The New York Times - March 18, 2010
Doctor Asserts Church Ignored Abuse Warnings
By NICHOLAS KULISH and KATRIN BENNHOLD
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.
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 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.
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TIME - March 20, 2010
Father H's Story: Germany's Pedophile Priest Scandal
By Tristana Moore / Berlin
On Tuesday, after he had been fired from his job as a counselor at a Bavarian spa town, the priest at the center of the German Catholic Church scandal paid a visit to the man who had been his therapist in Munich when the troubles began back in the 1980s. Dr. Werner Huth describes his former patient as now being a "broken old man and very depressed." But, he says, "the priest still sees himself as a victim."
In an interview with TIME, Dr. Huth paints a portrait of the priest known as Father H., accused of sexually abusing boys in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, then run by Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI. Father H., says the psychiatrist, "was narcissistic, like other pedophiles, and I repeatedly warned church officials in the 1980s that he shouldn't be allowed to work with children or young people." Dr. Huth says the priest came to him in 1980 after he was transferred to Munich to undergo therapy. As Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Ratzinger approved the transfer from Essen to Munich and the decision to give Father H. housing in the Munich diocese to undertake therapy. "A Jesuit father in Essen sent me a letter telling me about Father H.'s pedophilia and the priest then approached me directly," says Dr. Huth. The psychiatrist says Father H. initially didn't want any therapy, and he lacked self-awareness, refusing to acknowledge what he did was wrong. "Father H. was a pedophile — there's no doubt about it — and he was also a gifted actor," Dr. Huth says, recalling the fact that the priest boasted that he was a budding actor as a child.
Such were his concerns about the priest's pedophilic tendencies that Dr Huth said he set three conditions when he started treating Father H: that he shouldn't be allowed to work with children, he should give up alcohol, (because he allegedly committed the acts of abuse when he was drunk), and that he needed a mentor, someone who could supervise him at all times. The doctor said he made these requirements clear to church officials during a number of conversations, including an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising. "Father H. never fulfilled these conditions," says Huth who treated him in group therapy sessions from 1980 to 1992. Amid the group therapy, Father H. was convicted of sexually abusing minors in 1986. Afer receiving an 18-month suspended prison sentence and paying a fine, Father H. continued to do pastoral work. But Huth says the priest told the group during therapy sessions that he operated in the parish and kept away from children. "He was a good liar," says Huth.
Then in 2008, Dr. Huth says he received a call from a church official who told him that Father H. was still working with children. Indeed, for more than 20 years, the priest worked as a curate and parish administrator in the picturesque Bavarian town of Garching an der Alz, where he had regular contact with children and had supervised 150 altar-boys. The official had stumbled across old files which raised alarm bells. "I was horrified as there was no way this man should have been near children," Dr. Huth, now 80, told TIME from his house in Munich. After consulting with Huth, the church official had Father H. transferred to the Bavarian spa town of Bad Tölz where he was put in charge of counselling services for tourists and visitors.
Then, on March 12, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung revealed the priest's history of sexual abuse. Three days later, Father H. was suspended from all pastoral duties. The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising admitted that he'd breached a church order banning him from working with children or youths and said in a statement that "serious mistakes" were made in the 1980s. And there was one resignation. Father H's superior, prelate Josef Obermaier, stepped down after the archdiocese said he assumed responsibility for "grave errors."
While the case of Father H. has assumed a high profile, Germany's sexual abuse scandal first broke in January when it was alleged that two former priests molested pupils at Berlin's Jesuit school, Canisius College. Since then, dozens of people have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse levelled against former priests. The scandal has even spread to the famous Regensburg Cathedral choir — which was led by the Pope's brother Georg Ratzinger for 30 years — and there've been up to a hundred allegations of abuse at a boarding school run by Benedictine monks in Ettal, Bavaria, which was raided by state prosecutors. Germany's Catholic Church has pulled out all the stops to convince parishioners that it's doing everything to prevent such abuse cases from happening again. It is setting up a nationwide hotline for victims of abuse on March 30 and has pledged to step up preventive measures and work closely with state prosecutors.
While there's been feverish speculation in the German media about the Pope's role in the Father H affair, Dr. Huth says he thinks that Archbishop Ratzinger did not know about the case, simply because it seems unlikely that he'd be aware of everything that happened in his diocese. But the psychiatrist criticised church officials for turning a blind eye to the priest's history of abuse by not launching a thorough investigation. "Senior figures in the Catholic Church covered up the allegations of abuse in order to protect Father H and the church's image," Dr. Huth says. "The Church has an idealised, 'unworldly' attitude towards issues of sexuality."
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