It was the same year that the Munich diocese was informed of H.’s behavior. In response to CORRECTIV, a representative of the diocese wrote that von Soden-Fraunhofen moved to Engelsberg for private reasons. He supposedly relocated at the suggestion of his housekeeper, who had good connections to the town. At least, this is what was told to the congregations in Garching and Engelsberg and reported out by the media.
But there’s more to the story. Dr. Huth told CORRECTIV that von Soden-Fraunhofen had said he would take care of H. after moving and was in “contact with Ratzinger”. The psychiatrist assumed that the auxiliary bishop would follow through on supervising the priest. When he later learned that H. was still in contact with children, he said that he was “appalled”. He could only explain this as “self-delusion”.
Until his death seven years later, von Soden-Fraunhofen would continue to jointly manage the two congregations with H. A gilded marble plate still hangs outside Engelsberg church as a testament to their time together.
At the beginning, H. was afraid, remembers Klaus Mittermeier, then- chairman of the parish council. If the auxiliary bishop came, “everything would change, he would control us,” Mr. Mittermeier recalls of H.’s statements at the time. But von Soden-Fraunhofen came and nothing changed. He kept silent and did not keep H. away from the children.
Parish newspapers from December 1993 even document how von Soden-Fraunhofen and H. intended to celebrate a children’s blessing: “Bishop von Soden and Father H. will lay their hands on all the children and bless them following the Liturgy of the Word.”
H. recruited the altar children himself. Boys and girls started taking classes with him soon after communion. Over time, he filled the chancel in Garching and Engelsberg with over 100 altar servers. There was no keeping H. away from kids in either town. He created opportunities for himself — and von Soden-Fraunhofen did not intervene. Even when accusations were written on the wall at the parish festival, the auxiliary bishop did not utter a single word.
One week after the festival, H. published a new issue of Pfarrnachrichten, the parish newsletter, and expressed his thanks: “To all those who have helped in any way, a warm «God bless you!»“. The church had raised 12,000 German marks. But in the margins, the priest had also published an image of a man rising out of the sea — holding two naked boys in his arms. It was not the first time this kind of photo made it into the newsletter. Sometimes, H. published a photo of a dreamy looking boy in front of a candle, others a boy in shorts and a T-shirt carrying amphorae or a boy’s face in a fragmented picture frame. While they may appear to be harmless to the unsuspecting viewer, von Soden-Fraunhofen knew about H.’s criminal past.
The auxiliary bishop was active in town affairs, according to the people of Engelsberg and Garching, who were interviewed by CORRECTIV and Frontal21. He attended mass, taught lectures and took care of the “youngsters”, always saying that he was “the chaplain”. But if at any point a dispute arose with H., the priest would simply tell him: “You are the bishop and I am the chaplain”. Following repeated requests from CORRECTIV and Frontal21, the diocese responded that “there is concrete evidence in the files that Auxiliary Bishop von Soden-Fraunhofen regularly provided positive information about H.’s activity in Garching without any complaints.” Regarding the “success” of supervising H., the diocese said laconically the result can be judged “given the known events”.