Former Pope Benedict XVI has been accused of mishandling four sexual abuse cases during his time as Archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977-1982, according to a report released Thursday. Benedict, now 94 years old, has long maintained his ignorance of the sexual abuse cases.
The Catholic Church commissioned the over 1,000-page report from the German law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl back in 2019. The law firm was tasked with investigating the cases of sexual abuse by clerics between 1945 and 2019. Their findings revealed at least 497 cases of abuse and at least 235 suspected perpetrators, though the law firm believes there are more.
Former Pope Benedict XVI, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is accused of misconduct in four cases of sexual abuse. Two cases of sexual abuse occurred while Ratzinger oversaw the archdiocese. Though the abusers were punished by the judicial system, the church took no action against them. Another one of the cases involved a cleric who was allowed to continue working despite being convicted in a non-German court of sexual abuse. The report claims Ratzinger knew of the cleric’s history and still allowed for his placement in the archdiocese.
Throughout the investigation, and even now, former Pope Benedict XVI repeatedly asserted a lack of knowledge of the facts, according to Martin Pusch, an attorney involved in compiling the report. Pusch noted that some assertions were hard to reconcile with the evidence.
Benedict’s longtime secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, said: “The emeritus pope, as he repeated many times during the years of his pontificate, expresses his upset and shame at the abuse of minors committed by clerics, and expresses his personal closeness and his prayers to all the victims, some of whom he met during his apostolic journeys.”
The Vatican has yet to comment on the report in full. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said a comment would be forthcoming once the report is read in full and given careful examination.