gerhard Gruber did that on his own.
The first allegation – that Ratzinger transferred the predator – seems supported by evidence and church patterns. The second allegation – that a lower-level cleric was pressured to lie about the transfer – seems credible, in part because it comes from a cleric with nothing to gain and plenty to lose by telling the truth. Both allegations need to be cleared up as soon as possible.
(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 globe. 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)
Contacts: David Clohessy (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Mark Serrano (703-727-4940), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314 503 0003)
Priest says he was pressured into taking blame for pope
Monday, April 19, 2010
PADDY AGNEW, DEREK SCALLY and PATSY McGARRY
A FORMER vicar-general in the archdiocese of Munich has claimed that he was pressurised last month into taking the blame for a mistake made 30 years ago by the then Archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict), concerning the case of a paedophile priest.
Fr Gerhard Gruber has now said he did so only after coming under huge pressure from unnamed Catholic Church sources to take responsibility, so as to “take the pope out of the firing line”.
In a letter to a friend, seen by German weekly magazine Der Spiegel , Fr Gruber wrote that he was “begged” in numerous phone calls and after receiving a prepared statement by fax for him to sign. The magazine said Fr Gruber expresses unhappiness in the letter at being given the sole blame in public.
A spokesman for Munich archdiocese has dismissed the report as “completely made up”, saying Fr Gruber was at no point forced to sign anything but that he merely assisted in formulating the statement.
Last month media reports claimed that in 1980, Pope Benedict, as Archbishop of Munich, had mishandled the case of paedophile priest Fr Peter Hullermann. The priest was moved to Munich for “therapy” in 1980 after abusing a boy. The psychiatrist dealing with his case warned he was not to be allowed work with children.
Fr Hullermann was allowed return to parish duties in Munich within weeks of arriving there. The priest reoffended and in June 1986 he was convicted of the sexual abuse of other minors and given an 18-month suspended sentence. When this emerged last month, Fr Gruber assumed total responsibility, thus seeming to absolve Pope Benedict.
Meanwhile, according to the Spanish daily
La Verdad , Colombian cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos said at a weekend conference in Murcia that Pope John Paul approved the policy of not reporting to the police clerical sex abuse crimes.
In a September 2001 letter, recently published by the French Catholic publication
Golias , Cardinal Hoyos wrote to French bishop Pierre Pican to congratulate him for not reporting an abuser priest. Earlier that year, Bishop Pican received a suspended three-month sentence for not reporting serial abuser Fr René Bissy, who was eventually given an 18-year prison sentence for child sex abuse crimes between 1989 and 1996.
Speaking in Murcia on Saturday, Cardinal Hoyos confirmed the text of the letter, adding also that Pope John Paul had seen it and “authorised me to send it to all the bishops”.
Four months earlier, in 2001, Pope John Paul assigned judicial responsibility for certain “grave” sins (including child sex abuse) to the Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith. It was following this that the then prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote to all Catholic bishops advising that they refer all credible cases of clerical child sex abuse to him. That letter was accompanied by another one, also in Latin, instructing that this be kept secret.
If Cardinal Hoyos’s claim is true it would suggest that Pope John Paul’s 2001 directive was intended to encourage a policy of cover-up.
Priest says he was bullied into taking fall for Pope in abuse scandal
Published: 18 Apr 10 - Online: http://www.thelocal.de/national/20100418-26613.html
The church official who initially said it was his fault that a paedophile priest was given succour in Pope Benedict XVI’s former diocese has broken ranks, alleging he was bullied into taking responsibility to protect the pontiff.
Gerhard Gruber was Joseph Ratzinger’s general vicar in Munich during the 1980s, when Ratzinger, now Pope, was Archbishop.
Ratzinger chaired the meeting which decided to offer paedophile priest Peter H., a safe haven in Munich. The priest was also given further positions of trust in the church, and was later convicted of further child abuse.
Gruber’s friends have told Der Spiegel news magazine that when the story came to light last month, he was under immense pressure to take responsibility for the decision in order to shield the Pope from accusations of having helped a paedophile.
The magazine wrote that he was urgently "requested" to take full responsibility in order to take the Pope "out of the firing line."
He wrote in a letter to a friend that he had been faxed a statement that he was to make, though he had been given the opportunity to suggest changes.
Gruber issued a statement in March which said, “The repeated employment of H. in priestly spiritual duties was a bad mistake. I assume all responsibility.”
