.- Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said Friday that nothing has changed, responding to a New York Times report that claims to reveal new information about how then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was more connected to the handling of the case of a sexually abusive priest than was previously believed.
Earlier on Friday morning, the Archdiocese of Munich also refuted any further links or new information concerning the assignment of the known pedophile, Fr. Peter Hullerman, to another parish in 1980.
The Times reports that when then-Cardinal Ratzinger was Archbishop of Munich he was copied on a memo relating the information that Father Peter Hullerman would be placed in a parish just after starting "medical-psychotherapeutic" treatment for his involvement in child sex abuse.
After accusations from three different sets of parents that Fr. Hullerman had molested their sons, it was requested in Dec. 1979 that he be transferred from the Diocese of Essen to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising to receive psychiatric help. The Pope served as the Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.
A memo was released after a Jan. 15, 1980 meeting during which a request for room and board for the Essen-based priest was approved with the words "Request is granted," the Times said.
According to the same report, "the minutes of the meeting include no references to the actual discussion that day," but they claim the document shows that Cardinal Ratzinger approved the transfer of the priest and was kept informed about the reassignment of the priest to another parish.
As their own account reads, "What part he played in the decision making, and how much interest he showed in the case of the troubled priest ... remains unclear."
The article also quoted the defense of Fr. Lorenz Wolf, judicial vicar at the Munich Archdiocese, who told them that it was a "routine" memo which was “unlikely to have landed on the archbishop’s desk." However, he added that the possibility that Cardinal Ratzinger had read it could not be ruled out.
On March 13 of this year, then-vicar general Msgr. Gerhard Gruber took full responsibility for the "grave error" of reassigning the priest to a parish.
In a statement from the Holy See's Press Office on Friday afternoon, Fr. Lombardi backed a statement released earlier in the day by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising concerning the matter. The archdiocesan statement says: "The article in the New York Times contains no new information beyond that which the archdiocese has already communicated concerning the then archbishop's knowledge of the situation of Father H."
"Thus," writes Fr. Lombardi, "the archdiocese confirms the position, according to which the then-archbishop had no knowledge of the decision to reassign Father H. to pastoral activities in a parish.
"It rejects any other version of events as mere speculation."
He also repeats the original statement from the archdiocese, underlining that "The then vicar general, Msgr. Gerhard Gruber, has assumed full responsibility for his own erroneous decision to reassign Father H. to pastoral activity."