Retired Pope Benedict Asks For Forgiveness Over Handling Church Sex Abuse Cases But Not Ashamed Of His Doings
Retired Pope Benedict asks for forgiveness over handling church sex abuse cases but admitted to no personal or specific misconduct after an independent assessment questioned his behavior in four cases while he was archbishop of Munich, Germany.
“I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate,” the retired pope added.
Benedict, 94, was responding to a Jan. 20 study from a German legal company that had been commissioned by the German Catholic Church to investigate how accusations of sexual abuse were handled in the Munich archdiocese between 1945 and 2019. Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, commanded the archdiocese from 1977 until 1982.
The report’s authors condemned Benedict’s handling of four cases during his time as archbishop, accusing him of malfeasance for having neglected to restrict the ministry of the priests in the cases even after they had been convicted criminally. The investigation also blamed his predecessors and successors, noting that there had been at least 497 abuse victims throughout the decades and at least 235 probable abusers.
Munich’s current archbishop, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, apologized last month on behalf of his archdiocese “for the suffering inflicted on people in the church over the past decades.” The Vatican on Tuesday revealed a letter Benedict wrote to answer to the claims, alongside a more technical reply from his team of attorneys who had delivered a first 82-page response to the law firm concerning his nearly five-year stay in Munich.
The judgment of Benedict’s lawyers was resolute: “As an archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of acts of abuse,” they stated. They chastised the report’s writers for misinterpreting their submission and said that they supplied no evidence that Benedict was aware of the criminal background of any of the four priests in question.
Benedict’s redaction was significantly more subtle and spiritual, but he went on at length to thank his legal staff before even addressing the issues at hand or the victims of abuse. In the letter, Benedict issued what he called a “confession,” recalling that daily Mass begins with people confessing their sins and begging forgiveness for their flaws and even their “grievous errors.” Benedict stated that in his contacts with abuse victims when he was pope, “I have seen at first hand the effects of a most grievous fault. “And I have come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grievous fault whenever we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decisiveness and responsibility, as too often happened and continues to happen,” he wrote. “As in those meetings, once again I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness.”
Two cases concerned priests who had offended when Ratzinger was archbishop but were maintained in pastoral ministry without restrictions. Similarly, a pedophile priest who had been imprisoned in another country was allowed to transfer to Munich in 1980 and eventually placed into ministry. The priest assaulting a youngster in 1986 got a suspended sentence. A previous “error” in Benedict's team's report to the law firm that argued Ratzinger wasn't there at the 1980 meeting where the priest's relocation to Munich was discussed. But Ratzinger wasn't there, they said.
Benedict expressed his displeasure at the use of his “oversight” to “cast doubt on my truthfulness, and even to label me a liar.” In spite of this, he claimed he was encouraged by the messages and gestures of support he had received. “I am particularly grateful for the confidence, support and prayer that Pope Francis personally expressed to me,” he said.
The Vatican defended Benedict's record after the law firm study, emphasizing that he was the first pope to meet with abuse victims, declare strict punishments for priests who molested minors, and direct the church to seek forgiveness for its clerics' sins. Finally, Benedict noted that he is nearing the conclusion of his life and will soon be judged by God.
“Quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life,” he wrote. “Even though, as I look back on my long life, I can have great reason for fear and trembling, I am nonetheless of good cheer, for I trust firmly that the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and brother who himself has already suffered for my shortcomings.”
In the following news exchange on retired pope benedict asks for forgiveness over handling church sex abuse cases, Benedict admits to knowing about and regretting his silence over Father Maciel's long-term sexual misconduct, hinting that this is the cause for his desire to step down: "I was aware of Father Maciel's long-term sexual misconduct and regretting my silence." Benedict declares that he no longer hears God's words and that he wishes to abdicate. Benedict is comforted by Bergoglio, who also extends to him the gift of absolution.
What are your thoughts on the news of Retired Pope Benedict asks for forgiveness over handling church sex abuse cases? Can you ever forgive such a filthy person in disguise as a priest? For me, it is not possible.