Former Pope responds to accusations of mishandling child abuse
Former Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday issued a “heartfelt request for forgiveness” over any errors made in failing to prevent child sexual abuse by clerics during his tenure as Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Benedict’s legal advisors insist that he was unaware of the abuse.
At the end of January, the Munich public prosecutor’s office announced the launch of investigations into 42 cases of alleged misconduct by senior Catholic clergymen, including Benedict, previously known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
In his response to the Catholic church-commissioned report, which directly linked him to four cases of mishandling abuse, the Pope Emeritus described his “pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places” during his tenure between 1977 and 1982.
He admitted that, during many meetings with victims of sexual abuse, he had 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.”
“I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness,” he wrote.
The 94-year-old former pontiff confessed he had “great reason for fear and trembling” ahead of meeting his “final judge” — a meeting which he said would happen “quite soon.” Nonetheless, he said he remained “of good cheer” thanks to his belief that “the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and brother.”
The former Pope’s letter was accompanied by a legal analysis of the German investigators’ report. Signed by Benedict’s four advisers, it refutes several claims made by the German investigators.
It claims that in “none of the cases analyzed” was Joseph Ratzinger “aware of sexual abuse committed or suspicion of sexual abuse committed by priests.”
The legal experts’ analysis mentions that an earlier statement by Benedict that he had been absent from a crucial meeting was an error — an “oversight” Benedict himself mentioned in his letter.
The long-anticipated report on sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising identified at least 497 victims and 235 alleged perpetrators during the 74-year period between 1946 and 2019.
Benedict was accused of mishandling four cases involving allegedly abusive priests during his five-years tenure as archbishop.