SNAP NZ wants Benedict prosecuted if evidence found

SNAP Aotearoa New Zealand is calling for Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI to be prosecuted if evidence proves he obstructed clerical child abuse complaints when he was Archbishop of Munich and Freising.

Christopher Longhurst, who coordinates Aotearoa New Zealand’s Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) was commenting on the likelihood of Benedict’s knowledge of instances of abuse.

Longhurst is also a respected Dogmatic Theologian at the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ theological college.

He posited his question in mid-January after German law firm Westpfal, Spilker, Wastl released a report on the handling of sexual abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

The independent report found between 1945-2019 at least 235 priests sexually abused “497 known victims”.

On Tuesday 8 February, the Vatican released a “confessional” letter from Benedict in response to the charges made against him.

In his letter, he asks for forgiveness for any “grievous faults” in his handling of clergy sex abuse cases when he was archbishop of Munich. He admitted to no personal or specific wrongdoing, however.

He does take personal responsibility and asks forgiveness for “the abuses and the errors” that occurred on his watch when he held different positions of great responsibility in the church, not just in Munich but also in Rome.

“I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church,” he noted.

“All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate. Each individual case of sexual abuse is appalling and irreparable.

“The victims of sexual abuse have my deepest sympathy and I feel great sorrow for each individual case”.

Ironically, among those accused of failing in their duty of care as leaders is Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who commissioned the independent report. Since 2017 he has twice failed to inform the Vatican of abuse allegations.

Benedict, as the former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the archdiocese from 1977 to 1982. The lawyers found he did not act appropriately in four sexual abuse cases after having been made aware of them.

Soon after the report’s release, Benedict sent 82 pages of observations to its authors, strongly denying any allegations of covering up cases.

A couple days later, he wrote to the authors again, apologising for mistakenly saying he did not attend a disputed ordinariate meeting in 1980 regarding the Munich assignment of a priest accused of abuse. He had attended the meeting, he said.

“Full responsibility” for the assignment was taken by former vicar general Father Gerhard Gruber in 2010.

Eleven days after the independent report’s release, German Bishops’ Conference president Bishop Georg Bätzing said Benedict should apologise for his role in the Church sex abuse scandal and accept faults in the alleged cover-up of cases.


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