Archdiocese of Munich Abuse Report: Accusations against Benedict XVI Dismissed

The statement in support of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is given by four experts in the fields of Canon Law, Ecclesiastical Law, and the Right to Freedom of Expression.  

Newsroom (11/02/2022 9:55, Gaudium Press) A long-awaited report on clerical sexual abuse in Germany’s Munich Diocese was released in January. The report claims that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI knew about these abuses and covered them up, though the Pope Emeritus has always adamantly denied knowing about cases of sexual abuse within the church during that time. Supporters of Benedict XVI have come forth to show that indeed the former Pontiff had no knowledge of these crimes.

Four experts in the fields of Canon Law, Ecclesiastical Law, and Right to Freedom of Expression – Stefan Mückl, Helmuth Pree, Stefan Korta, and Carsten Brennecke – have come out in support of Benedict XVI. In their statement, they affirm the falsity of the accusations made against Benedict XVI, which were published in the Report on Sexual Abuse of the Archdiocese of Munich, and issued by the law firm Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl.

Below is their statement:

Analysis of the facts by Benedict XVI’s supporters:

Prof. Dr. Stefan Mückl – Rome (Canon Law)

Prof. Dr. Helmuth Pree – “Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität” Munich (Canon Law)

Dr. Stefan Korta – Buchloe (Church Law)

Attorney Dr. Carsten Brennecke – Cologne (Right to Freedom of Speech)

The report on the abuses in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising states that:

Joseph Ratzinger, contrary to what was stated in the memorandum drafted in response to the experts, was present at the Ordinariate meeting of 15 January 1980, at which ‘Priest X’ (a priest proven to be guilty of abuse) was discussed.”

It was claimed that Cardinal Ratzinger had employed this priest in pastoral activity, even though he knew of the abuses committed by him, and had thus covered them up.

This does not correspond to the truth, according to our verifications:

Joseph Ratzinger was not aware that ‘Priest X’ was an abuser, nor that he was included in the pastoral activity.

The minutes show that at the Ordinariate meeting of 15 January 1980 it was not decided to include ‘Priest X’ in pastoral activity. Those minutes also show that the fact that the priest had committed sexual abuse was not discussed at the meeting in question.

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Instead, the meeting was exclusively about the accommodation of the young ‘Priest X’ in Munich, because he was to undergo therapy there. This request was granted, although, during the meeting, the reason for the therapy was not mentioned.

Therefore, it was not decided at the meeting to hire the abuser to carry out pastoral work.

In the abuse report of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, it is indicated that:

‘As for his presence at the Ordinariate meeting of 15 January 1980, Benedict XVI would have lied and deliberately committed perjury.’

But this is not true:

The statement in Benedict XVI’s memoirs that he did not attend the Ordinariate meeting of 15 January 1980 is indeed incorrect. However, Benedict XVI did not intentionally lie or make a false statement:

In drafting the memoirs regarding the meeting, Benedict XVI was supported by a group of collaborators, consisting of the lawyer Dr. Carsten Brennecke (Cologne) and others: for Ecclesiastical Law, Prof. Dr. Stefan Mückl (Rome) – who at Benedict’s request examined the documents – Prof. Dr. Helmuth Pree and Dr. Stefan Korta. The collaborators were called in because Benedict XVI alone could not possibly analyze the enormous number of questions in a short space of time, and because the law firm in charge of the expert report asked questions that referred to Canon Law, thus requiring a Canon Law consultancy.

However, only Professor Mückl, and no other collaborator, was allowed to see the electronic version of the documents and was not granted the possibility to save, print, or photocopy documents. After Prof. Mückl had examined the digital documents (8,000 pages) and analyzed them, Dr. Korta performed a further processing step and inadvertently made a transcription error. Dr. Korta erroneously noted that Joseph Ratzinger was not present at the Ordinariate meeting of 15 January 1980. The collaborators missed this erroneous notation and relied on the false information accidentally introduced, and so did not expressly ask Benedict XVI whether or not he was present at that meeting. Based on the erroneous transcription of the minutes, it was assumed that Joseph Ratzinger had not been present. Benedict XVI, because of the great haste with which he was required to verify his memory, given the deadlines imposed by the experts, did not realize the error and relied on the supposed transcription of his absence.

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This error of transcription cannot be imputed to Benedict XVI as a conscious false statement or “lie”.

Moreover, it would make no sense for Benedict XVI to intentionally deny his presence at the meeting: in fact, the minutes of the meeting include statements by Joseph Ratzinger, providing evidence that he had indeed been there. And, in 2010, several press articles reported – and never denied – the presence of Cardinal Ratzinger at that meeting. Likewise, in a biography of Benedict XVI, published in 2020, it is stated: “As bishop, during a meeting of the Ordinariate in 1980, he only accepted that the priest in question could go to Munich for psychotherapy” (Peter Seewald, Benedikt XVI., Droemer Verlag 2020, p.938).

The experts’ report further accuses Benedict XVI of misconduct in three other cases and alleges that in these cases as well, he knew that the priests were abusers.

This does not correspond to the truth, according to our verifications:

In none of the cases analyzed by the expert report did Joseph Ratzinger have knowledge of the sexual abuses committed or of the suspected sexual abuses committed by priests. The expert report provides no evidence to the contrary.

Regarding the case of Priest X, which was publicly discussed at the 1980 Ordinariate meeting about the accommodation that should be given to him for therapy, the same expert – at the press conference of 20.01.2022 on the occasion of the presentation of the report on the abuses – stated that there is no evidence that Joseph Ratzinger had knowledge of it. In response to a question from a journalist whether the experts were able to prove that Joseph Ratzinger had knowledge that Priest X had committed sexual abuse, the expert clearly stated that there is no evidence that Joseph Ratzinger had knowledge. It was only in the subjective opinion of the experts that it would be “more likely” that Joseph Ratzinger knew.

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The press conference is available at the following link:

At minute 2:03:46, one can find the journalist’s question: “My question still refers to the case of Priest X. Can the law firm prove that Cardinal Ratzinger knew then that Priest X was an abuser? What does ‘most likely’ mean in this context? […]”

The expert from the law firm answers: “[…] ‘Most likely’ means that we assume with greater probability. […]”.

The expert report contains no evidence of any allegation of misconduct or conspiracy in any cover-up.

As archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of acts of abuse.

The report also says that:

In his memoirs, Benedict XVI is alleged to have played down the seriousness of acts of exhibitionism. As proof of this assertion, the following indication contained in the memoirs is shown: “Parish Priest X was pointed out as an exhibitionist, but not as an abuser in the proper sense“.

Once again, this does not correspond to the truth:

In his memoirs, Benedict XVI did not minimize the exhibitionist behavior, but expressly condemned it. The phrase used as supposed evidence of minimizing exhibitionism is taken out of context.

In fact, in his memoirs, Benedict XVI says with the utmost clarity that abuses, including exhibitionism, are “terrible,” “sinful,” “morally reprehensible” and “irreparable.” In the Canon Law evaluation of the fact, inserted in the memory by us, his supporters, and expressed according to our judgment, it was intended only to recall that according to Canon Law then in force, exhibitionism was not a crime in the strict sense, since the relevant penal norm did not include, in the case in question, behaviour of this kind.

Thus, Benedict XVI’s memoir did not minimize exhibitionism, but clearly and explicitly condemned it.

This fact-check was written by the contributors in German. In case of linguistic discrepancies during translation, the German version will prevail.

With information from infocatolica.

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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