Benedict Faulted for Handling of Abuse Cases When He Was an Archbishop

New York Times [New York NY]

January 20, 2022

By Elisabetta Povoledo

[NOTE: The full text of the Westpfahl Spilker Wastl report about abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising is available here.]

A newly released report by a law firm said the former pope failed to discipline priests in at least four cases of sexual abuse accusations in Germany.

A report released on Thursday faulted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for what the authors called misconduct in his handling of at least four cases of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests when he was the archbishop of Munich, according to the law firm that handled the investigation.

The report on the handling of clerical sex abuse of minors in the diocese of Munich and Freising covered the period between 1945 and 2019. Benedict was archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982 and had oversight over the clerics.

“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 authors of the report, Martin Pusch, referring to Benedict.

The law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, which drafted the report commissioned by the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, said that Benedict had firmly denied any wrongdoing.

The Vatican said Thursday that it would read and examine the report in coming days and give it “due attention,” said the Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni.

“In reiterating the sense of shame and remorse for the abuse of minors committed by clerics, the Holy See ensures its closeness to all the victims and confirms the path taken to protect the little ones, guaranteeing them safe environments,” Mr. Bruni said.

The report also accused other senior church figures in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising of mishandling sexual abuse cases.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who is one of Pope Francis’ closest advisers and who has led the diocese since 2007, offered his resignation as head of the archdiocese last year to take personal responsibility for sexual abuse by priests over the past decades. But Pope Francis rejected his resignation.

The report identified at least 497 victims. Most were boys, 60 percent between the ages of 6 and 14. It identified 235 abusers, including priests, deacons and employees of Catholic schools.

This is far from the first revelation of abuse in Germany. In 2018, a report commissioned by the church found that clergy had abused at least 3,677 people in the country between 1946 and 2014. More than half of the victims were 13 or younger. Almost a third of them had served as altar boys.