Report that accuses Benedict XVI of omission in abuse cases has been treated with sensationalism, columnist says

The Oxford Spokesman [Oxford College, Emory University, Oxford GA]

January 24, 2022

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has denied, through his secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, having knowledge of cases of abuse committed in Chile by priests who are members of the Legionaries of Christ when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position Joseph Ratzinger held between 1982 and 2013. Gänswein made the statements to the German newspaper Die Zeit, the same one that had published the accusations, made by filmmaker Christoph Röhl, and which also published excerpts from a report on sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising, before its official release.

Writing for the Catholic news agency Zenit, columnist and philosopher Jorge Enrique Mújica criticized some inconsistencies and sensationalism surrounding the report (read the full version here, in German), prepared by the law firm Westphal Spilker Wastl. The investigation covers a period from 1945 to 2019, during which the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising had six different archbishops – Ratzinger held the position between 1977 and 1982. Mújica recalls that in total the report mentions abuses committed against 497 victims by 235 attackers. (including 173 priests and 9 deacons). During Ratzinger’s time as archbishop, investigation uncovered four cases of abuse; Mújica criticizes that the report assigns Ratzinger “some responsibility” for handling the cases, but does not explain exactly what that responsibility was.

Furthermore, the Zenit columnist also pointed to the fact that the German report also includes Ratzinger’s performance while he was Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and not just during his time in the Archdiocese. . Although it is argued that no other archbishop of Munich has reached this position, Mújica says the procedure clearly extrapolated the request of the archdiocese, which commissioned the document from the Westphal office Spilker Wastl with the aim of investigate how successive archbishops had handled reports of abuse. “It’s unclear how the company made this decision: whether they simply decided to extrapolate their skills or whether someone – and who – asked them to do it intentionally,” he says.

Mújica also criticized the sensationalism of sectors of the press which not only omitted the fact that Benedict XVI had sent a response to the accusations, included in the report and which occupies 85 pages of the document, but also rehashed accusations which had already been repeatedly clarified. years ago. The columnist mentions in particular the case of a priest accused of abuse, transferred from the diocese of Essen to the archdiocese of Munich in 1980, when Ratzinger was archbishop. However, Father Peter Hullermann was only allowed to live in the territory of the archdiocese to receive care and would be required to live in a residence for priests. When Hullermann was released to work in a parish, the decision came from the vicar general of the archdiocese, as Ratzinger had already left Munich to take up his post in Rome. All this information had been known since 2010, specifies the columnist.

The reality, says Mújica, is that Benedict XVI has acted harshly in the face of abuse. Still a cardinal, he was charged with opening the investigation into the Legionaries of Christ and the abuses committed by their founder, Marcial Maciel; in 2006, Maciel was banned from publicly exercising the priestly ministry and forced to lead a life of “prayer and penance”. The columnist concludes: “the report was possible because the Church itself requested and financed it. This aspect is not superficial: it is the same Church which, since the pontificate of Benedict XVI, has begun a work of zero tolerance against abusive priests, with the hardening of measures, trials and punishments, work which has reinforced that of John Paul II and that Francis continued”.