2 Popes

A German law firm investigating the Catholic Church’s handling of child sexual abuse cases says former Pope Benedict XVI failed to take action in four instances — including two that resulted in legal charges — while he was the archbishop of Munich and Freising.

“In a total of four cases, we reached a consensus there was a failure to act,” said attorney Martin Pusch of the law firm Westphal Spilker Wastl, according to news site Deutsche Welle. Despite reports of abuse, Pusch said, the church allowed priests to continue working without restrictions.

In a summary of the findings, the Vatican’s news agency says:

  • At least 497 people were abused in the archdiocese from 1945 to 2019;
  • 60% of the victims were between the ages of 8-14;
  • Most victims were young, with 247 male victims and 182 female;
  • There were 235 perpetrators of abuse, including 173 priests



Francis had strongly defended Barros during his January trip to Chile, calling the accusations against him “calumny”. He claimed to have never heard from victims about Barros, even though he had received in 2015 a letter from Cruz detailing Barros’s wrongdoing.



 What he’s saying: Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Pope Benedict’s personal secretary, said Monday that the retired pope did attend the meeting, adding that the omission “was the result of an oversight in the editing of the statement” and “not done out of bad faith,” per Reuters.

  • Gänswein said that during the 1980 meeting, there was no actual decision about a new assignment for the priest.
  • Pope Benedict “is very sorry for this mistake and asks to be excused,” Gänswein said.

What we’re watching: Pope Benedict will address the entire 2,000-page report after he’s done “carefully” reading it, Gänswein said. Due to the former pope’s age, 94, the review “will take some time.”