ROME (AP) — The Vatican on Wednesday strongly defended Pope Benedict XVI’s record in fighting clergy sexual abuse and cautioned against looking for “easy scapegoats and summary judgments,” after an independent report faulted his handling of four cases of abuse when he was archbishop of Munich, Germany.
The Holy See’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, provided the Vatican’s first substantial response to the report in an editorial that appeared in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and its media portal, Vatican News. In it, Tornielli recalled that Benedict was the first pope to meet with victims of abuse, that he had issued strong norms to punish priests who raped children and had directed the church to pursue a path of humility in seeking forgiveness for the crimes of its clerics.
“All this can neither be forgotten nor erased,” Tornielli wrote.
A German law firm released the lengthy report last week that had been commissioned by the German church to look into how cases of sexual abuse were handled in the archdiocese between 1945 and 2019. Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the archdiocese from 1977 to 1982, when he was named to head the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The report’s authors faulted Ratzinger’s handling of four cases during his time as archbishop, and also faulted his predecessors and successors for their own misconduct in allowing predator priests to remain in ministry.
Through his secretary, the 94-year-old Benedict has said he would respond to the findings in due time. He has already acknowledged an editorial error in his own submission to the researchers about a 1980 meeting in which a pedophile priest’s transfer to Munich was discussed. Benedict acknowledged this week that he indeed attended the meeting but denied that his return to pastoral work was discussed at the time. The priest later received a suspended sentence for molesting a boy.
Tornielli didn’t comment on the details of that case or any other, though he lamented that so much attention had “predictably” been paid in the media to Benedict’s four-year term as archbishop. He focused instead on Benedict’s tenure as prefect of the doctrine office, from 1982-2005, and then as pope, from 2005-2013, when he retired.
While he was prefect of the doctrine office, Ratzinger in 2001 directed all cases of clergy sex abuse to be sent to his office for processing, after he saw that bishops around the world were moving rapists from parish to parish rather than punishing them under the church’s in-house canon law. During the final two years of his pontificate, Benedict defrocked nearly 400 priests for abuse.
Vatican defends Benedict after report faults abuse record | AP NewsVatican defends Benedict after report faults abuse record | AP News