Pope Benedict XVI failed to act over abuse cases when he worked as Archbishop of Munich
A new report into decades of abuse allegations by a law firm in Germany has shown that Pope Benedict XVI did not take action against abusive priests in four child abuse case while he was Archbishop (Josef Ratzinger). Benedict held that position from 1977-1982. The abuse of minors is reported to have continued during his time in Munich and the predator priests remained in active ministry.
The Catholic church tapped the firm of Westpfahl Spilker Wastl in Germany to investigate these matters. "Two of these cases concern abuses committed during his tenure and sanctioned by the state," lawyer Martin Pusch said as he announced the report.
To us, this is not shocking news, reports of Pope Benedict XVI and his knowledge of abuse cases have circulated since his election. However, to us, this is another self-inflicted wound and one that we at SNAP saw coming. In fact, back in 2011, SNAP leadership cautioned Vatican officials against rushing to beatify Pope John Paul II because of how he misled the public about the severity of clergy abuse, actively ignored it, and allowed it to continue. Sadly, we see these unsavory actions and inactions surface years later after lengthy silence by church officials and painful memories harbored by victims.
Once again, a church’s successor to St. Peter is falling off the rock as Pope Benedict XVI is implicated in the most notorious scandal in the history of the church. We hope that the report will reveal more detailed information and cite other prelates that knew and turned a blind eye because of the Archbishop’s power. Maybe another lesson learned from this is obvious – if someone is alleged to have abused children or adults, turn them over to secular authorities instead of protecting the church’s image.
A previous report into historical abuse in Germany concluded that more than 3,600 people nationwide had been abused by clergy members between 1946 and 2014. Many of the victims were very young and served as altar boys. The new report looking into the Munich and Freising areas specifically found at least 497 abuse victims from 1945 to 2019.
True action could come in the form of admission from Pope Benedict XVI and for him to relinquish his honor as Pope emeritus. That could start the act of contrition.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)