The latest Catholic abuse report is different. And it’s also the same.

Horowitz Law [Fort Lauderdale FL]

January 23, 2022

Ho hum. Another lawyer says another bishop mishandled abuse. What’s the big deal?   Well, this isn’t just another lawyer. It’s a lawyer hired by Catholic officials.   And it’s not just another bishop. It’s the former pope.

Plus, this isn’t some off-handed remark. It comes from a formal 1900-page report that has taken nearly two years to complete.

That’s right. In a report released just days ago in Germany, an attorney who was picked and paid by the Munich archdiocese, said Pope Benedict is “not credible” when he claims he did nothing wrong in abuse cases there.  In fact, one of the author’s of the stunning reports, in atypically blunt language for an attorney, says “During [Ratzinger’s] time in office, there were abuse cases happening. In those cases, those priests continued their work without sanctions. The church did not do anything.”

According to the New York Times, “the report is the first formal accusation” that Benedict did not “discipline abusive priests and allowed them to continue in ministry without restrictions.”

This seems encouraging, at least initially.  Keep in mind, however, the breadth and depth and longevity of the church’s abuse and cover up crisis. With a broader perspective, it’s hard to feel too positive about one more in a long, belated and grudging series of church-sponsored reports stating the long, painful and indisputable truth: Catholic officials, even those at the very top, have for ages endangered kids, protected predators and deliberately, repeatedly deceived police, prosecutors, parents, parishioners and the public about serial criminals in their midst.

And it’s obvious but bears emphasizing: A wrong-doer’s self-report is neither reform or punishment. Publicly admitting, when everyone already knows you’re guilty, it’s not exactly earth-shattering when, decades later, an institution that has repeatedly been found culpable of wrongdoing finally says “Yes, we are in fact culpable.” 

(And let’s be clear: Benedict is NOT admitting his guilt. Even now, he denies having done anything wrong. It’s just that his successor, and the lawyer his successor felt forced to hire because of the crisis in Munich is continuing, are publicly admitting his guilt.)

A few questions:

– The current head of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising – Benedict’s successor – has publicly admitted and apologized for concealing abuse. He’s even offered his resignation to Pope Francis.

So is there any universe in which it’s likely, or even POSSIBLE, that a man who helmed an archdiocese in the 2010s ignored or hid child sex crimes but his predecessor, who helmed the same archdiocese in the 1970s and 1980s did not? That flies in the face of common sense.

(The man now running the Munich archdiocese, , is “a close ally of Pope Francis” and a member of the pope’s international advisory council on abuse. Sadly, Francis REFUSED to accept Marx’s resignation offer. And adding insult to injury, Francis keeps Marx on his advisory council even now.)

–According to some new accounts, some of the abuse cases included in the report are ‘new,’  that is, have not been disclosed or discussed before. Think about that for a minute. 

Benedict has been a priest for over 70 years and a bishop for 45 years. For four years, he headed the Munich archdiocese. For three years, he was the head of the College of Cardinals. For nearly 25 years, he was a top Vatican official – the head of the bureau specifically charged with handling abuse, the notorious Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

And then for eight years, he headed the entire global church, as pope.

No one can claim that Benedict is a ‘newbie’ or has been ‘under the radar.’  Why now, in 2022, is there ANYTHING new about how he dealt with abuse? Hasn’t he – and haven’t his colleagues and successor – promised TRANSPARENCY in abuse cases for years now? 

–Benedict professes his innocence. But look at just one of the allegations against him: that he kept Fr. Peter Hullerman in a parish, quietly, even after he’d been deemed guilty of abuse in a criminal proceeding.

In the 1970s and 1980s, secular authorities rarely took action against pedophile priests. Is it really possible that one of Benedict’s priests was convicted of such serious crimes, but no one told him about it? That defies common sense.

This claim just doesn’t pass the ‘smell test.’ Think of this another way. Benedict’s cover up allegedly took place, again, in the 70s and 80s. Can you name a single Catholic figure anywhere on the planet who was actively preventing abuse and ousting predators and punishing enablers and helping prosecutors and seeking out victims and offering them real help back in the 70s and 80s?

—The Guardian’s story about the new report is headlined “Former pope Benedict accused of inaction over child sex abuse cases.” And another news account uses the word “misconduct” to characterize Benedict’s reckless, callous and secretive actions.

We at Horowitz Law know that headline writers have tough jobs. But can we all just make a little greater effort to STOP using words that minimize this horror? 

If your child was raped, you likely wouldn’t call it ‘misconduct.’ And if she was raped by a known rapist, who was kept on the job or returned to the job AFTER being criminally prosecuted, you likely wouldn’t say his boss was ‘accused of inaction.’ Another news account said Benedict “failed to act.”

When exposing trauma, we must all do our best to avoid causing more trauma.

Finally, consider the process by which these disclosures about Pope Benedict came to light: through a probe commissioned by archdiocesan officials.

Church-initiated commissions and reports on child sex abuse like this are proliferating in various jurisdictions, including Poland, Portugal and Germany. 

As you see and read more about these commissions, we urge you to keep in mind four crucial words: “garbage in, garbage out.” When they rely on Catholic employees to voluntarily disclose records to ‘investigators’ hired by their Catholic superiors, few would have faith in the outcome of these ‘investigations.’ 

And another old but appropriate adage comes to mind here as well: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” 

About these church bodies and reports, one might ask “Why now?”

We at Horowitz Law think the answer is straightforward: the Catholic hierarchy has always been smart and continues to get smarter. When more and more victims are coming forward, more and more secular officials are taking action, more and more civil lawsuits are being filed, and more and more media reports are being written, something must change.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that inaction is no longer possible. So what’s a safe step for church officials to take? Announce their own ‘investigation.’

Because if they don’t, the possibility of genuinely independent and thorough investigation by truly independent and impartial sources and government law enforcement becomes more and more likely. That’s what church officials so desperately want to avoid. 

So it’s clear then that the only real path forward for the Catholic hierarchy is to ‘get out in front’ of these obvious very troublesome developments. That’s why they set up their own panels and hire their own lawyers and turn over some of their own documents and produce their own reports. The goal is essentially immunization in terms of public relations, putting their own spin out first, before other, more honest and reliable sources can do so.

“We’ve reformed,” bishops claim. “We were secretive for centuries. But we’ve changed on a dime. Now, suddenly, we’re completely open. Now we get it. And we’re fixing it. No need for excessive concern or outside intervention or major reforms.”

Last but certainly not least, let’s keep in mind and offer our deepest sympathies to the many victims in the Munich archdiocese, most of whom have not yet come forward and are likely still struggling. Reuters pointed out that “The investigation found that there were at least 497 victims of abuse. . .with additional cases most likely not reported.”

Read the entire report here: