Retired pope criticized for report on sexual abuse in German diocesan.

BERLIN (AP), -- Thursday's long-awaited report about sexual abuse in Germany's Munich diocese criticized Pope Benedict XVI's handling four cases during his time as archbishop of the 1970s and 1980s. According to the law firm that prepared the report, Benedict strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Retired pope criticized for report on sexual abuse in German diocesan.

These findings will be used to reaffirm Benedict's reputation for being a bad person, more than ten years after the first (and until Thursday only) case involving him was publicized.

Nearly two years ago, the archdiocese requested a report from Westpfahl Spilker Wastl. The mandate was to investigate allegations of abuse between 1945-1999 and whether church officials responded correctly. The law firm reviewed church files and interviewed witnesses.

The results weren't known to church officials before publication. Two cases were attributed to Cardinal Reinhard Marx (the current archbishop, a prominent reformist ally for Pope Francis)

Marx's predecessors included the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He served in Munich between 1977 and 1982, before becoming head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Later, he was elected pope. For the report, Benedict provided extensive written testimony.

Martin Pusch, one of the report's author, stated that "In a total four cases, we came up with the conclusion that Cardinal Ratzinger, the then-archbishop of Rome, can be charged with misconduct."

He said that two of the cases involved perpetrators who he claimed were causing offense while he was president. They were both punished by the judiciary but kept in pastoral work with no restrictions on their activities. Canon law did not allow for any action to be taken.

A third case involved a cleric who was convicted in a foreign court. He was placed into service by the Munich archdiocese. The circumstances support Ratzinger knowing of the past history of the priest, Pusch stated.

The church abuse scandal in Germany erupted in 2010 and the media focused on another case: the case of a priest who was a pedophile. Ratzinger approved his transfer to Munich in 1980 for therapy.

The priest was allowed back to pastoral work. This decision was made, according to the church, by a lower-ranking official and without consulting the archbishop. The priest was sentenced to a suspended sentence in 1986 for molesting a boy.

Ulrich Wastl was another author of the report. He said Benedict's claim that he didn't attend a 1980 meeting where the priest's transfer from Munich was discussed lacks credibility.

"In all instances, Emeritus Pontiff Benedict XVI strictly denied any wrongdoing," Pusch stated. The retired pontiff cited largely "lackof knowledge of the facts" and "a lack of relevance according to canon law". However, he said that it was sometimes difficult to reconcile the claims of ignorance with the contents of church records.

Eckiger Tisch's Matthias Katsch, who represents survivors of clergy abuse, described a "historical" moment. He said that the building of lies, which was built here in Munich to defend Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope Benedict, has collapsed today.

"This is not surprising news to us," SNAP, a network that represents survivors of clergy sexual abuse, stated in a statement. "Sadly, these unsavoury actions and inactions are seen years later after long silence from church officials and painful memories kept by victims."

Monsignor Georg Gaenswein was Benedict's longtime secretary. He said that the retired pope had not yet read the report, but would do so in the coming days.

Gaenswein stated in a statement that "the emeritus pope," as he had done many times over the years of his pontificate expressed his anger and shame at the abuses of minors by clerics and expressed his personal closeness to all the victims and his prayers, some of whom he met on his apostolic travels. Benedict retired in 2013.

Matteo Bruni, a Vatican spokesperson, said that the Holy See would not comment until it has read the entire report and had the opportunity to examine the contents.

While Benedict's legacy as pope was already influenced by the 2010 global eruption of the sex abuse scandal in 2010, he was also responsible for changing the Vatican's approach.

After his stay in Munich, Benedict was able to see the full extent of the problem firsthand when he assumed responsibility for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2002. After realizing that bishops all over the world were not punishing abusers, but simply moving them from one parish to another where they could rape again, Ratzinger made the revolutionary decision to take responsibility for those cases in 2001.

Nearly 1,900 pages are included in the report, with annexes including Benedict's written responses. These have been redacted to blackout names.

It identifies at least 497 victims of abuse over the years and at most 235 suspected perpetrators. However, the authors stated that there may have been many more.

From 1982 to 2008, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter was Munich's archbishop. He was criticized for his handling of 21 cases. Pusch stated that he also denied wrongdoing.

Marx made an extraordinary gesture last January and offered to resign from the Catholic Church's "catastrophic mishandling" of clergy sexual abuse cases. He stated that the scandals had led to the church's "death end."

Francis quickly rejected the offer, but stated that reform was needed and that each bishop must accept responsibility for the "catastrophe” of the abuse crisis.

Marx did not mention Benedict's role in the incident, but he offered an apology.

He said, "As archbishop de Freising and Munich, I feel that my responsibility has been shared for the church's development over recent decades." He said, "So, as the serving archbishop of Munich and Freising, I am sorry for the suffering caused to people" by church institutions.

Marx said that the church officials would consider "results as well as further consequences" when they review the report. He hopes to have initial conclusions next week. Marx stated that dealing with abuse must be done in conjunction with reforming the church.

A separate, church-commissioned report in 2018 concluded that at most 3,677 victims were abused in Germany by clergy between 1946 and 2014. Nearly a third of victims were altar boys and more than half were under 13.

The German church has been shaken by recent turmoil in the Cologne archdiocese's handling of allegations of abuse. Last year, a report found that the Hamburg archbishop, a former Cologne official, had failed to fulfill his duties in dealing with abuse allegations in multiple cases. Francis however rejected Francis' resignation offer.

The report cleared Cologne's archbishop from wrongdoing. However, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s handling of this issue angered many Catholics. After what the Vatican called "major mistakes" in communication, Woelki was granted a "spiritual restraint" for several months by the pope in September.

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