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Probe finds ex-pope Benedict failed to act in German abuse cases

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Former Pope Benedict XVI knowingly failed to take action to detain four priests accused of child sex abuse in Munich, according to the findings of a damning independent report released Thursday.

The former pontiff, who was archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982, has
Probe finds ex-pope Benedict failed to act in German abuse cases

Former Pope Benedict XVI knowingly failed to take action to detain four priests accused of child sex abuse in Munich, according to the findings of a damning independent report released Thursday.

The former pontiff, who was archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982, has “strictly” denied any responsibility, said Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) lawyer Martin Pusch, who was commissioned by the church to carry out the investigation.

But experts don’t consider it credible, he said.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni stressed that he had yet to examine the report, “whose content is not currently known,” but reiterated the Vatican’s “feeling of shame and remorse for the abuse of minors by clerics.”

Two of the cases in which Benedict, whose civil name is Josef Ratzinger, allegedly failed to act involved clerics who had committed various proven acts of abuse but were allowed to continue their pastoral duties, Pusch said.

An interest in victims of abuse was “not recognizable” in Benedict, he said.

In one case, a now notorious pedophile priest named Peter Hullermann was transferred to Munich from Essen in western Germany, where he had been accused of abusing an 11-year-old boy.

Hullermann was reassigned to pastoral duties despite his record.

In 1986, when Benedict XVI had been transferred to the Vatican, Hullermann was convicted of sexually abusing more children and received a suspended prison sentence.

Even after his conviction, he continued to work with children for many years and his case is seen as a relevant example of the mishandling of abuse by the Church.

The report, which examined the years 1945 to 2019, also accused Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the current archbishop of Munich and Freising, of failing to act in two cases of suspected abuse.

Pusch said that Benedict had initially displayed a “defensive attitude” in answering investigation questions. However, he later changed his mind and gave a detailed written statement.

Benedict XVI, 94, in 2013 became the first pope to leave office in 600 years and now lives an isolated life in a former convent within Vatican grounds.

The reformist Catholic group “Wir sind Kirche” (We are Church) called on the former pontiff to assume his responsibility.

“An admission by Ratzinger that through his actions or inactions, knowledge or ignorance, he was personally and professionally complicit in the suffering of many young people would be … an example to many other bishops and responsible persons,” he said in a statement.

Germany‘s Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of reports in recent years that have exposed widespread child abuse by clerics.

A study commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference in 2018 found that 1,670 clerics in the country had committed some form of sexual assault against 3,677 minors between 1946 and 2014.

However, the actual number of victims is believed to be much higher.

Another report published last year exposed the extent of abuse by priests in the main diocese of Cologne, Germany.

Marx had offered Pope Francis his resignation last year over the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in its handling of child sex abuse scandals.

However, Pope Francis rejected his offer, urging the cardinal known for his reforms to stay and help shape change in the Catholic Church.

The abuse scandal has frustrated efforts by the Catholic Church to spearhead sweeping reforms in Germany.

It had 22.2 million members in 2020 and is still the largest religion in the country, but the number is 2.5 million less than in 2010 when the first big wave of pedophile abuse cases came to light.

Payments for victims of abuse increased in 2020 to 50,000 euros ($56,700), from 5,000 euros previously, but campaigners say the sum remains inadequate.

Before the release of the Munich report, the Eckiger Tisch victims’ group called for more “compensation instead of empty words”.

“Too many children and young people have fallen victim” to a system “shaped by abuse of power, lack of transparency and despotism,” said Matthias Katsch, a spokesman for the group.

Source Credit: TheGuardian

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