Benedict XVI: Like on Mount Olives, asleep vis-à-vis the abuses
In a letter to the faithful, the pope emeritus addresses the charges made against him over his tenure as archbishop of Munich and Freising. He writes: “once again I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness. [. . .] Quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life [. . .] who himself has already suffered for my shortcomings, and is thus also my advocate”. No cover-up is the conclusion reached by an “analysis of the facts” made by the pope’s collaborators who looked at the report over abuses in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In a letter to the faithful, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI speaks about the report on the abuses committed by priests in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising which contains charges related to four cases relating to the years in which Josef Ratzinger was archbishop of the Bavarian diocese.
The letter is accompanied by an analysis of the facts in question drafted by some of his collaborators. This clarifies the misunderstanding created by the memorandum the pope emeritus presented to the commission that drafted the report, which erroneously claims that he was not present at a meeting when in fact he was in attendance.
Notwithstanding the clarifications provided (see below), in the letter to the faithful Benedict XVI again tackles the issue of his attitude towards the “grievous fault” that weighs on individual priests who committed abuses, as well as on the Church as a whole.
The pope emeritus regrets that "an oversight (an incorrect transcription by an aide about the meeting in question) was used to cast doubt on my truthfulness, and even to label me a liar.”
Despite this, he goes on to say that he was “greatly moved by the varied expressions of trust, the heartfelt testimonies and the moving letters of encouragement sent to me by so many persons. I am particularly grateful for the confidence, support and prayer that Pope Francis personally expressed to me.”
He mentions the meetings he had during his pontificate with the victims of sexual abuse by priests. “I have seen at first hand the effects of a most grievous fault. And I have 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. As in those meetings, once again I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness.
“I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate. Each individual case of sexual abuse is appalling and irreparable. The victims of sexual abuse have my deepest sympathy and I feel great sorrow for each individual case.”
The pope emeritus urges everyone to look at these events with the “repugnance and fear” that Jesus felt in the night before his Passion on the Mount of Olives. “Sadly, the fact that in those moments the disciples were asleep represents a situation that, today too, continues to take place, and for which I too feel called to answer. And so, I can only pray to the Lord and ask all the angels and saints, and you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
“Quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life. Even though, as I look back on my long life, I can have great reason for fear and trembling, I am nonetheless of good cheer, for I trust firmly that the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and brother who himself has already suffered for my shortcomings, and is thus also my advocate, my “Paraclete”. In light of the hour of judgement, the grace of being a Christian becomes all the more clear to me. It grants me knowledge, and indeed friendship, with the judge of my life, and thus allows me to pass confidently through the dark door of death.”
Looking at the analysis of the facts provided by Benedict XVI's collaborators on the basis of what was written in the report about his years as bishop of Munich and Freising, corrections are made to the version of what happened at a meeting held on 15 January 1980 in which it was decided to allow a priest, who later committed acts of sexual abuse, to come to Munich from another diocese for therapy.
The analysis of the facts note that an error was made in the transcription when it was claimed that the then Archbishop Ratzinger was not present, stressing that the minutes clearly indicated that he was present and so there was no reason to deny it.
The analysis goes on to stress that the pope emeritus at the time was not aware of the accusations of sexual abuse against the priest and that in any case the latter was not given any pastoral assignment, but was only provided with accommodation in the archdiocese.
With respect to the three other cases cited in the report, the analysis says that Ratzinger was not aware that the priests in question were suspected of sexual abuse, noting that the expert who authored the report, during the press conference on 20 January when the report was released, stated that there is no evidence that the then archbishop was aware of the situation. However, in his subjective opinion, the expert said that it was “more likely” that he was.
In conclusion, for the analysis, Archbishop Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of acts of abuse.