A distraught Pope Francis again pledged justice for the victims of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church, following the devastating report which revealed that former Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI failed to act in several cases of abuse, almost a cover-up, while a bishop in Germany.
The report refers to sexual abuse cases by members of the clergy in Munich from 1945 to 2019, where Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop between 1977 and 1985
Speaking from the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican to members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Francis said the Church with God's help, is carrying out the commitment with firm determination to do justice to the victims of abuse by its members, complying with particular attention and rigor the canonical legislation
Ratzinger headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for over twenty years before being elected pope in 2005.
Francis underlined the advances which recent reforms to canon law have meant, which hold abusers accountable but also pointed out that this alone cannot be enough to curb the phenomenon, and is an important step towards restoring justice and charging perpetrators
Although the Argentine born pope did not specifically mention the investigation report from the law firm Westphal Spilker Wastl (WSW), it exposed the attitude of Ratzinger while in Munich.
In a total of four cases, we reached a consensus there was a failure to act, said attorney Martin Pusch, who presented the WSW report. Two cases involve priests who were legally charged with child abuse and were allowed to continue their work in the church as pastors.
The church also took no official disciplinary action against the clergymen, and it appears that no care was given to their victims.
Another case involved notorious child abuser Peter H., who was transferred from Essen in western Germany to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising in 1980, while Benedict, then Archbishop.
Current Munich Archbishop Reinhard Marx has also been accused of failing to intervene in two cases of abuse.
The WSW report found at least 497 cases of abuse at the Archdiocese of Munich between the years 1945 and 2019, and mostly involved young males.
The Vatican on Thursday expressed shame and remorse in response to the abuse revelations in the report.
The report is the latest child abuse scandal to impact the Catholic Church. Earlier this week, the 94-year-old former pope denied he knew about allegations of sex abuse at the Mexico-based Legionaries of Christ Catholic religious order. Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Maciel, who died in 2008, has been accused of abusing dozens of minors.
Matthias Katsch, head of the organization Eckiger Tisch (Square Table), which represents people affected by sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, said the report's findings represented a shaking moment for the whole church.
I think it was a shaking moment for the whole church, not only the church in Bavaria and in Germany, because the worldwide abuse scandal, which has evolved in the last 30 years or so, has finally reached the head of the pyramid with the pope, the former Pope Benedict.
Katsch said Benedict was caught with a lie. He knew about the perpetrator, about Peter H., and he, personally, is responsible, Katsch said of Benedict.
Katsch also said the Catholic Church was not getting better at dealing with sexual abuse allegations.
Meanwhile public prosecutors in Munich announced on Friday that they were opening investigations in 42 cases of alleged misconduct by leading members of the Catholic Church in Germany.