Investigators say Pope Benedict knew about abused children while Munich archbishop


Pope Benedict XVI failed to take action when he knew of priests who were abusing children while he was Archbishop of Munich in Germany from 1977 to 1981, a Catholic Church-led, German investigation has alleged, according to multiple reports.

Pope Benedict, known at the time as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, has denied the accusations, but his denials are “not reconcilable with the files in evidence,” according to lawyer Martin Pusch of the Westpfahl Spilker Wastl law firm, commissioned by the Church about two years ago to investigate abuse between 1945 and 2019, CNN reports.

The report by the German law firm that collected decades of Church records states that there is evidence that Ratzinger knew directly of the abuse by certain priests before the scandal became public, but he did not act, The Washington Post reports. 

“In a total of four cases, we came to the conclusion that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct,” Pusch said, according to NBC News.

Much of the report is said to focus on priest Peter Hullermann, who was accused of abusing children in the late 1970s and '80s, when Ratzinger was archbishop in Munich, reports the Post.

German media has questioned for years how much Ratzinger knew of the abuse at the time, as Hullermann had been sent to jail in 1986 for abusing children, but he was still permitted to remain in the Church, according to the Post. 

The Vatican put out a statement saying it would look over the documents, adding, "As we reiterate the sense of shame and regret for the abuses on minors by priests, the Holy See expresses its support for all victims and it confirms the path to protect minors, guaranteed safe spaces for them."

The now-94-year-old made headlines in 2013 when he became the first pontiff in over 600 years to retire, stating that he was exhausted, according to BBC News.

Another Vatican-commissioned report that ended in 2018 concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014, NBC reports. Over half of the victims were under the age of 13, and about a third of them were altar servers.

Pope Francis on Friday promised justice for the victims of sexual abuse by clergy members, a day after a Catholic Church-sponsored investigation found that former Pope Benedict XVI failed to take action when knowing about sexual abuse while he was the archbishop of Munich, The Associated Press reports.

Francis did not specifically mention Pope Benedict or the investigation's findings while giving his speech, but he did reiterate that the Catholic Church would continue to commit to justice going forward in the investigation of various abuse scandals that have plagued the Vatican and churches all over the world.

“The Church, with God’s help, is carrying out the commitment with firm determination to do justice to the victims of abuse by its members, applying with particular attention and rigor to the canonical legislation envisaged,” Francis said while giving his speech, reports the AP.

Francis said that he recently had modified the Vatican's protocol for responding to abuse situations in the hopes of making them more effective for the victims.

“This alone cannot be enough to stem the phenomenon, but it is a necessary step to restore justice, to repair scandal and reform the offender,” Francis added, notes the AP.

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