Former Pope Benedict XVI has been accused of “misconduct” for his failure to act on four child abuse cases when he was archbishop of Munich, according to a report by a law firm that conducted an investigation in Germany.
The report by German law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) said Pope Benedict never acted on the information about a priest named Peter Hullermann, which he allegedly received during his tenure as archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982.
During this time, Fr. Hullermann was transferred from the city of Essen to Munich after it was alleged that he had abused children. He was allowed to work with young people again after receiving psychotherapy.
“In a total of four cases, we came to the conclusion that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct,” Martin Pusch, who co-wrote the report, said.
Benedict, 94, whose name is Joseph Ratzinger, has denied the accusations.
The ex-Pope submitted an 82-page statement to WSW, the German media said. His spokesperson told the Bild tabloid that he “takes the fates of the abuse victims very much to heart” and is fully “in favour of the publication of the Munich report”.
In a statement that did not mention the former pope, the Vatican said it would evaluate the full report and examine its details.
“In reiterating a sense of shame and remorse for the abuse of minors by clergy, the Holy See assures its closeness to all victims and confirms the path it has taken to protect the little ones and guarantee them a safe environment,” spokesman Matteo Bruni said.
The WSW report also faulted the current archbishop, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, in two cases. This comes a year after Pope Francis rejected his ally’s offer to resign over the Catholic Church’s “catastrophic” handling of sexual abuse cases.
“As the current archbishop, I apologise on behalf of the archdiocese for the suffering inflicted on people in the area of the church in recent decades,” said Marx, adding his archdiocese would give a full response to the report on 27 January.
In response to the allegations set out in the report, the Munich archdiocese said it would consider “whether those responsible complied with legal requirements … and acted appropriately in dealing with suspected cases and possible perpetrators”.
At least 3,677 people were abused by German clergy between 1946 and 2014, according to a church-commissioned study published four years ago.
Majority of the victims were aged under 13. In 2018, Germany’s Catholic Church, which is among the world’s wealthiest thanks in part to church tax paid by members, apologised to victims after the report was published.
In a separate allegation to the WSW report, Benedict has also been accused of failing to prevent child abuse when he was a cardinal.
It is reported that he knew about crimes in the Legionaries of Christ religious order, whose founder, the Mexican cleric Marcial Maciel, a notorious paedophile, was favoured by Pope John Paul II.
Speaking on behalf of Benedict, fellow priest Georg Gaenswein told the German press that the allegation made against him was “not correct”.
Last year, a report into the archdiocese of Cologne between 1975 and 2018 found 202 abusers and 314 victims, and said Catholic Church officials had failed in their duties in some 75 cases. (Source: The Independent)