Feb 10, 2022

Former Pope Offers Non-Apology in Abuse Scandal

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Pope Benedict XVI, retired, has penned a plea for forgiveness for things he did not do and does not apologize for. (!!!) Ya just can't make this stuff up. Here are some of the headlines for this bizarre news event:

The 94 year old retiree was pulled back into the spotlight last month, when a detailed report on clerical abuse from 1945 to 2019, was presented by a German law firm, Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, which was commissioned by the archdiocese. The investigation found that then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was among a number of senior clerics who had seriously mishandled abuse cases. They found that his handling of four cases rose to the level of misconduct.

Pope Benedict has continued to deny any culpability, or even awareness.

"He claims that he didn't know about certain facts, although we believe that this is not so, according to what we know," [lawyer Martin] Pusch said.

. . .

Lawyer Ulrich Wastl presented a copy of the minutes of a meeting of Munich church leaders on January 15, 1980, when a decision was made to take on an abuser the report refers to as "Priest X."

Wastl said he was "surprised" that Benedict denied he was at the meeting, despite the minutes showing that he was. "This is something that is written down," said Wastl, later rejecting Benedict's denial as "hardly credible."

Wait... minutes, you say? Oh... yeah... right. He WAS there.

Former Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged on Monday he had been at a 1980 meeting over a sexual abuse case when archbishop of Munich, saying he mistakenly told German investigators he was not there.

In a statement on Monday, the former pope's personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said Benedict did attend the meeting but the omission "was the result of an oversight in the editing of the statement" and "not done out of bad faith."

. . .

"He (the former pope) is very sorry for this mistake and asks to be excused," Ganswein said.

His "apology" for letting pedophile priests run amok continues in same vein. It is a full-throated, loquacious, and eloquent non-apology.

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. Each individual case of sexual abuse is appalling and irreparable. The victims of sexual abuse have my deepest sympathy and I feel great sorrow for each individual case.

Mistakes were made, in and around and under his general purview. He's very sad that they occurred. He will be judged by God and God alone. But, as his lawyers explain, he, himself, did nothing wrong.

If the buck is gonna stop somewhere, it will not be with him.

One could be forgiven for mistaking this pile of verbiage for an actual apology. It is rich in the liturgical language of the penitent.

In one section he openly wondered if he, as all Catholic do in a prayer known as the Confiteor at Mass, should ask for forgiveness for what they have done and what they have failed to do "by my fault, by my most grievous fault".

He wrote: "It is clear to me that the words 'most grievous' do not apply each day and to every person in the same way. Yet every day they do cause me to question if today too I should speak of a most grievous fault."


Benedict does not answer his own question but says he is consoled that God forgives.

If he does require forgiveness from God, for, say, some sin that shall remain nameless, he's fairly sure that he'll receive it, so that's nice.

It should come as no surprise that victims groups have been left unsatisfied by the former pontiff's hairless shirt-rending.

Speaking to Crux, Irish clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, noted that “The report commissioned by the Church found four cases of abusive priests being left in ministry during the tenure of Benedict in Munich.”

“When a finding is made against a leader in the church the immediate response is recourse to lawyers, this case is no different,” she said, arguing that “Legal opinions are used to defend the indefensible and moral responsibility is ignored.”

. . .

[SNAP] criticized Benedict for failing to “do the simple thing and offer full accounting and apology” despite evidence of his mishandling in the Munich report, saying the opportunity the report provided for true accountability “has been squandered.”

. . .

The Eckiger Tisch group representing clerical abuse survivors in Germany said Benedict’s response was yet another example of the Catholic Church’s “permanent relativizing on matters of abuse – wrongdoing and mistakes took place, but no one takes concrete responsibility.”

Benedict, the group said, “can’t bring himself simply to state that he is sorry not to have done more to protect the children entrusted to his church.”

I don't know, maybe this was a real apology before it was vetted by legal. It seems carefully calibrated to sound as apologetic as possible, without risking liability. But then, parsing has always been one of Pope Benedict's greatest skills.

In other news:

Father Andres Arango has resigned as pastor from his Phoenix parish after the horrible revelation that he said "we" instead of "I" in countless baptisms, rendering the salvation of thousands of the faithful "invalid." Many will have to be re-baptized. Those who are not, or cannot, may or may not go to hell.

“Baptism is a requirement for salvation,” the Phoenix diocese said, recounting Christ's institution of the sacrament and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

At the same time, the diocese sought to explain that God’s grace still can work if the sacraments were not validly administered.

“It is important to note that, while God instituted the sacraments for us, He is not bound by them,” the diocese said, reiterating Catholic sacramental theology. “Though they are our surest access to grace, God can grant His grace in ways known only to Him.”

Like the former pope, whose failure of responsibility allowed countless children to be raped, the improperly baptized will have to trust in God's mercy.

At least we can all rest assured that the Catholic Church has its priorities straight, and that scrupulous attention to language remains paramount.

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