Essen/Munich (dpa/lby) - After decades of abuse of children and young people, a criminally convicted Essen priest who was also employed in Bavaria has been restored to the lay position. This was announced by the diocese of Essen on Monday.
The case of the priest who worked in the Free State of Bavaria in the 1980s is also an extensive subject of the report on abuse by the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising. The role of the former Archbishop of Munich Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is particularly explosive.
With the return to lay status, the 75-year-old loses his church pension, which is comparable to a civil servant's pension, and only receives a significantly lower statutory pension. He has been banned from performing church services since 2010.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Munich confirmed that it was Priest H. who was also active in Bavaria. The case is considered symptomatic of much that has gone wrong in the processing of abuse cases in the Catholic Church.
According to the diocese of Essen, the priest had sexually abused children in his congregations since his time as a chaplain in the 1970s, first in Bottrop and later in Essen. Because of the allegations of abuse, the clergyman was transferred to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising in Bavaria in the early 1980s to undergo therapy there. There, the abuse at various stations, including Munich and Garching/Alz near Altötting, continued. In the mid-1980s, the cleric was given a suspended sentence for abuse.
A diocese spokesman in Essen said that a total of at least 28 people - mostly children and young people - were affected by the abuse cases in North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria. Canon lawsuits are still pending against the man.
The report commissioned by the Archdiocese of Munich itself came to the conclusion that cases of sexual abuse in the diocese had not been dealt with appropriately for decades. It accuses the former Archbishops Friedrich Wetter and Ratzinger of specific and personal misconduct in several cases. The current archbishop, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has also been accused of formal misconduct in two cases.
In 2020, Ruhr Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck ordered the priest from Bavaria back to the Ruhr diocese in order to prevent possible further acts of abuse through close supervision of leadership. If the retired clergyman is no longer part of the clergy, "these efforts will not be able to be continued to the extent that is happening now. I am not without concern," wrote Bishop Overbeck, according to a statement to the Vatican.
The diocese of Essen offers the man the voluntary continuation of his extensive crime-oriented coaching at the diocese's expense for twelve months, said the diocese's intervention officer, Simon Friede. However, he is not sure whether the dismissed priest will accept this offer. He is now no longer subject to the Church's authority to issue directives.