US Cardinal William Levada, a staunch defender of Pope Benedict XVI in the paedophile priests scandal gripping the Vatican, reassigned a US priest and alleged child molester in the 1990s without warning his parishioners, court documents showed.
In a sworn testimony in 2006 about his time as Archbishop of Portland, Oregon (1986-1995), Levada said he decided to reassign the offending priest after he underwent therapy.
“The abuse in question had happened 20 years before, or so… the recommendation of the therapy was that he was not at risk for re-abusing and that it would be prudent to reassign him… and prudent also to put conditions that would make sure that he would not be overstressed to do some inappropriate behavior,” Levada testified.
A transcript of Levada’s lengthy testimony on his decision in the mid-1990s was provided to AFP by a lawyer of the victims of pedophile priests in Oregon state.
Levada now heads the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). He was chosen for the post by his predecessor and then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who as pope now has come under criticism for failing to act against priests accused of child abuse in his earlier post as chief Vatican enforcer of Catholic doctrine and morals.
In the testimony, Levada was asked if he had warned parishioners about the Oregon priest’s past — inappropriate sexual behavior with teenagers in the 1970s. He answered no.
“I took what I believe to be the prudent step of giving complete information to the pastor of the parish… and assigning him as the supervisor to (the priest) who (would) have weekly or regular meetings with him and so forth,” the Cardinal said.
Levada added that it was his judgement at the time “that I took the steps that were appropriate and warranted to make sure that my reassignment of (the priest) was entirely responsible.”
Despite objections, Levada said he did not warn the parishioners about the priest’s past because it could have impacted the man’s work and caused him embarrassment.
Much of the testimony presented at a Portland bankruptcy court came amid abuse accusations leveled against Roman Catholic priests in the United States and around the world.
The Church in Oregon filed for bankruptcy “the day that the first trial was supposed to start, the first child abuse trial, that was in July 2004,” Erin Olson, a lawyer representing some 20 victims of child abuse seeking compensation, told AFP.