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Irish bishop resigns, apologizes to abuse victims

New York Times

The fallout from the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church settled across Europe on Wednesday, as prosecutors said they were weighing criminal charges against a priest suspected of molesting children in Germany, and Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of a bishop accused of mishandling allegations of abuse in Ireland.

The possibility of criminal charges emerged from new accusations against a priest at the center of the child-molesting scandal rocking the church in Germany. On Wednesday, church officials in Munich said the Rev. Peter Hullermann — whose transfer in 1980 to an archdiocese led at the time by Benedict, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, has drawn the pope himself into the nation's child abuse controversy — had been accused of molesting a minor as recently as 1998.

The latest revelation comes as church officials in northern Germany say they have "credible evidence" of at least two other cases of sexual abuse committed by Hullermann in the 1970s, adding to a trail of accusations that suggest a pattern of abuse over two decades. During that time, he was repeatedly transferred to new parishes and allowed to work with children, even after a 1986 conviction for sexually abusing boys.

In Ireland, Bishop John Magee, 73, whose resignation was accepted by the pope on Wednesday, issued a statement of apology. In December 2008, an investigation by a church panel found that he had failed to respond to accusations of abuse and that policies to protect children were lacking, setting off calls for his resignation.

In another development, top Vatican officials — including the future pope — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to the then-archbishop, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The Wisconsin case involved an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950-74. It is one of thousands of cases forwarded over decades by bishops to the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led from 1981 to 2005 by Ratzinger.

Irish bishop resigns, apologizes to abuse victims 03/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 11:25pm]

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