ESSEN, Germany — The German archdiocese led by the future Pope Benedict XVI ignored repeated warnings in the early 1980s by a psychiatrist treating a priest accused of sexually abusing boys that he should not be allowed to work with children, the psychiatrist said.
“I said, ‘For God’s sake, he desperately has to be kept away from working with children,’” the psychiatrist Werner Huth said in an interview Thursday. “I was very unhappy about the entire story.” Dr. Huth said he was concerned enough that he set three conditions for treating the priest, Peter Hullermann: that he stay away from young people and alcohol and be supervised by another priest at all times.
Dr. Huth said he issued the warnings — explicit, both written and oral — before the future pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, left Germany for the Vatican in 1982. In 1980, following abuse complaints from parents in Essen that the priest did not deny, Archbishop Ratzinger approved a decision to move the priest to Munich for therapy.
Despite the psychiatrist’s warnings, Father Hullermann was allowed to return to parish work almost immediately after his therapy began, interacting with children as well as adults. He was promptly accused of molesting other boys and was convicted in 1986 of sexual abuse in Bavaria.
Benedict’s then-deputy, Gerhard Gruber, said that he was to blame for that personnel decision, which he called a “serious mistake.”