Friday 19 March 2010

Munich: Some Thoughts on the Sequence of Events

At the heart of this horrible Munich business lie two glaring facts: the suffering of the victims, and the long career of the man who inflicted those outrages on the innocents. I do not intend the slightest minimisation of the centrality of these appalling things.

Having stressed this, I must say that I have been troubled by all the confusing and contradictory assertions regarding the part played – or not played – by the Holy Father in the matter.

I have interwoven the dates – as best they seem to be known at present - of all the reported events relating to the Hullermann case, and the dates of tenure of the successive Archbishops of Munich-Freising from 1977 to the present. Here is the list. Please don't hesitate to point out any mistakes I may have made.

1977 March 24th: Joseph Ratzinger appointed Archbishop of the ecclesiastical province and archdiocese of Munich-Freising. Installed 28th May. Made a Cardinal 27th June.

1980: Fr Hullermann, of the diocese of Essen in the ecclesiastical province of Cologne, is said by some reports to have been allowed by Cardinal Ratzinger into the archdiocese of Munich-Freising, in order to undergo therapy.

At first reading this gives the impression that the arrangement was a temporary measure. But Hullermann appears in fact to have been accepted for formal (and I assume permanent) transfer into the archdiocese. This would explain why he worked from then on, and up to his recent dismissal, in parishes of the Munich archdiocese.

It is not clear whether the decision to accept the transfer of Fr Hullermann from Essen was taken by Cardinal Ratzinger or by a delegated subordinate.

We do not know whether the then-known facts about Hullermann were available to the Cardinal or his delegate at the time of the decision to accept him.

The first reports imply that the arrangements for therapy were made by Essen. If so, they appear to have been confirmed by Munich. Whether or not this is so, shortly after his inward transfer the case notes were studied at Munich, and decisions were made:

- to order Hullermann to undergo therapy; and
- to require him to live at a particular parish house.

It is further reported that H was forbidden to engage in any parochial work. It is said that this order was imposed by Cardinal Ratzinger.

I suppose it is reasonable to assume that this proscription was to be adhered to until the therapy was completed and the report and recommendations were received from the psychiatrist involved in the case; at which time a further decision would be made about H’s future.

1980 (Assumed): The psychiatrist who treated Hullermann is reported as follows:

“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."

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.

[A separate media report says that he sent his warnings to the archdiocese at a very early stage in Hullermann's course of therapy.]
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.

[ ...... ]

Despite the psychiatrist's warnings, 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, then-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 Ratzinger and did not know whether or not the archbishop knew about his warnings. [My emphasis] Though he said he had spoken with several senior church officials, Huth's main contact at the time was a bishop, Heinrich Graf von Soden-Fraunhofen, who died in 2000.

1981 November 25th: Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed by Pope John Paul II as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and President of the International Theological Commission.

1982 February 15th: The end of Cardinal Ratzinger’s tenure at Munich-Freising.

There followed an interregnum of 8 months.

1982 September (during the interregnum): Hullermann started work as assistant priest at Grafing (Munich-Freising archdiocese).

The then Vicar-General, Fr Gerhard Gruber, claims that he deviated from Cardinal Ratzinger’s residency order, and lifted all restrictions, on his own authority, and without informing the Cardinal.

1982 October 28th: After an interregnum of 8 months, Friedrich Wetter, the Bishop of Speyer, was appointed as the new Archbishop of Munich-Freising. He remained in this post for 24 years, until his retirement in February 2007.

1985 January 29th: Hullermann was relieved of duties at Grafing following a police investigation into suspicions of sexual misconduct.

1986 June: Hullermann was convicted at Ebersberg (near Grafing) of sexual abuse of minors; sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, the sentence being suspended for 5 years.

2007 February 2nd: Archbishop Wetter retired.

There followed an interregnum of nearly 10 months.

2007 November 30th: Reinhard Marx, the Bishop of Trier, became the present Archbishop of Munich-Freising.

2008: It is reported that at some time during this year Hullerman was forbidden to work with children. He appears to have disobeyed the order.

2010 March 15th: After 30 years in the archdiocese, and having worked in a number of parishes, Hullermann was suspended.

It is said that the appalling nature and extent of the child abuse in the Church at large was only borne in on Cardinal Ratzinger some years after his time at Munich, in the light of the things he discovered in the files he read when he was Prefect of the CDF. As regards the specific case of Hullermann, I find it impossible to believe that a person of Pope Benedict's character and temperament and patent goodness would have countenanced any compromise or risk to the young if he had known the situation in 1980 at the time of the transfer.

We do not know how many people were involved in what was no doubt a series of decisions in the progress of this sorry saga. But each of them knows in his heart the part he played; and no doubt there has been much sorrow and repentance, of which we may never know the extent.

Above all, the sinner is responsible for his own evil deeds. All we can say now, perhaps, is that God sees all and knows all.

At the end of all this, the victims remain. They are the ones who matter most.

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