Pope Benedict XVI, in his position as bishop of Munich and Freising, approved the re-housing of a priest accused of child sex abuse in his diocese in 1980, it was revealed Friday.
"It was decided in 1980 to give H. [the priest] accommodation in a rectory so that he could receive therapy. The archbishop took part in this decision," the diocese of Munich and Freising said in a statement.
The diocese confirmed that the priest in question was in Munich to undergo therapy after sexually abusing young boys. According to the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, he was accused of forcing an 11-year old boy to perform oral sex.
Known paedophile allowed to work with children
The priest was later returned to pastoral work. Archbishop Josef Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict - was unaware of the move at the time, according to his former diocese.
Ratzinger oversaw the diocese from 1980-1982, during which time no further offenses by the priest were reported.
The priest, identified in the German media only by the initial "H.," again faced allegations of child sex abuse in 1985 and was temporarily relieved of his duties. He received a suspended prison sentence and a fine for the sexual abuse of minors.
But the accused sex offender subsequently received additional church duties and continues to work for the church, though he has been barred from working with young people since 2008, the diocese said.
The former vicar-general for the diocese Gerhard Gruber was quick to take the blame for the decision. "The repeated employment of H. in priestly spiritual duties was a bad mistake. I assume all responsibility," Gruber said in a statement.
Hundreds of victims
The Vatican refused to give a statement on the issue on Friday evening, referring instead to the diocese of Munich and Freising.
The development is the latest in an ongoing sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church in Germany. The church came under heavy criticism after an elite Jesuit school in Berlin admitted to the systematic sexual abuse of its pupils by two Roman Catholic priests.
More alleged victims have since come forward, including a former member of the prestigious all-boys choir in Regensburg led from 1964-1994 by the pope's brother, Georg Ratzinger.
So far around 120 people have come forward alleging abuse by leaders of the Catholic Church. The pope has not yet commented personally on the slew of abuse allegations against the Catholic church in his native Germany.
Editor: Ben Knight