Tuesday. 25.06.2024

A report prompted by sexual abuse allegations in the German Catholic Church accuses Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI of misconduct on four counts during his time as archbishop of Munich and Freising between 1977 and 1982.

Benedict - known then as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - has denied any wrongdoing.

Critics have long accused Benedict of failing to act on abuse in the clergy. They have focused on the case of a priest from the western German state of North Rhine Westphalia, who allegedly abused boys repeatedly.

The priest was relocated from North Rhine Westphalia to Benedict's home state of Bavaria, where he was convicted of child abuse and is said to have repeatedly relapsed.

This case alone takes up 370 pages of the report, which is over 1,700 pages long.

At least 497 victims have been counted in the study. Most of them were male children and adolescents who were targeted between 1945 and 2019, the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) announced in Munich. It prepared the expert opinion on behalf of the archdiocese.

According to the study, there were at least 235 alleged perpetrators - among them 173 priests and nine deacons.

However, a large number of cases are thought to have gone unreported.

The law firm said 40 clergymen had returned to pastoral care despite allegations of perpetrating or having tolerated abuse.

In the case of 18 of them, this was even the case after "relevant convictions," lawyer Martin Pusch said. In total, 43 members of the clergy had failed to take appropriate action.

The current archbishop of Munich and Freising has been accused of misconduct in the report, alongside another one of his predecessors.

Church reluctant to support victims

The incumbent Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who declined an invitation to attend Thursday's presentation of the report, is accused of misconduct in relation to two suspected cases of sexual abuse.

This relates to reports made to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, according to the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), which prepared the report on behalf of the archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

In its report, the firm also accuses former archbishop of Munich and Freising Friedrich Wetter of misconduct on 21 counts.

Wetter did not deny that the sexual abuse took place but did deny any wrongdoing on his part, lawyer Martin Pusch said at a press conference in Munich.

The report painted a picture of a Catholic diocese reluctant to change or support victims.

Even in recent times, there has been no "paradigm shift" with a focus on those affected, Pusch said. "Until the recent past and partly even today, aggrieved persons encounter hurdles."

There is no active approach to the victims. Pusch spoke of a "general interest in secrecy" and the "desire to protect the institution of the church."

German abuse study accuses Pope Emeritus Benedict of misconduct