Originally, the Pope Emeritus said he was not at a 1980 meeting in which an abusive priest was discussed, but he has now amended that statement.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was directly implicated by the report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising published on January 20, 2022, announced that he wished to correct his initial deposition, according to a report in the German news agency KNA on January 24, picked up by Vatican News. The Pope Emeritus was the head of the archdiocese from 1977 to 1982.
Contrary to his initial testimony, the 94-year-old acknowledges having participated in a meeting in 1980 during which the reception in the archdiocese of a priest accused of pedophilia was discussed. He claims that his error in the deposition was the “consequence of an oversight in the editorial processing of his statement.”
In his 82-page testimony, published as an appendix to the report, Benedict XVI denied having participated in the meeting of January 15, 1980, as archbishop. This statement did not convince the experts from the Munich law firm Westpfahl Spiker Wastl, who considered it “not very credible.”
The report cited several archival documents, in particular minutes of the meeting, in which his name appeared. The document included on the agenda a discussion in which the cardinal reported on “the meeting Pope John Paul II had on December 28, 1979, with some German bishops on the case of Professor [Hans] Küng,” a theologian who had fallen from grace in the eyes of Rome at that time.
At this meeting, “no decision was taken to give the priest concerned a pastoral commitment,” the pontiff emeritus said through his secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein. On the contrary, the priest’s request “to be housed in Munich during his therapeutic treatment” was simply granted. The priest was to be medically treated for sexual abuse of minors.
More detailed statement to come
In his statement, published by Vatican News, Benedict XVI assures that his mistake was “not due to a bad intention,” says he is “very sorry,” and asks the experts to excuse him.
The former pope will make a detailed statement at a later date, his secretary said. He will explain in detail what was said at the meeting in January 1980.
The Pope Emeritus explained that the complete examination of the nearly 1,900-page report still requires time, especially because of his age and health. His reading of it so far, he said, has filled him “with shame and pain for the suffering” inflicted on the victims.