Sexual abuse victims lament lack of full apology from former pope Benedict

Former pope acknowledged errors in his handling of sexual abuse cases in letter

Former pope Benedict
Former pope Benedict was reflecting on a long life approaching its end. Photograph: Gregorio Borgia/AP

Victims have lamented a lost opportunity for healing as former pope Benedict has acknowledged errors in his handling of sexual abuse and asked for forgiveness but his lawyers argued he was not directly to blame.

A letter by Benedict and a three-page legal addendum was issued by the Vatican on Tuesday after a report last month on abuse in the Munich archdiocese from 1945 to 2019 which included the alleged failure by then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to take action in four cases when he was archbishop between 1977 and 1982.

“I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate,” he wrote in the letter, his first personal response to the report.

Noting that he had asked for forgiveness for the church in his meetings with abuse survivors, Benedict, 94, wrote: “I have come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grievous fault whenever we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decisiveness and responsibility, as too often happened and continues to happen … once again I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness.”

A separate analysis by four legal experts he commissioned, however, disputed the specific allegations against the former pope, saying investigators had mischaracterised actions and ignored facts.

SNAP, a victims’ group, said Benedict had squandered an opportunity for a “cleansing” that could have helped healing. “Despite evidence from secular authorities … the former pope cannot do the simple thing and offer full accounting and apology,” a SNAP spokesperson said.

While his lawyers’ rebuttal was sharp, detailed and contentious, Benedict’s German letter was deeply personal and couched in religious terms as he reflected on a long life approaching its end.

“Quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life,” he wrote.

Benedict, who resigned in 2013, also thanked pope Francis for the “confidence, support and prayer … personally expressed to me”. He did not elaborate.

The three-page addendum, called “Analysis of the Facts by the collaborators of Benedict XVI”, was written by three canon (church) lawyers and one civil lawyer.

Last month’s report on abuse in Munich, which identified nearly 500 abuse victims over nearly 75 years, was written by a German legal firm commissioned by the archdiocese.

Source: Sexual abuse victims lament lack of full apology from former pope Benedict | Catholicism | The Guardian

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