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Germany sex abuse scandal turns glare on Pope Benedict

VATICAN CITY - Germany's sex abuse scandal has now reached Pope Benedict XVI: His former archdiocese disclosed that while he was archbishop a suspected pedophile priest was transferred to a job where he later abused children.

The pontiff is also under increasing fire for a 2001 Vatican document he later penned instructing bishops to keep such cases secret.

The revelations have put the spotlight on Benedict's handling of abuse claims both when he was archbishop of Munich from 1977-1982 and then the prefect of the Vatican office that deals with such crimes - a position he held until his 2005 election as pope.

And they may lead to further questions about what the pontiff knew about the scope of abuse in his native Germany, when he knew it and what he did about it during his tenure in Munich and at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Munich archdiocese said there were no accusations against the chaplain from 1980-1982, when he underwent therapy for suspected "sexual relations with boys." He moved to Grafing, where he was suspended in 1985 after new accusations. The next year, he was convicted of sexually abusing minors.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement Friday the Munich vicar-general who approved the priest's transfer had taken "full responsibility" for the decision.

"We find it extraordinarily hard to believe that [the former Cardinal Joseph] Ratzinger didn't reassign the predator, or know about the reassignment," said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The pope continues to be under fire for a Vatican letter he sent to bishops advising them that cases of sexual abuse of minors must be forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and that the cases were to be subject to pontifical secret.

Germany's justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, cited the document as evidence the Vatican created a "wall of silence" that prevented prosecution. But canon lawyers insisted that it didn't preclude bishops from going to police.


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