Hullermann was given accommodation in a rectory to enable him to attend therapy sessions. “The archbishop at the time [Ratzinger] took part in this decision,” the archdiocese said.
“In a departure from this decision, however, H. was then assigned without any restrictions to pastoral assistance in a Munich parish by the vicar general at the time,” the statement said.
“From this time (Feb. 1, 1980, to Aug. 31, 1982) there were no complaints or allegations about H.”
The statement quoted Gruber as saying: “The repeated use of H. in parish pastoral care was a grave error. I take full responsibility for it. I deeply regret that this decision resulted in that offense with juveniles and apologize to all those who were harmed.”
The case was picked up by the international media, including the New York Times, which alleged that the future German pope was copied on a memo following a meeting on Jan. 15, 1980 which said that Hullermann would be placed in a parish just after starting “medical-psychotherapeutic” treatment for his involvement in child sex abuse.
The article quoted Father Lorenz Wolf, judicial vicar at the Munich archdiocese, who said that it was a “routine” memo that was “unlikely to have landed on the archbishop’s desk.” He added that the possibility that Cardinal Ratzinger had read it could not be ruled out.
The Vatican responded by pointing to the statement from the Munich archdiocese which, it said, “confirms the position, according to which the then-archbishop [Ratzinger] had no knowledge of the decision to reassign Father H. to pastoral activities in a parish.”
The German magazine Der Spiegel suggested in April 2010 that Gruber was pressured to take responsibility for the decisions about Hullermann. But in a letter to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the former vicar general insisted that this was not the case.
When the story broke, Hullermann was suspended from his post in the Bavarian town of Bad Tölz, where he had been transferred in 2008. CNA Deutsch reported that the priest, now aged 74, is believed to be living in the Diocese of Essen again since spring 2021.
The most recent developments
Die Zeit reported that it had seen a 43-page decree issued in 2016 by the Munich archdiocese’s ecclesiastical tribunal. The document, it said, declared that Hullermann could no longer exercise his priestly ministry and ordered him to make a financial contribution to a children’s foundation.
(Story continues below)
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The newspaper said that the decree, which mentioned Ratzinger by name, strongly criticized the Church authorities for failing to prevent Hullermann’s abuse, claiming that they had “deliberately refrained from sanctioning the offense.”
In an email to Die Zeit, Gänswein insisted that this did not apply to the future Benedict XVI. “He had no knowledge of the allegations of sexual assault,” he said.
Andrea Gagliarducci is an Italian journalist for Catholic News Agency and Vatican analyst for ACI Stampa. He is a contributor to the National Catholic Register.