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Pope helped priest accused of child abuse

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Pope helped priest accused of child abuse
Photo: DPA
11:50 CET+01:00
The Pope has become embroiled in Germany's Catholic child sex abuse scandal after his former diocese confirmed he approved a decision to give church accommodation to a priest accused of forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex.

The child sex abuse scandal currently rocking Germany has affected 19 of the country's 27 Catholic dioceses, with new accusations almost daily from former school pupils and choir members.

Pope Benedict XVI, who spent much of his early church career in his home country of Germany, has actively spoken against paedophilia and made promises that accusations would be investigated wherever they arose. After a meeting on Friday with Germany's top Catholic cleric, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, he also approved moves to appoint a watchdog to prevent child sex abuse.

A large part of the scandal involves the protection of those accused of abuse, and their continued employment by the church.

Yet it emerged on Saturday that as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich and Friesing, the Pope supported an attempt to rehabilitate a priest within his own diocese.

Identified only as H., he had been accused of the sex abuse while in Essen, but moved to Munich for help.

“It was decided in 1980 to give H. accommodation in a rectory so that he could receive therapy. The archbishop [now Pope Benedict XVI] took part in this decision," a statement from the Munich and Friesing diocese said.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that H. was given spiritual duties to perform and no further wrongdoing was reported between 1980 and 1982, when Ratzinger moved to the Vatican.

But further sex abuse claims were made against the priest in 1985 – allegations so severe he was relieved of his duties and the secular authorities became involved.

A year later he was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence, later extended to five years, and fined 4,000 deutschmarks for sexually abusing minors. He was instructed to undergo therapy.

Yet he remained in the church and worked in a retirement home between 1986 and 1987 before becoming a curate and later a church administrator.

Although no further allegations have been made against him, in 2008 he was relieved of his duties in Garching and five months later was given different responsibilities, and was not allowed to work with young people.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said he still works in the diocese today.

In a statement from the diocese, former vicar general Gerhard Gruber said, “The repeated employment of H. in priestly spiritual duties was a bad mistake. I assume all responsibility.”

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