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Probe finds ex-pope Benedict failed to act in German abuse cases

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The report by Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), which was commissioned by the church to carry out the probe

Former pope Benedict XVI knowingly failed to take action to stop four priests accused of child sex abuse in Munich in the 1980s, according to a damning independent report published Thursday that risks shattering the ex-pontiff’s reputation.

Benedict — who was the archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982 — has “strictly” denied any responsibility, said lawyer Martin Pusch of Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), which was commissioned by the church to carry out the probe.

Benedict, 94 — whose civilian name is Josef Ratzinger — in 2013 became the first pope to step down from the role in 600 years and now lives a secluded life in a former convent inside the grounds of the Vatican.

Two of the cases where Benedict allegedly failed to act involved clergymen who had committed several proven acts of abuse but were allowed to continue with pastoral duties, Pusch said. 

In one case, a now notorious paedophile priest named Peter Hullermann was transferred to Munich from Essen in western Germany where he had been accused of abusing an 11-year-old boy.

– ‘Defensive attitude’ –

The Munich report, which examined the years 1945 to 2019, found indications of sexually abusive behaviour in 235 people it investigated, including 173 priests. 

Marx had last year offered Pope Francis his resignation over the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in its handling of child sex abuse scandals.

– ‘Frightening insights’ –

It called on Benedict to “face up to his ecclesiastical and moral responsibility instead of making more and more denials that are not very credible”.

In Germany, a string of reports in recent years have exposed widespread abuse of children by clergymen.

However, the real number of victims is thought to be much higher.

The abuse scandal has thwarted the Catholic Church’s efforts to spearhead broad reforms in Germany.

Payouts for victims of abuse were increased in 2020 to up to 50,000 euros ($56,700), from around 5,000 euros previously, but campaigners say the sum is still inadequate.

It was “impressive and very moving” to see the lawyers “take apart this edifice of lies that has been erected to protect Benedict XVI”, he said.



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