So Now They’re Trying To Link Pope Benedict . . .

by Jimmy Akin

in Uncategorized

That’s the message that some in the media are rapidly trying to spin.

The Times carried the blaring headline,

Pope knew priest was paedophile but allowed him to continue with ministry

From that we would expect the kind of story that has appeared in the media over and over in recent years: Back when the Pope was still a bishop, one of his priests was a paedophile but rather than bounce him from the ministry, the future pope instead covered up his crimes and allowed him to continue in ministry, perhaps by transferring him to one or more locations.

That’s the narrative we are expected to infer from the headline.

But when you read the story, the details don’t fit.

For a start, it wasn’t one of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s priests. He was the cardinal archbishop of Munich, but the priest was from the diocese of Essen.

And Cardinal Ratzinger did not, contrary to some reports, send the priest for therapy—or return him to ministry.

He allowed the priest to stay in a rectory so that he could receive treatment in Munich.

According to Phil Lawler,

There is no evidence that the Pope was aware the accused priest was an accused pedophile; he was evidently informed only that the priest had been guilty of sexual improprieties.

So what we have, apparently, is a situation in which the bishop of Essen (or someone) came to Cardinal Ratzinger and said, “There’s a priest from the diocese of Essen who has committed sexual improprieties and needs to receive counselling. Can you put him up in a rectory while he is given psychological therapy in Munich?”

And Ratzinger said yes.

How sinister is that?

This wasn’t his priest. Whether the priest would return to ministry after counselling wasn’t his decision. All he’s doing is allowing the man to have a room in a local rectory while he undergoes therapy.

And what if it turns out he did know that the sexual improprieties involved children?

At that time (1980) it was commonly thought that paedophiles could be cured through psychological counselling.

Even the British religion reporter Ruth Gledhill, writes:

What is often forgotten is how little was known of paedophilia. It was believed it could be cured, and that penitence was tantamount to recovery.

So, the narrative of a bishop secretively transferring his priests—who he knows are incurable, repeat offenders—from parish to parish does not apply.

However, at some point, Lawler notes,

the vicar general of the Munich archdiocese made the decision to let the accused priest help out at a parish. That vicar general, Msgr. Gerhard Gruber, says that he made that decision on his own, without consulting the cardinal. The future Pope never knew about it, he testifies. Several years later, long after Cardinal Ratzinger had moved to a new assignment at the Vatican, the priest was again accused of sexual abuse.

That time the priest was convicted and punished according to German law.

But we still don’t have a set of facts that supports the pope-as-paedophile-enabler narrative that the Times wants to suggest.

Even Ruth Gledhill (employed by the Times) acknowledges:

The latest scandal coming out of Germany is not enough to threaten the Pope or the Church. But on top of a succession of damaging revelations it can only increase the damage being done to its moral authority on the world stage. The killer fact that could bring down the Pope or Church probably does not even exist.

The Pope is pretty unassailable. He is not elected, he is a monarch, and the centralisation that has taken place under the last two Popes has cemented that power. Pope Benedict XVI has also indicated in his three encyclicals the depths of his own integrity and intellectual rigour.

Setting aside Gledhill’s failure to note basic facts of the subject she reports on (the pope is elected; remember that conclave thingie in 2005? how we got Pope Benedict? presumably she means that he doesn’t have to face re-election), I think she’s right.

Based on what we know today, there isn’t enough “there” there.

What do you think?

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Mrs O March 13, 2010 at 6:51 pm

VIS issued a statement today along with an interview of the Promoter of Justice.
It clears up the some of the insinuations.

