Benedict Admits Being at Meeting About Priest Accused of Abuse

ROME — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said on Monday he attended a meeting where the case of a priest accused of paedophilia was discussed, contradicting an earlier statement he made to a law firm German investigating allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

On Monday, Benedict XVI’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, released a statement saying the former pontiff’s previous claim that he had not attended the meeting of the law firm conducting the investigation , Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, was “objectively false”.

Last week, the law firm released a report that found, among other things, that Benedict XVI mishandled four cases in which priests were accused of sexual abuse, allegations that threaten to tarnish the legacy of the former pontiff.

The firm was investigating how allegations of sexual abuse by clerics were handled in the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freiburg between 1945 and 2019. Benedict XVI – then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – was archbishop of the diocese and responsible for its clerics between 1977 and 1982. .

At a press conference presenting the report’s findings on Thursday, a representative of the law firm said that Benedict XVI had denied participating in a meeting in which the case of a priest who had been sent to Munich from the diocese of Essen to receive treatment there had been discussed. , even though the minutes of the meeting indicated that he was present.

Reading the findings of the report, the retired pope said he had been present at the meeting in question “contrary to what was said,” Bishop Gänswein said in his statement. He added that Benedict XVI’s previous claim was not made in “bad faith” but was the result of an error in the editing process of an 82-page statement provided to lawyers.

In Monday’s statement, Benedict, 94, apologized for the error but maintained that, although he was present at this meeting, “the pastoral mission of the priest in question was not decided during of this meeting”.

In the initial statement responding to questions from the lawyers in charge of the investigation, Benedict XVI said that he was not aware that the priest in question had been accused of sexual abuse of minors and that the documents requesting his transfer to Munich did not mentioned only health problems. which required psychotherapy. The priest was described as “very gifted” and could have been assigned to different tasks, Benedict XVI said.

Essen’s transfer request mentioned that the priest had been “immediately removed from pastoral care” due to a report from the parish community, but did not provide further details or mention suspicions of sexual abuse. Benedict added that he had no recollection of being told what role the new priest would play.

The priest was indeed allowed to resume pastoral work a few weeks after his arrival in Munich and, in 1986, he was found guilty of sexually abusing minors in the diocese of Essen and sentenced to an 18-month sentence. suspended sentence and five years probation. When news of the case made headlines in 2010, the archdiocese said the decision to let the priest return to office was made by Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy in Munich.

Archbishop Gänswein said Benedict XVI had read the report, which is some 1,900 pages, since he received it on Thursday, but would “take time to read it completely” due to “the age and health” of Benedict XVI. He said that Benedict XVI would comment on the report once he had finished reading it.

Bishop Gänswein said the contents of the report filled Benedict with “shame and pain” for the suffering caused to the victims, and expressed his closeness to his home dioceses, “especially with the victims who had to endure abuse. and indifference”.