A German investigation into abuses within the Catholic Church accuses Pope Benedict of 'wrongdoing'

The Pope Emeritus has been accused by a German firm of aiding in the coverup of a number of cases of child sexual abuse that occurred while he was the head of the Munich archdiocese

Updated: January 20, 2022 - 1:52pm

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was accused Thursday by a German investigative panel of "wrongdoing" in his handling of sexual-abuse cases during his time at the head of the Munich archdiocese, from 1977 to1982, when he was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The law firm that conducted the investigation says Benedict's claims that he had no direct knowledge of the cases of sexual abuse were ultimately not credible. 

The firm introduced its nearly 1,900-page report at a news conference Thursday, during which it said that Benedict could be accused of wrongdoing in four cases of sexual abuse, including one in which he knowingly accepted a priest into his archdiocese after the former had been criminally convicted of sexual abuse.

"The present findings indicate that Cardinal Ratzinger had knowledge of the history of the priest," said one of the attorneys involved with the report.

The cases examined by the German firm took place at a time prior to the time it became understood how rampant an issue sexual abuse was within the Church, and how an individual who went on to become the Pope emeritus behaved as they played out.

Despite hundreds of victims having been identified in the report and hundreds of accusations against those investigated by the firm, the attorneys believe "that the dark field in this regard is much wider."

In the case of the Rev. Peter Hullermann, against whom allegations first arose in the late 1970s (when Ratzinger was archbishop), a therapy sentence in Munich was initially prescribed, followed by a suspended jail sentence for abusing children in 1986. But he was only removed from his position in 2010, when it was discovered that he was still working closely with children.

In a statement, the Vatican said it would devote "appropriate attention" to the report and reiterated its stance of "shame and remorse for abuses committed by clerics against minors."

The Pope Emeritus's personal secretary said, "The Pope Emeritus, as he has already repeated several times during the years of his pontificate, expresses his shock and shame at the abuse of minors committed by clerics, and expresses his personal closeness and prayer for all the victims, some of whom he has met on the occasion of his apostolic journeys."