tim March 13, 2010 at 6:58 pm

The media doesn’t have to link Pope Benedict to the scandal, because the Pope did that all by himself when he was the Munich Bishop. He sent a priest to “counseling”. Why? Because the man had been involved in sexual abuse! So Ratzinger’s solution was “counseling”? Priests involved in sexual activity with adolescents don’t need “counseling”. They need a severe a$% beating and a prison cell!! It was the duty of the Bishop with knowledge of such cases to at least do their part to make the “prison cell” part of the solution happened. He didn’t Even if he didn’t know that the priest had been reassigned, he knew that eventually the mad would have the opportunity to make new victims outside of any Church assignment. Bishop Ratzinger had a duty, both legal and moral, to alert law enforcement authorities that a pederast had committed a crime. He failed. For his failure, the Church suffered, and the Shepherd’s flock has suffered. I no longer share my Catholic faith openly due to the filthy responses I receive in return.
I understand that every institution tries to hide its crimes, and this sin is not unique to the Church in scope or severity, (in fact it’s much worse elsewhere) but the Church has to be morally superior. This is not asking for perfection, but elementary moral, prudent judgment is not beyond reasonable expectation.

tim March 13, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Saint Paul taught Christians that if an elder of the Church sins, expose him publicly, so that others will refrain from sin due to fear of humiliation. Following the teachings of Saint Paul is one of the most basic expectations of the Church. I would be less disturbed if priests were fathering children out of wedlock. By comparison, this crime we have to deal with is just filthy.

Mrs O March 13, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Tim, I hope you go to the address I provided.
There is some confusion.
The interview with the Promoter of Justice seems to clear up some questions especially that there are standards with dealing with this sort of abuse that is reserved to Rome BUT, if I am reading it right, there was a time when there was some confusion on if they, the Bishops, were to report it or not to the Holy See. Of course, some of the victims are just now stepping forward. But for that particular incident, this is part of what the statement says:
“Finally, the archdiocese of Munich has replied, with a long and detailed communique, to questions concerning the case of a priest who moved from Essen to Munich at the time in which Cardinal Ratzinger was archbishop of that city, a priest who subsequently committed abuses. The communique highlights how the then archbishop was completely unconnected with the decisions in the wake of which the abuses took place. Rather, it is evident that over recent days some people have sought – with considerable persistence, in Regensburg and Munich – elements that could personally involve the Holy Father in questions of abuse. To any objective observer, it is clear that these efforts have failed. ”
Please read the whole statement and the interview.

Mrs O March 13, 2010 at 7:10 pm

This is from the interview”
Q: Nonetheless, that document is periodically cited to accuse the current Pontiff of having been – when he was prefect of the former Holy Office – objectively responsible for a Holy See policy of covering up the facts…
A: That accusation is false and calumnious. On this subject I would like to highlight a number of facts. Between 1975 and 1985 I do not believe that any cases of paedophilia committed by priests were brought to the attention of our Congregation. Moreover, following the promulgation of the 19
83 Code of Canon Law, there was a period of uncertainty as to which of the “delicta graviora” were reserved to the competency of this dicastery. Only with the 2001 “Motu Proprio” did the crime of paedophilia again become our exclusive remit. From that moment Cardinal Ratzinger displayed great wisdom and firmness in handling those cases, also demonstrating great courage in facing some of the most difficult and thorny cases, “sine acceptione personarum”. Therefore, to accuse the current Pontiff of a cover-up is, I repeat, false and calumnious.

Hiberniensis March 13, 2010 at 7:12 pm

The priest in question didn’t belong to the Munich diocese but to the diocese of Essen. Therefore it wasn’t Cardinal Ratzinger that sent him to therapy since he had no authority over him. All Cardinal Ratzinger did was allow the priest to stay in a rectory in the Munich diocese at the request of the Essen diocese. The Cardinal may not have even known the exact nature of what the priest had done, which to my mind seems likely enough, given that he belonged to another diocese.

tim March 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Bishop Ratzinger knew what the man had done, and he knew that the man had been sent to counseling. He may not have been involved with reassigning the man, but why the silence to the police? The police might have ignored the report, but then the scandal would be on them, not the Church! If any bishop knows of such crimes, the Holy See doesn’t need to know, but the police do! Maybe after that, the bishop can send the Holy See the police report. That should have been the policy of any bishop with sound judgment.

