I have to say that I was rather confused after seeing the ABC report the other night that attempted to smush what happened in Milwaukee together with accusations in Munich. The piece itself switched back and forth between the two stories until my father, who isn't Catholic, asked how the Archbishop of Munich could be held responsible for what was going on in Milwaukee.
The answer, which was not at all clear on ABC, was that the second scandal was brought to the Vatican's attention (according to reports) when Cardinal Ratzinger was working at the Vatican and was in charge of a "watchdog group" in Rome.
This is actually a perfect example of how the media can twist and distort the truth to come up with a story that fits their needs (which appears to be discrediting the Catholic Church for standing up for what's true).
Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising by Pope Paul VI in 1977. In 1981 he moved to Rome and became Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. That would be the "watchdog" organization that ABC would like you to believe was responsible for handling the sex abuse cases. However that's not the job description at the CDF (Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei) or at least it wasn't until 2001 (Canon Lawyer Fr. Thomas Brundage explains here that up until 2001 appeals went to the Roman Rota and another great explanation can be found here where Jimmy Akin explains that this case went to the CDF because it involved abuse during the sacrament of confession ). Quite simply it oversees Catholic Doctrine.
In other words, when heretics dressed up as "Catholics" are "guided by the holy spirit" (or some other spirit) to spout nonsense, the CDF steps in. Thus the mainstream media called Cardinal Ratzinger "God's Rottweiler" (although they would now like to paint him as a weak wimp). The CDF was busy with things like liberation theology during the 80s. They weren't the ones responsible for going after sex abuse cases.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the entire ABC report was the quick interview with the former Archbishop of Milwaukee. He seemed intent on clearing his own name and lamented that he hadn't known what to do and he'd asked the Vatican for help and they hadn't done anything...
Hmmmmm.... yeah..... all I can say to that is: "YOU WERE THE ARCHBISHOP!!!! You were the one responsible for leading and protecting the people in your archdiocese!"
Many people don't understand how much control a bishop (and especially archbishop) has over their area of responsibility. A lot!
My husbands analogy for the situation went like this: If there was a fire at a local house you would call the local fire department to put it out. You wouldn't call in CalFire (the California State Fire Agency that fights huge forest fires) unless things were really out of control...
Things were really out of control. And that was because the former Archbishop of Milwaukee neglected his responsibility and let incredibly evil things happen under his nose. Now he doesn't want to take responsibility for that and is ready to bad mouth the Vatican for problems that occurred because he shirked his own duties.
Actually to take the analogy one step further, I'll relate a story of what happened in my hometown a few years ago: A fire broke out at the local firing range. Our local fire department was having some internal problems at the time and the number of volunteers had dwindled. When the call came in the local guys that were left didn't respond. Because help was coming from so far away and no one in town did anything the fire got out of control (although they did show up after CalFire arrived) and ended up burning the seven miles between our town and the next town over (we watched it all from our house): to be clear, the former Archbishop is the local fire department that didn't respond and because he failed in his duty, it took time for help to come from far away (because it took a very long time for word of the scandal which the Archbishop ignored to cross the Atlantic).
The most striking part of the case may be when word actually reached the Vatican of these accusations (from watching the news you would think that it was instantly and that they did nothing to protect the innocent children of Milwaukee). The media says Cardinal Ratzinger heard about the abuse while at the Vatican in 1996 (that would be when he was at the CDF, which, again, if you missed it, wasn't in charge of sex abuse cases!). Over 20 years had passed since the abuse took place (of course that's all in the small print if you read the stories very, very carefully).
Going after the former Archbishop though, the man who's really to blame, wouldn't do the media much good and wouldn't get them any closer to discrediting the Church in America. And that's what's really behind these reports.