Decades of Untapped Authority

New York Times
July 1, 2010

Even before he became pope, Benedict XVI held a critical decision-making position in the Vatican that had authority over cases involving priests who sexually molested children, but did not assert it for many years.

March 1977
Elevated to Cardinal.

Joseph Ratzinger is named Archibishop of Munich and Freising, and elevated to cardinal three month later.

Sends German Priest to Therapy

Cardinal Ratzinger send a priest who was accused of molesting boys to therapy. But the priest, Peter Hullerman, is soon reassigned to another parish, and is later convicted of sexual abuse.

November 1981
Named as Head Church Doctine Enforcer
Cardinal Ratzinger is named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith.

April 1983
Investigates Liberation Theologian
Cardinal Ratzinger orders an investigation into the rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, a liberation theologian in Peru.

October 1984
Sex Scandal in the U.S.
Pedopfilia scandal first erupts in the United States as the Rev. Gilbert Gauthé is indicted on multiple counts of molestation in Lousisana.

Sex Charges against Priest Embroil Louisiana Parents
Ex-Pastor Given 20-Year Sentence (abstact)

American Bishops Warned of Abuse Fallout
Confidential repotr warns American bishops that abuse cases could cost the church $1 billion over next decade

August 1986
American Theologian Loses Job After Rebuff from Ratzinger
Rev. Charles Curran, who advocated a moral right to dissent from church teaching on homosexuality and birth control, is ordered to leave hia Catholic University post after Ratzinger's criticizm.

Vatican Curbs U.S. Theologian over Liberal Views on Sex Issues

Reports of Abuse in Canada
Reports of abuse at a Christian Brothers orphanage in Newfoundland outrage Catholics across Canada.

Canadian Prelate Quits in Clerics' Sex Scandal

October 1990
Canadian Bishop Speaks Out on Abuse Problem
At a synod in Rome, a canadian bishops mentions his country's sexual abuse problem. Cardinal Ratzinger focuses on crisis of dwindling numbers of priests.

June 1993
U.S. Bishops Ask for Greater Disciplinary Power
American bishops press Vatican for power to discipline and dismiss abusive priests without risk of overturning or footdragging by Rome.

Pope Endorses Bishops' Attempts to Rid Clergy of Child Molesters

November 1994
Irish Pedophile Priest Brings Government Down
A coalition government in Ireland collapses after botching extradition of a notorious pedophile priest, Brendan Smyth.

Government Coalition Collapses in Ireland

March 1995
Scandal in Austria
Austia erupts in scandal over Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, who is said to have abused as many as 30 boys. Cardinal Ratzinger sayd he wanted to investigate but was thwarted by others in the Vatican.

A National Church Faces a Challenge From Within

April 2000
U.S. Bishops Travel to Rome
English-speaking bishops attend a secret meeting with Vatican officials to press for more agressive policies on abuse.

May 2001
Ratzinger Takes Charge of Prosecution of Abuse

John Paul II gives Cardinal Ratzinger's office jurisdiction over cases involving sex abuse of minors, but the cardinal notes that his office had actually held that authority going as far back as 1922.

January 2002
Boston Case Creates Crisis for American Catholics
The Boston Globe publishes a blockbuster on John J. Geoghan, a serial molester, setting off a crisis for the Catholic church in the United States

June 2002
American Bishops Set Strict New Abuse Rules
In Dallas, U.S. bishops enact new canonical norms, including zero tolerance for abuse and a requirement that bishops report all criminals allerations to secular authorities.

Bishops Set Policy to Remove Priests in Sex Abuse Cases

December 2002
Ratzinger Lashes Out at Journalists
With the American scandal mushrooming, Cardinal Ratzinger accuses the news media of having "a desire to discredit the church".

January 2004
Ratzinger Briefed on Scandal
American lay leaders brief Cardinal Ratzinger on how extensive the scandal has become.

April 2005 Ratzinger becomes Benedict XVI Cardinal Ratzinger is elected pope and takes name of Benedict XVI.

German Cardinal Is Chosen As Pope

April 2008
Meets with Abuse Victims in Boston
On his first visit to the United States as pope, Benedict meets privately with vistims from Boston. He say he is "deeply ashamed" of sexual abuse by priests.

Benedict Meets With the Victims of Sexual Abuse

May 2010
Scandal Spreads
With the scandal spreading across the several continents, Benedict says it shows in a "really terrifying" way how the church's biggest problems are of its onw making, and owns up to the need for justice, not only forgiveness.

Speaking to reporters on his plane en route to Portugal, Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday said that the “sins inside the church” posed the greatest threat to Catholicism.
Photo by Vincenzo Pint/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Pope Issues His Most Direct Words to Date on Abuse


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.