Pope Benedict 'failed to act' in four child sexual abuse cases, report finds

20 January 2022, 14:15

Former Pope Benedict failed to act on child sexual abuse
Former Pope Benedict failed to act on child sexual abuse. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Retired Pope Benedict XVI failed to act over four cases of child abuse, a new German report has found.

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The long-awaited findings on sexual abuse in Germany's Munich diocese faulted the former Pope's handling of four cases during his time as archbishop in the 1970s and 1980s.

Law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) accused Benedict of "misconduct" after not acting on information he allegedly received, but Pope Benedict, then known as Josef Ratzinger, strongly denies any wrongdoing.

"In a total of four cases, we came to the conclusion that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct," said one of the report's authors, Martin Pusch.

Two of those cases involved perpetrators who offended while he was in office and were punished by the judicial system but were kept in pastoral work without express limits on what they were allowed to do.

In a third case, a cleric who had been convicted by a court outside Germany was put into service in the Munich archdiocese and "the circumstances speak for" Ratzinger having known of the priest's previous history, Pusch said.

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He added: "In all cases, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI strictly denies any wrongdoing on his part", stating that the retired pontiff cites largely "lack of knowledge of the facts and a lack of relevance under canon and criminal law".

The report also accused the current archbishop Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a prominent ally of current Pope Francis, of failing to act in two cases of alleged abuse.

Cardinal Marx previously offered Pope Francis his resignation in June 2021, but Pope Francis refused to accept it.

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The archdiocese commissioned the report from WSW nearly two years ago, with a mandate to look into abuse between 1945 and 2019 and whether church officials handled allegations correctly.

In 2018, a church-commissioned report concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014.

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More than half of the victims were 13 or younger, and nearly a third served as altar boys.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the Holy See would hold off comment until it had read the report in full and could give the contents "careful and detailed examination."

"In reiterating shame and remorse for abuses committed by clerics against minors, the Holy See expresses its closeness to all victims and reaffirms the efforts undertaken to protect minors and ensure safe environments for them," he said in an emailed statement.

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