Benedict XVI defends himself against accusations that he was aware of cases of pederasty in the Church and covered them up when he was Archbishop of Munich. In a letter published on Tuesday, the pope emeritus assures that he never knew that there were suspicions about a priest who was housed in the archdiocese and that the change in his statement before the investigators of the abuses committed in Munich was due to an “unintentional error”. ”. Joseph Ratzinger, 94, apologizes in the letter to the victims of the attacks that occurred under his mandate: “I can only express to all victims of sexual abuse my deep shame, my deep pain and my sincere request for forgiveness” .
At the end of January, Benedict XVI acknowledged through his secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, that he had not told the truth in the statement he sent to the law firm investigating abuses in the Munich archbishopric. The pope emeritus sent an 82-page letter in which he denied having been present at a meeting in January 1980 in which the transfer of a priest accused of abuse was discussed. When the lawyers published his report, a devastating document that reveals at least 497 cases of abuse in the Bavarian archdiocese, they accused Ratzinger of having hidden the truth. They found evidence that he was at that meeting and even that he intervened. Now Benedict XVI offers a more detailed explanation of how the “mistake” occurred, but insists that he was unaware that the priest had committed abuse.
Ratzinger has published a letter in several languages in which he regrets being branded a “liar” and blames the mistake on the “hard work” that his team took to answer the law firm’s questions. “It was deeply painful to me that this oversight was used to question my veracity and even label me a liar,” he says. He adds that he too has received many expressions of trust, such as from the current Pontiff: “I am particularly grateful for the trust, support and prayer that Pope Francis personally expressed to me,” he assures.
The emeritus pope’s team has released two documents: Ratzinger’s personal letter and a report signed by the experts who drafted the 82-page response. In his letter, Benedict XVI focuses on asking the victims for forgiveness: “I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and errors that occurred in different places during the time of my mandate. Every case of sexual abuse is horrific and irreparable. My deep compassion goes out to the victims of sexual abuse and I am sorry for each and every case.”
Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop from 1977 to 1982, before becoming prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Holy Office) at the Vatican. In the response he sent from Rome, he denied any responsibility in hiding the cases, but the investigators accuse him of knowing about abuses and not having acted. The case discussed at the controversial 1980 meeting is that of the priest Peter H., a clergyman from North Rhine-Westphalia who abused children in his home diocese and was later sent to the Munich archdiocese, where he returned. to carry out pastoral work, to commit aggression and where he was finally criminally convicted.
In the second document, entitled “Analysis of the facts by the collaborators of Benedict XVI”, four experts in canon law explain point by point how the carelessness that according to their interpretation has caused the accusations against Benedict XVI occurred. One of the collaborators of the pope emeritus had to analyze more than 8,000 pages of documentation in a short space of time and made a “transcription error.” The experts acknowledge, as evidenced by the records that are preserved, that the pope emeritus was present at the meeting, but they stress that there was no mention of the priest being accused of abuse and there was no discussion of whether he was going to carry out pastoral activity. It was only about his accommodation in Munich because that was where he was going to undergo therapy. The reason he needed therapy was not mentioned, according to his account.
The collaborators of Benedict XVI deny the rest of the suspicions to which the Munich law firm points. His report spoke of three other cases that the pope emeritus was aware of and that he covered up by failing to act against the abusers. According to Ratzinger’s experts, there is no proof that this was the case. Nor that the then archbishop minimized the exhibitionism of one of the priests under suspicion. They claim that his words were misunderstood.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.