Former Pope Benedict under investigation in German investigation into sexual abuse of children

A potentially explosive report on the handling of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church will be published in Germany on Thursday, with former Pope Benedict XVI among them in the spotlight.

The report from the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) will analyze how abuse cases were handled in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising between 1945 and 2019.

The Archdiocese of Munich, which commissioned the report, said it would investigate “whether those responsible met the legal requirements … and acted appropriately in dealing with suspected cases and possible perpetrators”.

The ex-Pope Benedict – whose civil name is Josef Ratzinger – was Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.

During this time, a now infamous 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 history.

In 1986, when Ratzinger was transferred to the Vatican, he was convicted of using more children and sentenced to probation.

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

Benedict has denied that he knew of the priest’s history.

82-sided statement The ex-pope has issued an 82-sided statement in response to questions from the WSW, according to German media.

Pope Emeritus “takes the fate of the victims to heart” and is completely “in favor of publishing the Munich report”, his spokesman Georg Gaenswein told the newspaper Bild.

Benedict, 94, became the first pope ever to resign from the role in 600 years in 2013 and now lives a secluded life in a former monastery inside the Vatican area.

The reformist Catholic group “Wir sind Kirche” (We Are the Church) called on the ex-pope to take responsibility for what happened while he was in charge of the diocese of Munich.

“A recognition by Ratzinger that through his actions or passivity, knowledge or ignorance he was personally and professionally involved in the suffering of many young people would be … an example for many other bishops and responsible people,” it said in a statement. .

Germany’s Catholic Church has been shaken by a series of reports in recent years that have exposed widespread abuse of children by priests.

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

“System error” However, the actual number of victims is believed to be much higher.

Another report published last year revealed the extent of abuses committed by priests in Germany’s highest diocese of Cologne.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the current Archbishop of Munich and Freising, last year offered Pope Francis his resignation because of the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in its handling of child sexual 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.

As archbishop of Munich since 2007, Marx could also come under scrutiny in the WSW report.

Friedrich Wetter, who played the role from 1982 to 2007, is also still alive.

The abuse scandal has thwarted the efforts of the Catholic Church to lead broad reforms in Germany.

It numbered 22.2 million members in 2020 and is still the largest religion in the country, but the figure is 2.5 million fewer than in 2010 when the first major wave of pedophile abuse cases came to light.

Payments to victims of abuse were increased in 2020 to up to 50,000 euros ($ 56,700), from about 5,000 euros previously, but proponents say the amount is still insufficient.

Prior to the publication of the Munich report, Eckiger Tisch’s victim group demanded “compensation instead of hollow words”.

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


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