tim March 13, 2010 at 7:33 pm
“While the Pope was Archbishop of Munich, a priest there was accused of sexual abuse. He was pulled out of ministry and sent off for counseling. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger was involved in the decision to remove the priest from his parish assignment – got that? remove him.”
Cardinal Ratzinger knew of the man’s crimes. But even if he didn’t, why are there so many incompetent, immoral people given authority in the diocese office?
I remember this story from a few years ago.

tim March 13, 2010 at 7:50 pm

“Cardinal Ratzinger displayed great wisdom and firmness in handling those cases, also demonstrating great courage in facing some of the most difficult and thorny cases”
Examples? Real concrete examples, not flattering generalities?

tim March 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm

The report says that the priest in question was from another diocese, and Cardinal Ratzinger knew that the man was guilty of “sexual improprieties”. Another Bishop asked the Cardinal if the man could stay in his diocese while he undergoes “therapy”. Don’t questions arise at that point? What “sexual improprieties”? Why does he have to stay in a different diocese? If Cardinal Ratzinger was not that inquisitive, he should have been. And to Jimmy’s point, If Cardinal Ratzinger did know, he had a duty to report the crime to the authorities. I don’t care what manure psychotherapists were shoveling to Church authorities, good sense ought to have prevailed.

tim March 13, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I’ve read portions of Crimen sollicitationis, and I know that the document doesn’t demand or even ask that Church authorities or laity keep crimes secrete from civil authorities. So why did they?

Ben March 13, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Tim, how in the world do you know what Pope Benedict knew when as a Cardinal the priest in question was transferred to his diocese for an inactive stay? Aren’t you judging with all the facts? Shouldn’t you be showing a little deference? Even if he were guilty of hiding something before (an ‘if’ I do not believe for a second), isn’t our pope incapable of error now, the Vicar of Christ, and in constant strength of the Holy Spirit? Even if he is guilty of a cover-up, and it causes scandal and negative press, I see it as ‘what’s-done-is-done’ and we have to still do our best to lead others to Christ and his Church. What does it ultimately matter, as long as God is in charge here?! Was not the Holy Spirit at the enclave that elected Benedict? Yes? Ok! He’s our guy. Your calumnous talk helps no one, and might encourage others to renounce their faith. Why throw stones when most probably you are dead wrong, and even if right, wasting energy and furthering an evil? Pray for us all, and in the meantime, don’t talk about what you don’t know about.

Ben March 13, 2010 at 9:18 pm

above: without* all the facts; incapable of error* when teaching regarding faith and morals
guess I should edit before posting :/

Karl March 13, 2010 at 9:37 pm

I hope he is completely innocent but it is the truth, wherever it leads, that must be sought and acted upon.
Perhaps, to keep such a scandal away from the Papacy, he should resign, even if he knows he is innocent, for the good of the Church. I do hope he is at least considering it.
He has to know that objectivity is not the strong suit of governments or of people with agendas having the Catholic Church in their cross hairs.

JoAnna March 13, 2010 at 9:57 pm

tim, you seem to “know” an awful lot about what Ratzinger did or did not know about the situation. From where do you get this knowledge? Are you a good friend and confidante of the Pope?
Karl, why should the Pope resign for allowing an INACTIVE priest to stay in a rectory while receiving counseling? As far as I can tell, his worst mistake in this situation was pitting too much trust in the bishop of the Essen diocese. Also, there’s no evidence that Ratzinger knew a crime had been committed. Sexual impropriety can mean consensual activity with adults. Again, seems like Ratzinger trusted the bishop of Essen in this matter and didn’t realize his trust was misplaced.
Remember this all took place in 1980. At the time, reparative therapy was considered the best course of action for sexual offenders, and was often recommended to church officials by secular psychologists.

bill912 March 14, 2010 at 7:43 am

It’s too bad Tim didn’t actually read Jimmy’s article: then he wouldn’t have accused the Holy Father of knowing what he didn’t know.

tim March 14, 2010 at 9:01 am

What we do know for sure is that Cardinal Ratzinger knew that a man from another diocese was living in his Munich while he received therapy. He may or may not have known why. But if he didn’t know why the man was staying at a rectory in Munich, then he failed to ask the relevant questions, as I noted in my comments. As a Catholic, I am growing very weary of the nuanced denials.

tim March 14, 2010 at 9:04 am

My judgment isn’t only against Cardinal Ratzinger, it’s against all pf them (Church hierarchy and laity) who failed in their duties, and enabled this to continue.

