Lawsuit Against Pope Benedict XVI Will Continue Despite Death

Daily Beast [New York NY]

January 3, 2023

By Barbie Latza Nadeau

A victim of clerical sex abuse during the time the late pope Benedict was archbishop of Munich launched the lawsuit in June.

A 38-year-old German man who says he was abused by a known predatory priest has been allowed to continue his civil lawsuit against the late Pope Benedict XVI’s eventual heirs. In November, Benedict said he would defend himself in the case in front of a German court. Benedict died Dec. 31 at the age of 95 and had secured a law firm which will continue to represent his estate.

Andrea Titz, spokesperson for the Traunstein Court in Bavaria, confirmed that the suit, which accuses the former pope, of willfully ignoring complaints about Father Peter Hullermann, who allegedly abused the victim when he was just 11 years old.

The victim, who uses the pseudonym Julian Schwarz, said that the priest showed him pornography and forced him to have sexual intercourse and oral sex. When he told his mother about the alleged abuse, she told him not to lie. The victim eventually ran away from home and fell into a spiral of substance abuse.

“He sold his version very well,” the victim said in the lawsuit, which was filed in June. The victim says the former pope whose birth name was Joseph Ratzinger “was aware of the situation” and failed to act. In 2016, the priest was investigated and the Vatican judiciary which determined that Ratzinger and archbishop Friedrich Wetter did, in fact, know of the abuse.

Titz said in a statement Monday that the court has allowed the case to continue despite Benedict’s death. “The proceeding will continue against the heirs.” Benedict has no known children. It is unclear if he left his estate to any relatives, who will now be subject of the civil suit.

The legacy of the former pope—the first to resign in 600 years—has been marred by allegations that he willingly covered up and moved around predatory priests. A 1,900 page study conducted by the German church in late 2021 found that 235 people in the Munich diocese were accused of abusing 497 children under the age of 16 from 1954 to 2019. Most of the victims were male.

Before becoming pope, Ratzinger led the Archdiocese of Munich from 1977 to 1982 before becoming head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has also been accused of complicity in decades of cover up. As pope Benedict apologized for the Church’s history of abuse.

The late retired pope was accused of acting erroneously on four occasions, including ignoring a letter drafted by lawyers of several victims of clerical abuse by Hullermann, who was later credibly accused of raping 23 boys aged 8 to 16. In January, Benedict admitted that he had mistakenly told German investigators that he had never heard of the complaints, only to issue a statement confirming that as the head of the Munich church he had been informed.