Wednesday, May 18

Germany. What did he know… Did former Pope Benedict XVI cover up for a pedophile priest?

Was the former Pope Benedict XVI aware of the actions of a vicar from North Rhine-Westphalia, Peter Hullermann, accused of serious sexual abuse of minors?

The question will be at the center of a long-awaited report this Thursday on pedophilia in the Catholic Church in Germany.

The objective of this expertise led by a Munich law firm, aims above all to identify cases of sexual abuse against children between 1945 and 2019 in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. The authors also intend to point the responsibility of ecclesiastics who turned a blind eye to the attacks, thus allowing them to reproduce for decades.

Among the high dignitaries of this archdiocese are the current Cardinal Reinhard Marx, representative of the report, his predecessor Friedrich Wetter, and Joseph Ratzinger, future Pope Benedict XVI, who directed it between 1977 and 1982. a case considered symptomatic of the serious failures of the Church in the treatment of cases of pedophilia.

Expected explanations

In 1980, a vicar from North Rhine-Westphalia, Peter Hullermann, was accused of serious sexual abuse of minors. The Church “solves” the problem by transferring it. He arrives in Bavaria, where, despite psychiatric therapy, he continues the abuse. In 1986, a court sentenced him to a suspended prison sentence. But he is again transferred to another Bavarian town where he officiates as a priest for about twenty years, and would then have reoffended. In 2010, under the pontificate of Benedict XVI, he was finally forced to retire. That same year, the first major revelations of pedophilia broke out in the Catholic Church in Germany.

The Hullermann case plays a central role in the report of the lawyers of the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW). Vicar General Gerhard Gruber took responsibility and said in 2010 that Benedict XVI had no knowledge of the priest’s past. Affirmation that his private secretary Georg Gänswein recently reiterated to the weekly Die Zeit.

The 94-year-old pontiff emeritus, who has lived in seclusion in the Vatican since his resignation in 2013, sent the lawyers a detailed 82-page position paper on the subject, the content of which is eagerly awaited. The reforming group of lay people and theologians “Wir sind Kirche” hopes for a lot.

A confession from Ratzinger (…) would be a necessary signal of humility

“An admission by Ratzinger to have been personally and through his office an accomplice in the suffering of many young people (…) would be a necessary signal of humility, as well as an example for many bishops and leaders”, judge- he.

The Munich investigation constitutes a new chapter in the elucidation of acts of pedophilia affecting the Catholic Church throughout the world. In Germany, it remains the first confession, even if its faithful flee it en masse: they fell to 22.2 million in 2020, a reduction of 400,000 compared to 2019 and 2.5 million compared to 2010.

Four years ago, a report revealed that at least 3,677 children had been sexually abused since 1946 by more than a thousand German clergy. Most have never been sanctioned. Since then, each diocese has commissioned local surveys.

After an official apology, the Church has set compensation – deemed insufficient by the victims – of up to 50,000 euros per person, against 5,000 euros so far.

“Hollow Words”

On Tuesday, Matthias Katsch, who heads the victims’ association Eckiger Tisch, again demanded “appropriate compensation” instead of “empty words”.

It remains to be seen what consequences the revelations of the Munich lawyers will have. Cardinal Marx must officially react to it on January 27.

Last year, the Archbishop of Hamburg Stefan Hesse, implicated for negligence in the treatment of cases of pedophilia in the diocese of Cologne where he had officiated, had submitted his resignation to Pope Francis, who refused it. Bishop Marx had also resigned in June to “share responsibility for the catastrophe of sexual abuse committed”. There too, the pope declined.

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