The Pachyderminator March 14, 2010 at 10:30 am

“Perhaps, to keep such a scandal away from the Papacy, he should resign, even if he knows he is innocent, for the good of the Church. I do hope he is at least considering it.”
No. That would absolutely NOT be Christian. That is not finishing the race and fighting the good fight. It is throwing the game. It is strengthening the hand of the devils who are always trying to discredit what is holy. It would do more harm to the Church than all the pedophile priests in the world.
The proper course for a leader who is falsely accused of some crime is simply to continue, with humility and courage, doing exactly what he is doing. The same thing goes for a priest who is falsely accused of sexual (or other) abuse.

EaglesNest March 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm

The Vicar of Christ can’t get the benefit of the doubt from people like tim. How incredibly sad. The Pope was chosen by the Holy Spirit and is carrying out his office dutifully and faithfully and we have gutter dwellers targeting him. This is what’s tough for me. Still praying for these type of people. I’ll do my best and God help me do a genuine job.

tim March 14, 2010 at 2:33 pm

If Cardinal Ratzinger knew why the priest in question was living in his diocese (and he hasn’t yet denied it to my knowledge), then he was part of the enabling culture that prevailed among the bishops around the world. But even if we assume he didn’t know, then he was negligent and derelict in his duty. This much we know, a bishop in Essen wants a priest to stay at a rectory in Munich while he undergoes “therapy” for “sexual improprieties”. Cardinal Ratzinger knew at least that much. Joseph Ratzinger is not a stupid person obviously. So doesn’t he start to ask questions about the situation? Questions like, “what were the sexual improprieties”? “Why does he have to move to another diocese?”. Surly these questions arose. So we have a few possibilities. One, that Cardinal Ratzinger knew and enabled. Two, he asked all of the relevant questions, but the bishop of Essen lied to him. (I doubt that was the case.) Or, he didn’t ask these questions and was therefore derelict. None of those three are good for the any of the people involved. I believe any way this issue gets sliced, Cardinal Ratzinger is guilty of something, unfortunately. The Church hierarchy forfeited the “benefit of the doubt” on this issue a long time ago. But so have the laity. There’s no questions that many bishops around the world hid cases and reassigned offenders. They enabled. And the laity who come to their defense (no matter what the evidence it seems) enable the enablers. I believe Pope Benedict XVI has been a tremendous Pope. I like him. He should not resign over this. But even Joseph Ratzinger is capable of sinful bad judgment. But please, no more secrecy, no more excuses and no more denials! Not from Church leadership and not from the laity. It only makes the situation worse. I’m trying to help the Church. The enablers and excuse makers are hurting it. Did St. Paul not teach us that if an elder of the Church is involved in scandal, expose him publicly?
Is the priest in question still involved in the Church in Germany, and if so, in what fashion?

Sharon March 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm

It is clear that certain elements ‘have it in’ for the Holy Father as is evidenced from:
Rather, it is evident that over recent days some people have sought – with considerable persistence, in Regensburg and Munich – elements that could personally involve the Holy Father in questions of abuse.
This is a comment from Fr Ray Blake’s post about this attempt to smear Pope Benedict.
The British press won’t tell you what I read in German on the Munich-Freising Archiocese (sic) website. An Australian expat who lives in Germany went to the website and confirmed that what the person commenting said was on the website is correct.
The priest in question was not even from that Archdiocese. He was from Essen, and was received in Munich-Freising to undergo therapy against a background of suspicion of sexual abuse of boys.
The then Archbishop Ratzinger allowed him into his Archdiocese in 1980 and ordered him to reside at a particular parish house. However, in deviation from this order the Vicar-General placed him in a parish in Munich and lifted all restrictions on his exercise of ministry.
No complaints or accusations were made against the priest during this period from 1 February 1980 to 31 August 1982.
Archbishop Ratzinger was translated from the Archdiocese on 15 February 1982.
The priest was an assistant priest at Grafing from September 1982 to the beginning of 1985. After the suspicions of his sexual misconduct were made known he was put under police investigation and relieved of duties on 29 January 1985.
In June 1986 he was convicted at Ebersberg of secual abuse of minors and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment suspended for five years.
The Vicar-General of Munich-Freising has taken full responsibility for his decision and its effects.

