A potentially explosive report on tackling child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church will be published in Germany on Thursday, spotlighting former Pope Benedict XVI, among others.
The report from law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) analyzes how abuse cases were handled in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising between 1945 and 2019.
The Archdiocese of Munich, which ordered the report, said it will investigate “whether those responsible have complied with legal requirements…and have acted appropriately in dealing with suspected cases and possible perpetrators”.
Ex-Pope Benedict – whose civil name is Josef Ratzinger – was the 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 West Germany, where he had been charged with abusing an 11-year-old boy.
Hullermann, despite his history, was reassigned to pastoral duties.
In 1986, when Ratzinger was transferred to the Vatican, he was convicted of molesting more children and given a suspended prison sentence.
Even after the conviction, he continued to work with children for years and his case is considered a striking example of the mishandling of abuse by the Church.
Benedict has denied knowing anything about the priest’s history.
82 page statement
The ex-pope has issued an 82-page statement in response to questions from WSW, according to German media.
The pope emeritus “takes the plight of the abuse victims very to heart” and is fully “for the publication of the Munich report,” his spokesman Georg Gaenswein told Bild daily.
Benedict, 94, became the first pope ever to resign in 600 years in 2013, and now lives a secluded life in a former convent on the Vatican grounds.
The reformist Catholic group “Wir sind Kirche” (We are Church) called on the ex-pope to take responsibility for what happened while he was in charge of the diocese of Munich.
“A confession by Ratzinger that through his actions or inaction, knowledge or ignorance, he was personally and professionally complicit in the suffering of many young people would set an example for many other bishops and responsible persons,” the statement said. .
The German Catholic Church has been rocked in recent years by a series of reports exposing widespread abuse of children by clergy.
An investigation commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference in 2018 concluded that 1,670 clergy in the country had committed some form of sexual assault on 3,677 minors between 1946 and 2014.
However, the actual number of victims is much higher.
Another report published last year revealed the extent of the abuse by priests in Germany’s top diocese of Cologne.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the current Archbishop of Munich and Freising, tendered Pope Francis’ resignation last year over the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in handling child abuse scandals.
Pope Francis, however, turned down his offer and urged the cardinal, who is known for his reforms, to stick around and shape change in the Catholic Church.
As Archbishop in Munich since 2007, Marx could also be scrutinized in the WSW report.
Friedrich Wetter, who played the part from 1982 to 2007, is still alive.
The abuse scandal has thwarted the Catholic Church’s efforts to lead wide-ranging reforms in Germany.
It had 22.2 million members in 2020 and is still the country’s largest religion, but the number is 2.5 million less than in 2010, when the first major wave of pedophile cases came to light.
Payouts for abuse victims were increased to 50,000 euros ($56,700) in 2020 from around 5,000 euros earlier, but activists say the amount is still insufficient.
Prior to the release of the report in Munich, the Eckiger Tisch victims group called for “compensation instead of empty words”.
“Far too many children and young people have fallen victim” to a system “shaped by abuse of power, opacity and despotism,” said Matthias Katsch, a spokesperson for the group.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)