The report was commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church in Munich and was released on Thursday (January 20).
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.
These are some of the crucial findings of a two-year-investigation by a law firm, sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church in Munich.
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 in a press conference in Munich on Thursday (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 pedophilia in January 1980, when Benedict was archbishop. Not only the Pope Benedict XVI did not take action against him, but also 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, the church has been hit by multiple sexual abuses cases and how the office bearers at all the hierarchy did nothing to prevent it. In some cases, the laid down procedures even encouraged the abuse.
In his 82-page submission to the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, which investigated the case, Pope Benedict XVI 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.
Pope Benedict XVI, who is 94, lives in the Vatican. His secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein said the retired pope hasn’t gone through the report and will respond in detail once the report is available to him.
The chances of any credible response from now retired pope is very bleak as he resigned in 2013 because of poor health and severe memory loss.
In 2003, the US newspaper The Boston Globe got the Pulitzer for doing a series of stories on how the Roman Catholic Church was systematically protecting the abusive pastors. In 2015, the story was adopted on the silver screen as ‘Spotlight’.
The investigation report, which covers period from 1945-2019, has identified at least 497 victims, most of them boys, with about 60 percent between the ages of 6 and 14. About 235 abusers have been identified too, 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.