The law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW, for the German acronym) accuses Pope Benedict XVI of knowing that priests abused children, at least in four cases, but failed to detain them when he was archbishop of Munich, Germany, from 1977 to 1982.
“In a total of four cases, we came to the conclusion that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct,” said attorney Martin Pusch, one of the authors of the report, according to Fox News Jan. 20.
Although Ratzinger had denied the allegations, investigators found that in two of the cases that occurred under his archbishopric, the abusers were punished by the judicial system but remained in office and were not prosecuted under canon law.
In another case, after the culprit was convicted by the German justice system, he was linked to the archdiocese of Munich with Ratzinger’s knowledge.
Likewise, another pedophile priest was referred under the jurisdiction of the same archbishop for therapy and resumed his duties, being convicted six years later for molesting a child.
The WSW report is titled: “Sexual abuse of minors and adults accused by clergy and full-time staff at the level of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945 to 2019.”
It includes the reactions of archdiocesan officials upon learning of the abuse allegations, and whether they correctly followed secular and ecclesiastical laws, according to German media outlet Deutschlandfunk.
The investigation found that sexual violence had been committed against 497 victims, most of them male. It managed to identify 235 alleged perpetrators between 1945 and 2019, among them were 173 priests.
Likewise, it maintains that in 42 cases, church leaders who are still alive have committed a fault. Additionally, that “files were destroyed on a large scale”.
It also accuses the president of the German Bishops’ Conference who held office between 1982 and 2008, Friedrich Wetter, now 93, of misconduct in 21 cases.
For his part, the acting archbishop, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, also does not come out unscathed as he is described as not having dealt sufficiently with the handling of sexual abuse cases, particularly in two specific cases.
The WSW investigation reveals the most recent of the sex abuse scandals plaguing the Catholic Church.
Former Pope Benedict XVI, 94, denied knowledge of sexual abuse in the Catholic religious order of the Legionaries of Christ, founded in Mexico by Marcial Maciel, who died in 2008 and is accused of abusing dozens of minors.
However, according to Pope Francis, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sought a sanction against Maciel.
“He (Ratzinger) went with all his files. And when he returned he told his secretary, ‘Put them in the archive. The other side won.’ But then, once he became pope, the first thing he said was ‘Bring me the files from the archive,’ and he started,” Francis recounted.
Finally, the Vatican under Benedict sanctioned Maciel with a life of penance and prayer for his crimes.
In this context, the Vatican on Jan. 20 expressed “shame and remorse” in response to the WSW report’s abuse revelations.