Laura March 14, 2010 at 6:22 pm

No matter what cover-ups happened, no matter what mistakes were made in handling the abuse, now it is all coming to light. It is painful for us all, but, like the lancing of a boil to drain the infection, the explosion of the scandal is actually a good thing — all that was hidden and festering is now being exposed to the light of day and can be dealt with properly, epented, healed. In the US, the scandal has resulted in clearer policies for checking out those involved in ministry with children and youth as well as clarified policy for dealing with new abuse cases. There have not been (to my knowledge, anyway) any new cases — all the cases involved in the scandal are from years ago. This is a necessary purification of the Church which will make it stronger and more holy. I pray that all the abuse worldwide will be exposed and excised. Lord, please purify Your Church, and purify our hearts. Amen.

Pete March 15, 2010 at 2:50 am

The fact of the matter is that the Pope doesn’t even have to know anout the situation to get creamed by the media, It will always be “guilty until proven innocent” by the press. The Pope can break this scandal open, and back off the press, by calling the scandal what it is: Homosexual ephebophilia, not pedophilia. It is perpetrated almost exclusively by homosexuals against post pubescent boys, not young children, and once that becomes a point at issue the media, which loves homosexuality more than a good scandal, will back off. Call it what it is.

Gabriel M. Torre March 15, 2010 at 4:22 am

Self-righteous pharisees comes to mind… didn’t they accuse Christ of mingling with prostitutes and tax collectors among other things… so, who should cast the first stone? No benefit of the doubt, heh? No innocence until proven otherwise? When tempted to criticize a priest, I always first blame myself – why if I thought I could do a better job I should have become a priest, instead I dodged the call… We should do our part as Catholic Christians to uplift the Church – we are after all part of One Body! Not pointing fingers and playing the blame game… If you really feel entitled to cast the first stone, you can throw it my way… I am guilty after all of dodging the call (among many more faults)… and by the way, priests are Christ’s alter egos…

Scott W. March 15, 2010 at 6:43 am

I see on Jimmy Akin’s calls for thorough investigations of the Pope. Well, maybe. But it sounds an awful lot like those “Secret Archives” conspiracies. That is to say, if a thourough investigation clears him, will that do it? Or will we get the “Ok, what did you do with real secret archives?”

Kevin March 15, 2010 at 8:21 am
Sharon March 15, 2010 at 3:45 pm

This latest scandal is indeed that – the media and their quislings in the Church have attempted to bismirch the reputation of the Vicar of Christ on earth. That they should do this is a scandal of huge proportions.
A quick look at the dates show that Cardinal Ratzinger had resigned as archbishop and moved to Rome in February 1982 and the vicar general of the archdiocese assigned H to work in a parish, against the express instructions of Cardinal Ratzinger, in September of 1982 – 7 months after Cardinal Ratzinger had left Munich.
Assuming that these dates are correct and I have no reason to believe otherwise the journalists and editors who conspired to manufacture this story should be brought to task by their professional association.

