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Ex-Pope Benedict XVI failed to act in abuse cases — report

January 20, 2022

With the Catholic Church in Germany, and around the world, facing charges of protecting abusive priests, former Pope Benedict XVI failed to take action against clerics accused of abuse, a Munich Church report has said.

Pope Benedict shakes hands with German Cardinal Reinhard Marx in 2011
Pope Benedict (left) was born in Bavaria, GermanyImage: maria grazia picciarella/infophoto/picture alliance

A child abuse report released in Germany on Thursday found that former Pope Benedict XVI failed to act in four cases of mistreatment.

Benedict has denied the report, with a spokesperson expressing "shock and shame" at the findings. 

What does the report say?

According to law firm Westphal Spilker Wastl (WSW), which conducted the investigation, Benedict failed to prevent abuse of minors during his tenure as archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982. 

"In a total of four cases, we reached a consensus there was a failure to act," said attorney Martin Pusch, who presented the WSW report.

Two cases involve priests who were legally charged with child abuse and were allowed to continue their work in the church as pastors.  

The church also took no official disciplinary action against the clergymen, and it appears that no care was given to their victims.

Sexual Abuse: Benedict under pressure

Another case revolved around notorious child abuser Peter H., who was transferred from Essen in western Germany to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising in 1980, while Benedict, Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger at the time, led the archdiocese.

Current Munich Archbishop Reinhard Marx has also been accused of failing to intervene in two cases of abuse.

The WSW report found at least 497 cases of abuse at the Archdiocese of Munich between the years 1945 and 2019. The mistreatment mostly involved young males.

The Vatican on Thursday expressed "shame and remorse" in response to the abuse revelations in the report. 

Catholic Church faces multiple child abuse scandals

The report is the latest child abuse scandal to impact the Catholic Church. Earlier this week, the 94-year-old former pope denied he knew about allegations of sex abuse at the Mexico-based Legionaries of Christ Catholic religious order.

Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Maciel, who died in 2008, has been accused of abusing dozens of minors.

The Legionaries of Christ sex abuse scandal has tarnished the legacy of Pope John Paul II, who led the church from 1978 until his death in 2005. John Paul II praised Maciel and touted the work of the Legionaries of Christ during his tenure as pope.

Former Pope Benedict XVI has been accused of failing to take action in four child abuse cases in Germany. A new report found that the former head of the Catholic Church covered up clerical sexual abuse between 1977 and 1982, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich and Freising. 

'A shaking moment' for the Catholic Church

Matthias Katsch, head of the organization Eckiger Tisch (Square Table), which represents people affected by sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, told DW the report's findings represented "a shaking moment for the whole church."

"I think it was a shaking moment for the whole church, not only the church in Bavaria and in Germany, because the worldwide abuse scandal, which has evolved in the last 30 years or so, has finally reached the head of the pyramid with the pope, the former Pope Benedict." 

Katsch said Benedict "was caught with a lie."

"He knew about the perpetrator, about Peter H., and he, personally, is responsible," Katsch said of Benedict. 

Katsch also said the Catholic Church was not getting better at dealing with sexual abuse allegations. 

"There is no reason to believe that anything in the fundamentals has changed since 2010," he said. "But we believe they have become better in [the] training of lay people and protection programs for children. But in terms of dealing with the victims and not protecting the perpetrators, it's still the same old system. So the major changes are needed in the future."

fb, wd/sms (AFP, Reuters, KNA)