After Munich Investigation Finds Pope Benedict XVI Knew About Child Sex Abuse in Churches, Pope Apologises to Victims


The Munich investigation report, released on January 20, said Pope Benedict XVI was aware of the sexual abuse cases in the churches and did nothing to prevent it.

After the Munich investigation report, released on January 20, indicted former Pope of misconduct and inaction in the child abuse cases, Pope Benedict XVI apologised to the victims Tuesday (February 8).

In a statement, Pope Benedict said, “I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness.”

“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,” he added. The apology has come in the wake of the Munich investigation report.

The Munich investigation report, sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church in Much, had found that Pope Benedict XVI was aware of the sexual abuse cases in the church and did nothing to prevent it. He was specifically aware of at least four cases of sexual abuse when he was the archbishop of Munich but did not take any action against the accused.

The accusations against Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in 2013, are for the period 1977-82 when he was archbishop of Munich and Freising. He was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger back then.

“In a total of four cases, we came to the conclusion that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct,” the New York Times quoted Martin Pusch, one of the report’s authors. The 1,900-page report, based on church documents and witness accounts, was presented at a press conference in Munich on January 20.

This report is the first formal accusation that Pope Benedict XVI “failed to discipline abusive priests and allowed them to continue their ministry without expressed restrictions.”

The damning report details how an abusive pastor was transferred to Munich for therapy for paedophilia in January 1980, when Benedict was archbishop. Pope Benedict XVI did not take action against him and allowed the abusive pastor to return to pastoral work. In 1986, the abusive pastor was convicted of sexually abusing minors and given an 18-month suspended sentence with five years of probation.

In the last few decades, multiple sexual abuse cases have hit the church and how the office bearers all over the hierarchy did nothing to prevent it. In some cases, the laid down procedures even encouraged the abuse.

Earlier, in his 82-page submission to the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, which investigated the case, Pope Benedict XVI had denied any wrongdoing.

“We do not find the testimony or the statement of Pope Benedict that he was not present at this meeting to be credible,” the NYT quoted Ulrich Wastl, one of the lawyers who carried out the investigation.

In 2003, the US newspaper The Boston Globe got the Pulitzer for doing a series of stories on how the Roman Catholic Church systematically protected abusive pastors. In 2015, the story was adopted on the silver screen as ‘Spotlight’. The investigation report, which covers the period from 1945 to 2019, identified at least 497 victims, most being boys, with about 60 per cent between the ages of 6 and 14. About 235 abusers have been identified, including priests, deacons and employees of Catholic schools. Another report in 2018 had said that at least a third of the victims had served as altar boys. The altar boys help the clergy in religious ceremonies.


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