(March 12) -- The fallout from the growing Catholic sex abuse scandals finally reached as far as the pope Friday when it was revealed that Benedict XVI knew a priest was a pedophile in 1980 but approved a stint in therapy that allowed him to continue in the ministry, where he remains today.
Benedict was an archbishop in Germany when the case began in 1980. The priest was accused of forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex on him, the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Friday night.
Benedict approved a decision moving the priest, identified only as "H," to a rectory in Munich where he was to undergo therapy. After about a month, according to a statement issued Friday by the Munich-Freising archdiocese, Monsignor Gerhard Gruber decided to return the priest to a Munich parish.
But by 1985, new allegations surfaced. In 1986, the priest was convicted of sexually abusing other minors after he had been moved to the town of Grafing to do pastoral work. He received a fine, a suspended prison sentence and more therapy before again returning to pastoral work.
In May 2008, "H" was once again removed from his parish work, this time in the town of Garching, according to the diocesan statement. He works in the archdiocese's tourism operations but is not allowed to conduct any work involving children, the statement said.
The pope, then known as Joseph Ratzinger, became archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977 and was made a cardinal that same year. He remained head of the archdiocese until 1982. He then moved to Rome where he became the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith until he was elected pope in 2005 after the death of John Paul II.
The German archdiocese issued a statement Friday saying Gruber, now 81, takes "full responsibility" for the decision to return "H" to pastoral work. Gruber said in a statement released by the archdiocese that he had not made the future pope aware of his decision because it was the kind of call that was often left to his underlings.
"The cardinal could not deal with everything," Gruber said. "The repeated employment of 'H' in pastoral duties was a serious mistake. I deeply regret that this decision led to offenses against youths. I apologize to all who were harmed."
Neither the Vatican nor Gruber commented on whether or not "H" would continue working in the church at his current post in Garching in Upper Bavaria.
Friday's revelations are just the latest bad news for the Vatican, which has been mired in intensifying sexual abuse scandals in Germany, Austria, Ireland and the Netherlands as well allegations that the Mexican founder of one of the church's most favored orders sexually molested his illegitimate sons.
The new information about the pope came less than a month after Irish bishops were summoned to the Vatican to discuss decades of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland and on the very same day that a delegation of German bishops met with the pontiff.
The crisis has been growing in Germany, where more than 170 students have alleged they were sexually abused at several Catholic high schools.
On Friday, the head of Germany's Catholic bishops apologized to victims after the meeting with the pope. He said Benedict had said he felt "great dismay" over the scandal.
On Wednesday, the pope's older brother, Georg Ratzinger, was also drawn into the furor. Some of most explosive clerical sex abuse claims in Germany center on a prestigious choir, the Regensburger Domspatzen, that Georg Ratzinger led for 30 years.
Several former singers in the choir have come forward with claims that at least two priests attached to the elementary boarding school allied to the choir sexually abused and brutally mistreated their charges.
Ratzinger denied any knowledge of sexual abuse but admitted he slapped some of the boys in the choir and knew of violence on the part of a headmaster associated with a school where choir members attended.
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