The implication from the bishopric that Gruber had acted alone in offering help to the paedophile priest, and not turned him over to the police, has greatly upset him, the magazine wrote.
The Catholic church’s handling of repeated child abuse allegations in Germany and beyond has prompted repeated calls for bishops to resign for either not reporting claims to secular authorities, or for making light of charges made by victims.
The latest bishop under such pressure is Heinrich Mussinghoff, bishop of Aachen, whose handling of an abuse claim has been heavily criticised by a child protection group.
The Initiative Against Violence and Sexual Abuse of Children and Youths accuses Mussinghoff of ignoring claims made this January by a 19-year-old man that he was sexually abused as a child by the bishopric’s head of personnel.
Nothing has been done about the man’s claims, the initiative’s spokesman Johannes Heibel said.
“Those responsible should resign because the church has not met its own promises, despite a months-long debate over sexual abuse,” he said.
The accused priest, named only as Georg K., is said to have regularly abused the man and others, even making videos and photos of the abuse. The man’s family has not yet been contacted by anyone from the bishopric, having made the claims.
When Der Spiegel contacted the bishopric for a comment, it was told, “The boy should have contacted us, not us him.”
Was Munich's Vicar General Forced to Serve as Ratzinger's Scapegoat?
By Conny Neumann
Catholic Church officials assigned full responsibility for the reassignment of a known pedophilic priest to retired vicar general Gerhard Gruber who served as deputy to Joseph Ratzinger when he was archbishop. Gruber is now challenging a Church statement that he "acted on his own authority," a claim he says was never discussed with him.
The emergency plan was hastily assembled in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising on the evening of March 11, a Thursday. The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper had exposed the scandal surrounding pedophile priest Peter H., and the affair over sexual abuse in the church was getting dangerously close to the pope.
Peter H., a vicar from the western German city of Essen who had molested boys on several occasions, was sent to Munich in 1980, where he was assigned to work as a pastor again. As a result, he was able to abuse even more boys. The archbishop and chairman of the diocesan council, which approved H.'s appointment, was Joseph Ratzinger.
Ratzinger also chaired a meeting on Jan. 15, 1980, in which the pedophile priest's living arrangements and therapy were discussed. He must have been familiar with H.'s criminal past. Because of this, the diocese has, in recent weeks, left no stone unturned in its effort to explain why the current pope could not be held accountable for H.'s continued service in his diocese.
That effort has been supported by documents found in the diocese records office that related to H., and that were signed by someone else at the time: the loyal Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, Ratzinger's deputy during his time as archbishop.
Apparently no one on the crisis team objected to the idea of taking Pope Benedict XVI "out of the firing line" and using Gruber, 81, as a scapegoat instead. On the morning of March 12, while the press office was busy drafting a statement in which Gruber was given the full blame for H.'s appointment to serve as a pastor, and that included Gruber's personal apology, a church official was badgering the retired priest on the phone.
But Gruber, who felt put under pressure, later confided in theologian friends. He told them that he had been emphatically "asked" to assume full responsibility for the affair, and that church officials had promptly faxed him a copy of the statement and instructed him to make any changes he deemed necessary.
According to the statement released by the archdiocese, Ratzinger was partly responsible for making the decision to accept H.'s appointment. "Notwithstanding this decision," however, H. was assigned "by the then Vicar General" to assist in pastoral care, without restriction, in a Munich parish. The statement also read: "Gruber assumes full responsibility for the incorrect decisions." A spokesman for the archdiocese later added that Gruber had "acted on his own authority" in the case of Peter H.
Gruber's friends say that the old man was only familiar with parts of the statement, that he was apparently being used as a scapegoat and that he was also under additional emotional pressure. To everyone's surprise, Gruber wrote an open letter in which he qualified the archdiocese's statement, writing that he did not sign any documents over which he had no influence. He also noted that he was "very upset" about the "manner in which the incidents were portrayed" by the archdiocese. "And the phrase 'acted on his own authority' also wasn't discussed with me," he wrote.
The archdiocese was unwilling to comment on the accusations, except to state it continued to believe that the former vicar general had acted on his own authority in the case of Peter H., and that he had admitted to having made mistakes. Gruber has gone on a trip to recuperate from "weeks that have been very stressful for me." His loyalty is greatly appreciated in Munich. Archbishop Reinhard Marx, Gruber writes, has sent him his best wishes and "expressed his appreciation for my 'participation'."
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests