Pope Remains Silent On Abuse Case In Germany

A child-molesting priest in Germany was treated for pedophilia in Munich in the 1980s, when Pope Benedict XVI was the archbishop there. The doctor who treated the abusive priest says his warnings went unheeded.

Pope Benedict XVI has apologized to abuse victims in Ireland, but has yet to speak out about the growing church abuse scandal in his native Germany.

In particular, he has been silent about the case of a priest who was treated for molesting boys in Munich in the 1980s, when the current pope was archbishop of Munich.

The doctor who treated the abusive priest says his warnings went unheeded.

After being suspected of abuse in a parish of the city of Essen, the priest was transferred to Munich in 1980 when Pope Benedict — then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger — led that diocese. Because NPR broadcasts in Germany, for legal reasons we can refer to the abusive priest only as Father H.

Dr. Werner Huth, a retired psychiatrist, treated Father H at the church's request. In an interview in his Munich home, Huth says he repeatedly warned the archdiocese in the early 1980s that Father H should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to work with children. Huth says the pedophile priest also had a serious drinking problem and that he told church leaders that the risk to children was extraordinary.

"I saw this extreme danger, and it's especially high in the combination with alcohol. I said that the danger of relapse, or the re-offending rate, is very high under these conditions. Therefore he needs not to work with children," Huth says.

Huth says he agreed to treat Father H only if the priest agreed to three conditions: not to work with children again; to get a mentor or sponsor from the church; and to stop drinking.

Huth says he tried to get Father H into one-on-one sessions, but the priest refused. Father H agreed only to group therapy. He made little progress, Huth says, because the priest was too dependent on alcohol, resisted treatment and saw himself as the injured party.

"The priest was not very much motivated. He had the idea, 'I'm OK,' " Huth says, adding that Father H thought of himself as a victim of the church — because it sent him to therapy, which he didn't want.

Huth says the church ignored his warnings. He says he mainly dealt with Ratzinger's deputies, including Gerhard Gruber, the vicar general at the time. Huth says he doesn't know if the future pope was made directly aware of his warnings about Father H.

The spokesman for the Munich Archdiocese, Bernhard Kellner, says he is not sure Huth's warnings were, in fact, made available to church officials.

"Whether ... Huth's advice was actually submitted to the archdiocese is currently unclear. There is certainly nothing in the files," Kellner says.

Kellner says that Gruber alone made the decision to return Father H to pastoral work.

Church critics say they doubt that Ratzinger was not informed.

After barely two years, the church transferred Father H again — from Munich to a parish in the nearby town of Grafing. There, he continued to molest children, which led to his abuse conviction in 1986. He was sentenced to five years' probation and received a fine.

Even after that conviction, the church transferred Father H to another parish — this time, in the town of Garching, where he worked for more than 20 years.

Now, new allegations of abuse have emerged from his time there.

Huth says that he was crestfallen when he found out that against his explicit warnings, Father H was back working with children — and was once more accused of child abuse.

"I was despaired," Huth says. "[Father H] was a great actor. Even as a boy, he acted on the stage. He was very skillful in lying."

Father H kept his job in the church until just a few weeks ago, when the parish in Bavaria announced that he had been suspended. The leading priest in the parish said he had never been told about Father H's past record of molestation.

Huth says the priest came back for a therapy session a week ago — the first he'd seen Father H in 18 years.

"He is," says Huth, "a sick and a broken man." Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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