Pope Benedict XVI heavily burdened in Munich abuse reports

Ein opinion weighs on the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. misconduct in dealing with four cases of sexual abuse during his time as Archbishop of the Diocese of Munich and Freising. The lawyer Martin Pusch said on Thursday at the presentation of the report commissioned by the Archdiocese in Munich. In a statement, Benedict – then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – “strictly” denied his responsibility, but the experts do not consider this to be credible.

The Pope Emeritus was Archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982. Pusch emphasized that Benedikt had commented extensively on the allegations. This is included in the wording of the report. Specifically, the archbishop of Munich at the time did nothing against clerics accused of abuse in four cases, it said.

Inaction in the abuse scandal is apparently also accused of his later successor, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. The incumbent archbishop of Munich and Freising did not personally attend the presentation of the long-awaited report. “He decided not to accept this invitation,” said lawyer Marion Westpfahl. “We deeply regret his absence.”

The bishop’s misconduct relates to the handling of two suspected cases of sexual abuse, specifically to the reports to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

“Balance Sheet of Horrors”

The report, which examined the period between 1945 and 2019, also accuses Ratzinger’s direct successor as Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, of misconduct in 21 cases. Wetter did not deny the cases, but misconduct on his part, said Pusch. His colleague, the lawyer Ulrich Wastl, spoke of a “horrible record”.

The then Pope Benedict XVI. (r) hugs Cardinal Wetter on Munich’s Marienplatz

Source: dpa-infocom GmbH

Critics had accused Ratzinger of misconduct for some time – specifically when dealing with a priest from North Rhine-Westphalia. The man is said to have abused boys many times. According to the abuse report, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. In 1980, as archbishop of Munich and Freising, he was present at an explosive meeting. At this meeting it was decided that the pedophile priest from Essen would be taken over by the Archdiocese of Munich and reinstated in pastoral care.

Benedikt, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, denies this and assures that he did not attend the meeting. However, the expert Ulrich Wastl presented a copy of the minutes of the meeting, according to which Ratzinger did take part. Accordingly, he reported at the meeting, among other things, on talks with Pope John Paul II.

He considers Benedikt’s statement that he was not present at this meeting to be “little credible,” said Wastl. The priest who was taken over then abused children again.

This case alone makes up 370 pages of the more than 1700-page report commissioned by today’s Archbishop Cardinal Reinhard Marx. The study comes to the conclusion that many priests and deacons continued to be employed even after the corresponding allegations became known.

“Toleration” in pastoral care

Regardless of this, 40 clerics were again active in pastoral care or this was tolerated, said the Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) law firm. In 18 of them, this even happened after a “relevant conviction”, as lawyer Martin Pusch said. A total of 43 clerics failed to take “required measures of a sanction nature”. The chancellery prepared its report on behalf of the archdiocese.

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Sunset over Basilica Di San Pietro in the Vatican

It is about the investigation period from 1945 to 2019. Overall, the report for the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising contains references to at least 497 victims of sexualised violence. According to the experts, 247 victims were male, 182 victims female, in 68 cases an assignment was not possible, according to lawyer Pusch, one of the authors of the report.

60 percent of the affected boys were between eight and 14 years old. This confirms that the victims of sexualised violence in the Catholic Church were predominantly male children and young people. Pusch emphasized that the numbers only covered the bright field. The office assume a much larger dark field.

Overall, the report of the Catholic diocese gives a bad report. Even recently, there has been no “paradigm shift” with a focus on those affected, said Pusch. “Until recently, and in some cases still today, injured people encounter hurdles.” There is no active approach to the victims. The lawyer sees a “general interest in secrecy” and the “desire to protect the church as an institution”.

Benedict XVI pray for victims of abuse

Benedict XVI regrets, according to his private secretary Georg Gänswein, the abuse of minors by church officials. “The Pope Emeritus, as he has done several times during the years of his pontificate, expresses his shame and regret at the abuse perpetrated by clerics on minors and renews his personal closeness and prayers for all victims,” ​​the media portal quoted “Vatican News” Gänswein on Thursday.

Benedict did not know the report from the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) “until this afternoon” and wanted to study and examine it in the coming days, Curia Archbishop Gänswein explained.

The Vatican also wants to take a detailed look at the abuse report in the coming days. It will be seen and the details can then be checked appropriately, said the spokesman for the Holy See, Matteo Bruni, on Thursday. “Reaffirming the sense of shame and remorse for the abuse of minors by clergy, the Holy See assures its closeness to all victims and reaffirms the path taken to protect the youngest by guaranteeing them a safe environment,” it said further.

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