After an exchange of letters became known about the convicted repeat offender Priest H., a discussion about the role of the late Pope Benedict in the abuse scandal of the Catholic Church flared up again. With regard to the letters between the Archdiocese of Munich and Joseph Ratzinger, the "Eckiger Tisch" initiative for those affected called for the release of files from the heart of the Catholic Church.
Correctiv and Bayerischer Rundfunk reported on the correspondence on Tuesday. As confirmed by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, in 1986 Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave the scandal priest permission, in a letter he signed himself, to celebrate Holy Mass with grape juice instead of wine.
The archdiocese had previously asked for this special permit and justified the request with the fact that the priest had committed crimes under paragraphs 174, 176 and 184 of the Criminal Code (StGB) under the influence of alcohol. The paragraphs deal with the sexual abuse of persons under protection, the sexual abuse of children and the dissemination of pornographic content.
Information on thousands of cases in the Vatican?
"The find of letters also shows how important it would be to evaluate files stored in the Vatican about thousands of cases of abuse from all over the world," said the spokesman for the initiative for those affected, Matthias Katsch, of the German Press Agency.
But the Church in Germany, as in the Vatican, is resisting external access and independent investigations. "They suspect, no, they know, that there is evidence of the guilt and responsibility of their bishops and provincials and popes," said Katsch.
Ratzinger, the later Pope Benedict XVI, who died on New Year's Eve last year, complied with this request, as a spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed: "There is this letter in reply, which was signed by Ratzinger." The convicted perpetrator became a pastor in Garching an der Alz after 1986 - and abused children there again. He was employed in the community until 2008, but has since been suspended.
The sourdough initiative, which was then formed in Garching and which is committed to dealing with the abuse in the Catholic Church, called on Correctiv on Wednesday for a state processing commission.
Did Ratzinger know more than he admitted?
Ratzinger biographer Peter Seewald sees no reason to reassess the role that Ratzinger played in dealing with allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church. Finally, in his statement that he knew nothing about the previous life of the scandal priest H., Ratzinger referred to a 1980 Ordinariate meeting. "In 1986 the situation was different." Canon lawyer Thomas Schüller, on the other hand, sees the letter as proof that Ratzinger knew more than he publicly admitted.
A year ago, a report by the Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) law firm on sexual violence in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising caused a stir because Ratzinger was accused of personal misconduct in several cases. The H. case was the most prominent in the report. The fact that Ratzinger later had to correct his statements that he, as Archbishop of Munich, did not take part in a meeting dealing with the repeated offender who was transferred, made headlines worldwide and is likely to have permanently damaged the memory of the Bavarian Pope.
The conclusion of the "Eckige Tisch" is also devastating: "Ratzinger was in every respect a representative of the system to which thousands of children and young people all over the world fell victim," summed up Katsch. Ratzinger always showed more empathy for the perpetrators than for the victims. "He put the best interests of the church and its abusive priests above the best interests of children. In this case, as in many others."
Destroyed your own reputation?
The spokesman for the reform movement "We are Church", Christian Weisner, said: "The fact that Ratzinger tried a year ago to appear ignorant at first, so he has his reputation as a "collaborator of the truth" - that was his motto as bishop - self destroyed." Weisner emphasized: "There are many indications that it was common practice at the time, and perhaps still is, to repeatedly appoint delinquent priests and thus give them the opportunity to commit further crimes. And it is revealing that Ratzinger, even as a cardinal, was in Rome has acted in this manner."
The law firm, which is representing Ratzinger - or his as yet unknown legal successor - in proceedings before the Traunstein District Court in this matter, did not want to comment on the correspondence. One of the victims had sued H. and the Archdiocese of Munich and the former Cardinals Ratzinger and Friedrich Wetter for cover-up allegations. The hearing is scheduled to take place on March 28th. However, the proceedings against Ratzinger are suspended until it is clear who will be his legal successor.