Shortly before the trial of the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church before the district court in Traunstein, it is still unclear how the most prominent defendant in the trial will be dealt with. The crucial question: Who inherits from the Pope?
The plaintiff's attorney speaks out against separating the proceedings against Pope Benedict XVI, who died on New Year's Eve. from: "Cardinal Ratzinger was and is the "icon" of the process," said lawyer Andreas Schulz of the German Press Agency in Munich. "All defendants belong together, so separation would not be an option." Correctiv and Bayerischer Rundfunk had previously reported on it.
Unclear legal succession
On March 28, the district court in Traunstein plans to hear the civil lawsuit brought by a victim of abuse against the alleged perpetrator and representatives of the Catholic Church. This so-called declaratory action is directed against four suspects: the repeat offender Priest H., the Archdiocese and the former Archbishops Cardinal Friedrich Wetter and Ratzinger. After the death of the Pope Emeritus, however, the proceedings against him are suspended until it is clear who will be his legal successor.
According to his longtime private secretary and executor Georg Gänswein, Pope Benedict has not appointed an heir - that's why "the legal succession comes into play," he said in the dpa interview. "This is based on Vatican-Italian law. The letters to the possible heirs are in progress. The answers from the possible heirs are still pending."
After Ratzinger became pope, the media reported on his cousins, some of whom are said to live in Australia. Gänswein did not say whether these relatives are the possible heirs. Should the possible legal successors refuse the inheritance, it would probably fall to the Vatican. The law firm commissioned by Ratzinger in the process did not respond to a corresponding request.
If the question of inheritance cannot be clarified before the trial begins on March 28, Schulz advocates adjournment: "Waiting is better than separating." However, the court would have to decide on such an adjournment, which initially left a corresponding request unanswered.
Priest transferred after sexual abuse
The case is about the repeat offender Priest H., who was convicted of sexual abuse and who, after allegations against him, was transferred to Bavaria from North Rhine-Westphalia in the 1980s - at the time when Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich and Freising.
In his new diocese, the priest was then convicted of sexual abuse in Grafing near Munich and transferred again - to Garching an der Alz, where nobody knew about his actions and where the priest relapsed again.
The Traunstein plaintiff states that he was abused by the man in Garching and also sees responsibility for representatives of the diocese, whom he accuses of covering up cases and thus making further crimes possible in the first place.
The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising does not want to refer to the statute of limitations in the proceedings and has already announced that it will pay compensation for pain and suffering and possibly also damages. So far, the church had primarily paid voluntary recognition services to those affected by abuse.
The canon lawyer Thomas Schüller now sees a wave of lawsuits rolling towards the church: "Many victims of sexualized violence would now take the state lawsuit," he said. Should this happen, he sees poorer dioceses in particular in financial distress.