Pope archdiocese faces 'tsunami' of abuse claims

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Pastor Dale Morgan

Mar 19, 2010, 3:20:31 PM3/19/10
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Pope archdiocese faces 'tsunami' of abuse claims

The head of new taskforce set up to deal with sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the Pope's former archdiocese in Germany said the group had been overwhelmed by a "tsunami" of claims.

By Nick Squires in Rome
Published: 4:59PM GMT 19 Mar 2010

New reports have emerged almost daily of sex abuse cases involving Catholic clergy in several European countries. The spreading controversy threatens to overshadow a letter the Pope is expected to release on Saturday about the scandals that wracked Ireland.

Fresh claims emerged that Benedict XVI failed to do enough to safeguard children from paedophile priests when, as Joseph Ratzinger, he was the archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.
"It's like a tsunami," said Elke Huemmeler, the head of the diocese's newly established Task Force on Sexual Abuse Prevention, the first of its kind in the German Catholic Church.

The body, which started work yesterday, will review about 120 cases of alleged sexual abuse – among the 300 reported across Germany since January.

Around 100 of the claims involve a boarding school run by Benedictine monks at Ettal, in the foothills of the Alps in southern Bavaria.

"It is all really terrible, but we are going to listen to everything," said Mrs Huemmeler.

A pastoral letter from the Pope to the people of Ireland, addressing the paedophile priest scandal that has shocked Irish Catholics.

The most damaging revelation that Pope Benedict has yet is faced is that he allowed a priest accused of molesting an 11-year-old boy to be moved from another diocese in order to undergo "therapy" in 1980. The priest, Peter Hullermann, 62, was later released back into the community and was convicted of child sex abuse and given an 18 month suspended sentence in 1986.

The Vatican has insisted that by that time the future Pope had moved to Rome to take up a new appointment, but a member of the diocese said that he and colleagues should have been informed by him that Hullermann was an offender.

"We should have known," said Erwin Wild, the then spokesman of the diocese's council of priests.

The psychiatrist who treated Hullermann said the Church ignored repeated warnings that the cleric should not be allowed to have any dealings with minors.

"I said, for God's sake, he desperately has to be kept away from working with children," Dr Werner Huth told the New York Times.

Despite his conviction, Father Hullermann was allowed to resume his pastoral duties and was only suspended from his duties this week.

The sex abuse scandal, which has also swept through the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland, reached Italy this week.

The bishop of Bolzano, in northern Italy, asked forgiveness from the growing number of people in his diocese who have come forward in the last 10 days saying they were abused in religious institutions in the 1960s.

Bishop Karl Golser, whose diocese is in a largely German-speaking province on the border with Austria, expressed his "sincere regret" to the victims and said he would forward abuse claims to Italian prosecutors


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