A priest is discovered to have been actively molesting children. His superior is notified in 1980. One of the things he is told of is the priest's forcing an 11 year old boy to perform oral sex on him. The superior does not contact the police. He approves a transfer of the priest to a different city, where the priest is required to undergo therapy but is also subsequently able to resume his work with access to children. Six years later, the priest is again found guilty of abusing children. This time, he serves a sentence, but he is subsequently allowed to resume work as a priest, with the church authorities hiding his past from future parishes, and is only removed from his position three days ago.
Joseph Ratzinger was the superior, he reviewed the man's files in 1980, and he was subsequently in charge of reviewing all sex abuse cases as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine Of The Faith in Rome. He was integral to the policy of hushing up as much of this as possible.
Hundreds of victims have come forward in recent months in Germany with accounts of sexual abuse from decades past. But no case has captured the attention of the nation like that of Father Hullermann, not only because of the involvement of the future pope, but also because of the impunity that allowed a child molester to continue to work with altar boys and girls for decades after his conviction.
Benedict not only served as the archbishop of the diocese where the priest worked, but also later as the cardinal in charge of reviewing sexual abuse cases for the Vatican. Yet until the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising announced that Father Hullermann had been suspended on Monday, he continued to serve in a series of Bavarian parishes.
In 1980, the future pope reviewed the case of Father Hullermann, who was accused of sexually abusing boys in the Diocese of Essen, including forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex. The future pope approved his transfer to Munich.
We don't know what lies ahead in Germany but if the story follows the pattern in the US, Australia and Ireland, the number of victims will grow, and the church hierarchy will at first blame anti-Catholic media for attacking the church, and at some point, the whole grisly truth will come out. Except this time, the current Pope himself will be - and already is - at the center of the storm.
If this person headed a secular organization, or if he were a politician, he would be forced to resign. Why are the standards for the Catholic church so much lower on tolerance of child abuse than the rest of society? On what grounds can this Pope reprimand bishops and priests in Ireland or the US when he seems deeply entangled in the same kind of cover-ups himself?
When, in other words, will the real victims come first? And moral responsibility meaningfully taken?