The News About Pope Benedict And The Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Scandal: Not A Quiz, Just A Question…

What rationalization will be employed to excuse this?

The German law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl has concluded its detailed investigation and report on sexual abuse in Germany’s Munich diocese between 1945-2019. Among its revelations is that the now-retired previous Pope, the former Joseph Ratzinger, was responsible for enabling four cases of sexual abuse by priests in the 1970s and 1980s when he was an archbishop. The report was commissioned by the archdiocese to investigate sexual abuse. 

The law firm notes that the 94-year-old former Pope Benedict denied any wrongdoing, but the facts indicate otherwise. Most notably, Benedict denied to the investigation that he had attended a 1980 meeting about the transfer of an abusive priest to Munich. However, minutes from the meeting recorded Benedict as present. The firm concluded that Pope Benedict’s written testimony  that he wasn’t involved  was “barely credible,” and now his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, has agreed that that Benedict was indeed there.

Ganswein says that the omission “was the result of an oversight in the editing” of his testimony and “not done out of bad faith,” adding,

“He is very sorry for this mistake and asks to be excused…He is carefully reading the statements set down [ in the nearly 2,000-page report],  which fill him with shame and pain about the suffering inflicted on the victims.]

Ganswein also says Benedict will make a statement about how the error happened after he is done reading.

That should be one fascinating statement.

17 thoughts on “The News About Pope Benedict And The Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Scandal: Not A Quiz, Just A Question…

  1. Agreed, the statement will be fascinating. Could there be any personal legal liability at this point or is it just moral? I have no knowledge of German law on this point.

    I understand that a Pope ‘s infallibility is limited in relation to teaching faith and moral doctrine, qua Pope. Pre- or Post-Popehood, it seems like he is just like the rest of many enablers.

  2. Probably they will rationalize it away by saying he is too old for accountability to matter. That said, as a Catholic religious leader, I would think he’s going to have to answer for this on the other side, very soon.

  3. Yeah, um, to use FBI terminology, he lacked candor in that interview. If this is anything like the DOJ, once the fix is in, the ex-Pope will get his full pension reinstated and be given a letter that he didn’t do anything wrong while in office, a la Andrew McCabe.

  4. From one of the links:

    “Lawyer Ulrich Wastl presented a copy of the minutes of a meeting of Munich church leaders on January 15, 1980, when a decision was made to take on an abuser the report refers to as “Priest X.

    “Wastl said he was “surprised” that Benedict denied he was at the meeting, despite the minutes showing that he was. “This is something that is written down,” said Wastl, later rejecting Benedict’s denial as “hardly credible.””

    Pop Quiz: Where were you on January 15, 1980?

    In my quick re-hash in my mind of my whereabouts on January 15, 1980, I was off by an entire school grade. Instead of just getting back a few weeks earlier from a family trip to California over Christmas break, that trip would not take place for another 11 months. That is not to mention that I very briefly confused that with a family vacation to Hawaii during a Christmas break 4 years later. After quickly consulting my yearbooks from school, I realized that my memory of January 1980 was “hardly credible.”

    I would be willing to bet that, absent some kind of notes on his life, Mr. Wastl’s recollection of his whereabouts on January 15, 1980 would be “hardly credible,” as well.

    That a 94-year-old man has a faulty recollection of his presence at an event 42 years earlier should not be too surprising; that is one of the reasons why written records are kept.

    Getting that out of the way, I can confidently say that, on January 15, 1980, I was in school.

    Wait, (checks calendar) yes, that was a Tuesday; I was definitely in school! Unless I was sick that day, or it was a snow day. Definitely in school. Just don’t ask me if I had gym class that day; I don’t know if I was in gym that day. In fact, I do not recall being in gym class that day.

    Prove me wrong.


    • I was in grade school, probably fifth grade, that’s about all I could tell you. Beyond that, nada. Then again, most likely nothing significant happened that day. Significant things you shouldn’t forget as easily. We all remember the day we proposed. We all remember the births of our children. I’m betting we all remember any brushes with the justice system we had, but even that might start to fade, because it’s not something we want to remember. Then again, we are all, at least here, in our right minds and functional. At 94, I’m not sure Benedict is. One meeting, 42 years ago, is a lot to ask someone to remember.

      • “Significant things you shouldn’t forget as easily.”

        True. The question then is: how significant was this meeting in 1980?

        We think it is of the utmost importance because it is the one meeting out of all kinds of meetings that might have taken place that month that we are focusing on. I know nothing else about that meeting except that he was there. Was this a three-person meeting? Was this the only topic? Or were there 20 people there discussing nine different items of business. For all we know, this meeting addressed a “problem priest” that should be reassigned to another parish. For all we know, this was Benedict’s first and last encounter with this priest out of all the priests he was charged with overseeing. It would not surprise me if he could honestly say he had no recollection of ever addressing that priest’s transfer, even if there is a written transfer document with his signature on it.

        This example perfectly illustrates why we have statutes of limitations.


          • I had considered that take on it, Jack.

            “I don’t remember which pedophile priests we discussed that day.”

            On the other hand, I don’t know how much information filtered its way up to the top either.

            “Priest X is having problems connecting with his congregation and we think he should get a fresh start over here.”

            With hindsight and in light of all of the other information we now know as ordinary people, our inclination is to presume that their knowledge then is as perfect as ours is now.


  5. I actually thought the question (What rationalization will be employed?) had to do with his actions at that meeting, not the fact of his attendance. He has confirmed attendance, or admitted, if you prefer that slant. The rationalization? Per his private secretary, the error had “not been made out of malicious intent,” but was the “the result of an error in the editorial processing of his statement”. Maybe that’s a rationalization. Or the truth. Who knows?
    The key thing though is what transpired at that meeting, whether or not Benedict dealt properly with a priest who admitted to sexual abuse of children. Benedict says there was no decision made in that meeting about a pastoral assignment for that priest. Again, who knows?
    Perhaps it would be useful to apply our minds to a thorough look at the report from the German law firm. Hope you are more fluent in German than I.

    Click to access WSW-Gutachten-Erzdioezese-Muenchen-und-Freising-vom-20.-Januar-2022.pdf

    • The report is that the priest was transferred, as was the Church’s regular practice. If he was present, then the Pope was complicit, If he was complicit, a rationalization is needed. “Everybody did it,” perhaps. “That’s all in the past.” “Everybody makes mistakes.” “That’s not who I am.” “It wasn’t the best choice.” “Nobody’s perfect.” The Saint’s Excuse?

  6. At the meeting in question, according to Benedict (through his private secretary), the priest was made a chaplain in the Diocese of Munich for the purpose of undergoing therapy. There’s no need for a rationalization for that.
    Benedict also said that there was no decision at that meeting regarding pastoral duties. If that is the case, then the question becomes why wasn’t Hullerman banned from pastoral duties at that meeting. A rationalization might be employed to explain that, perhaps the perfection diversion.
    The Saint’s Excuse might apply to more than one action by John Paul; clearly he was not always a saint.
    In fact, a version of the Saint’s Excuse was applied regarding the cover-up of the abuse before the extent became widespread knowledge. Unfortunately I don’t know who to attribute it to, but it was essentially that protection of the Church was more important than letting the truth come out.

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