MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne. In his Palm Sunday address at the Vatican, Pope Benedict obliquely referred to the sex abuse scandal gripping the Catholic Church in Europe. He warned Catholics not to be, quote, intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion. He has yet to speak out about the growing church abuse scandal in his native Germany.
And in particular, the case of a priest who was treated for pedophilia in Munich in the 1980s, during the time Pope Benedict was archbishop of Munich. NPR's Eric Westervelt reports.
ERIC WESTERVELT: 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, Dr. Huth says he repeatedly warned the archdiocese in the early 1980s that the abusive priest should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to work with children. He says the pedophile priest also had a serious drinking problem and Huth says he told church leaders that the risk to children was extraordinary.
Dr. WERNER HUTH (Retired Psychiatrist): 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.
WESTERVELT: Dr. 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.
Dr. Huth says he tried to get the priest into one-on-one sessions, but he refused. Father H agreed only to group therapy. He made little progress, Dr. Huth says, because the priest was too dependent on alcohol, resisted treatment and saw himself as the injured party.
Dr. HUTH: The priest was not very much motivated. He had the idea, I'm okay. He thought I'm a victim of the church. They will send me to a therapy which I don't like to be there.
WESTERVELT: Dr. Huth says all of his warnings were ignored by the church. He says he mainly dealt with Archbishop Ratzinger's deputies, including Vicar General, Gerhard Gruber. He doesn't know if the future pope was made directly aware of his warnings about the abusive priest.
The spokesman for the Munich Archdiocese, Bernhard Kellner, says he's not sure Dr. Huth's warnings were, in fact, made available to church officials.
Mr. BERNHARD KELLNER (Spokesman for the Munich Archdiocese): (Through Translator) Whether Dr. Huth's advice was actually submitted to the archdiocese is currently unclear. There is certainly nothing in the files.
WESTERVELT: Kellner insists that the decision to return Father H, quickly, to pastoral work after therapy was made by Vicar General Gruber alone.
Church critics doubt that, and say Archbishop Ratzinger must have known.
After barely two years, the priest was transferred 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, Father H was transferred to another parish - this time, in the town of Garching, where he worked for more than 20 years.
A new allegation of abuse has now emerged from his time there.
Dr. Huth says in the 1980s, when he found out Father H was back working with children against his explicit warnings and was once more accused of pedophilia, he was crestfallen.
Dr. HUTH: I was despaired. He was a great actor. Even as a boy, he acted on the stage. And he was very skillful in lying.
WESTERVELT: Father H kept his job in the church until just a few weeks ago, when the parish in Bavaria announced he'd been suspended. The head priest at the parish said he'd never been told about Father H's record of child abuse.
Dr. Huth, for his part, says the priest came back to talk to him a week ago -the first he'd seen Father H in more than 18 years. Father H today, Dr. Huth says, is a sick and broken man.
Eric Westervelt, NPR News.
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