EaglesNest March 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm

“The Church hierarchy forfeited the “benefit of the doubt” on this issue a long time ago.”
Unbelievable. Is this orthodox? You now question the Pope, the bishops, the Magistereum reflexively? How about infallibility? Does the Church have moral authority with you? Do you know the percentages of offending priests? Of “culpable” bishops? Of “enabling” bishops? While I agree with you that we had too many lax bishops I’m not ready to excoriate and condemn every single one who has a priest with these egregious tendencies. Especially the Bishop of Rome! Especially when I don’t have all the facts. I agree with a previous post that hopefully this calls for more rigourous priestly formation, testing, screening, etc.
You write of enabling and the only thing you are enabling is the hate mongers in the secular world. I don’t know of many (none to my knowledge) Catholics who are trying to enable pedophelia or whatever you wish to term it. Who are trying to perpetuate a heinous sin. I do know of Catholics who don’t abandon priests in trouble and going through a “dark night of the soul”. I know of priests who don’t abandon brother priests. I know of Catholics who believe in justice AND reconciliation.
It wasn’t even a priest in his diocese. How do you equate letting him stay in his diocese to receive treatment with enabling? Read Sharon’s post. How sad that the Church and the Pope can’t even get a fair shake from someone like you. You doubt the other Bishop didn’t lie to then Archbishop Ratzinger in thier correspondence but believe that Archbishop Ratzinger is guilty no matter which of your hypothetics turns out to be true. How convenient and utterly DISLOYAL. You have as much evidence the other Archbishop didn’t lie as you do for anything else yet you label our Pope “guilty”.
I’m sure you call yourself objective and wanting to purge the Church of this but it’s this inane faux reasoning that makes me very suspicious and angry (to say the least) of Catholics of your stripe. That is one of the most dangerous things to the Church. One of its members being a pawn for the liberal media.
I will pray for truth, hope, justice, and Mother Church. I fervently hope you genuinely do the same.

Sharon March 16, 2010 at 2:25 am

Update from the Munich archdiocese:
The vicar general contravined the formal agreement that H was not to be put into a parish or have contact with youth and assigned H to a parish whilst Cardinal Ratzinger was archbishop. Cardinal Ratzinger didn’t know that the vicar general did this.

JoAnna March 16, 2010 at 11:44 am

Check out and if you want to respond to the enablers and hatemongers. Child abuse is a human nature problem, not a Catholic problem.

tim March 17, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Clearing up a few things…
JoAnna, I don’t believe I ever said that this was only a Catholic problem. Pointing the finger at the guilt of others, though guilty they may be, doesn’t help Catholics solve their own issues.
To the rest of you,
If Cardinal Ratzinger committed sinful bad judgement in 1981, how does that effect infallibility? If you think it does, I don’t think you understand infallibility.
We know from the reports that cardinal Ratzinger knew the priest in question was a sexual deviant toward minors. Though the priest came from Essen, and the Bishop of Essen is most culpable for this wrong (besides the priest himself), Cardinal Ratzinger also shares some guilt. Pederasts don’t need “therapy”, as I said, they need a severe a$$ beating and a prison cell. Ok, they might need therapy too, but still….
The laity also share major responsibility. If a priest in a known pederast, don’t call the bishop, call the police! But since the bishops knew of these offenses, they too share culpability.
Satan cannot enter the Church unless the elders of the Church and the laity allow Satan enter, then make excuses for the elders who respond softly to the entrance. This situation required zeal. The elders failed to bring it.
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.” –Marcus Tullius Cicero
“Never admit any charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” –Saint Paul the Apostle of Tarsus
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.” –James the Apostle
Why did the Bishops ordain these pederasts? I find it difficult if not impossible to believe that they displayed no signs, no symptoms before they acted out on their disordered desires, ruined souls and cost the Church over $1 billion.

tim March 17, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Happy Saint Patrick’s day.

bill912 March 17, 2010 at 5:43 pm

“We know from the reports that Cardinal Ratzinger knew the priest in question was a sexual deviant toward minors.” We know no such thing. Jimmy is quite specific about that. He had been told only that the priest had committed “sexual improprieties”.
“…Cardinal Ratzinger also shares some guilt.” What is he guilty of? Allowing a man to stay at a rectory so he could go to therapy? Allowing a man an opportunity to seek healing?
Tim seems either to have some serious reading comprehension problems, is seeing things that aren’t there, or is a liar.

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