Benedict XVI issues apology, explanation on abuse
February 08, 2022
Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI has released a statement of personal apology for “a most grievous fault” in the handling of sex-abuse cases, while thanking the people who have defended him against charges that he knowingly ignored abuse complaints—a charge he still denies.
Speaking of his meetings with abuse victims, the former Pontiff says:
I have come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grievous fault whenever we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decisiveness and responsibility, as too often happened and continues to happen. As in those meetings, once again I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness.
An AP report on the statement quickly found fault with the former Pope’s response, saying: “Benedict’s lack of a personal apology or admission of guilt immediately riled abuse survivors.” But an honest reading of the quotation above leaves no question that Benedict is making a personal apology.
“Quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life,” writes the retired Pope, who is approaching his 95th birthday. He expresses sorrow and regret that he, like many other Church leaders, did not act decisively enough. It is a “grievous fault,” he says, when “we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decisiveness and responsibility, as too often happened and continues to happen.”
In the same statement, however, Benedict XVI defends himself against the accusation that he misled investigators in an 82-page document about his tenure as Archbishop of Munich. That document, “which I would have been unable to write by myself,” was prepared by lawyers on his behalf, and the authors made a mistaken assumption that then-Cardinal Ratzinger had not been present at a meeting that discussed the case of an accused priest. In fact he had attended the meeting—as he later clarified—but the meeting did not include any discussion of returning that priest to active ministry.
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- Letter of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI regarding the report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising (Vatican press office)
- Retired pope asks pardon for abuse, but admits no wrongdoing (AP)
- Benedict flouts bishops’ playbook in facing cover-up charges on abuse (Crux)
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