Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 08:15 am (CNA).
An official at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication responded on Wednesday to a report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising that faulted Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.
In an editorial published by Vatican News on Jan. 26, Andrea Tornielli, the dicastery’s editorial director, wrote: “The words that were used during the press conference to present the report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich, as well as the 72 pages of the document dedicated to the brief Bavarian episcopate of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, have filled the newspapers in the past week and have triggered some very strong comments.”
“Predictably, it was Ratzinger’s four and a half years at the helm of the Bavarian diocese that monopolized the attention of commentators,” he said.
The more than 1,000-page report on the handling of abuse cases in the archdiocese in southern Germany, issued on Jan. 20, accused the retired pope of mishandling four cases during his tenure as archbishop from 1977 to 1982.
In an article that was also published on the front page of the Jan. 26 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican official underlined that the pope emeritus did not evade the questions of the law firm commissioned to draw up the report.
Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to Westpfahl Spilker Wastl as it compiled the report.
“The reconstructions contained in the Munich report, which — it must be remembered — is not a judicial inquiry nor a final sentence, will help to combat pedophilia in the Church if they are not reduced to the search for easy scapegoats and summary judgments,” Tornielli wrote.
“Only by avoiding these risks will they be able to contribute to the search for justice in truth and to a collective examination of conscience on the errors of the past.”
It cannot be forgotten that as pope, Benedict XVI “promulgated very harsh norms against clerical abusers, special laws to combat pedophilia,” Tornielli said.
He pointed out that Benedict XVI was the first pope to meet several times with abuse survivors during his papal trips.
“It was Benedict XVI, even against the opinion of many self-styled ‘Ratzingerians,’ who upheld, in the midst of the storm of scandals in Ireland and Germany, the face of a penitential Church, which humbles itself in asking for forgiveness, which feels dismay, remorse, pain, compassion and closeness,” he wrote.
“It is precisely in this penitential image that the heart of Benedict’s message lies. The Church is not a business, it is not saved only by good practices or by the application, even if indispensable, of strict and effective norms.”
“The Church needs to ask for forgiveness, help and salvation from the Only One who can give them, from the Crucified One who has always been on the side of the victims and never of the executioners.”
The Munich archdiocese is expected to hold a press conference on Jan. 27 to address the study’s conclusions “after a first reading and examination.”
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, said on Jan. 24 that the 94-year-old was carefully reading the extensive report and would make a statement once he had finished examining it.
Tornielli highlighted words that Benedict XVI said “with extreme lucidity” during an in-flight press conference in May 2010.
He wrote: “Benedict XVI recognized that ‘the sufferings of the Church come precisely from the inside of the Church, from the sin that exists within the Church. We have always been aware of this, but now we do see it in a truly appalling way: that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from the external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church, and that the Church needs deeply to learn repentance again, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on one side and the need for justice on the other. Forgiveness does not replace justice.’”