Ex-Pope Benedict denies abuse cover-up

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BBC News Europe

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, file picture

The former Pope, Benedict XVI, has denied any role in covering up child sex abuse by priests, in his first public comments since retirement.

The emeritus Pope, as he is now known, addressed the issue in a detailed letter to a prominent atheist, which also covered many other matters.

It is thought to be the first time that Benedict has publicly rejected personal responsibility for covering up abuse.

Some critics say he must have known of efforts to protect abusive priests.

Benedict’s letter, to the professor of mathematics Piergiorgio Odifreddi, was published in La Repubblica newspaper after the professor sought the former Pope’s permission.

His comments are the first to be released publicly since he left office, saying he would retreat to a life of prayer. He was apparently concerned not to have a public role that might impinge on his successor, Pope Francis.

‘Source of suffering’

Regarding the repeated allegations of abuse which arose during his pontificate, Benedict denied he had suppressed investigation of paedophile priests.

And, while admitting the horror of abuse, he insisted priests had no greater tendency to paedophilia than anyone else.

He wrote: “I never tried to cover up these things. That the power of evil penetrates to such a point in the interior world of the faith is, for us, a source of suffering.

“On the one hand we must accept that suffering, and on the other, at the same time, we must do everything possible so that such cases aren’t repeated.

“It’s also not a motive for comfort to know that, according to sociological research, the percentage of priests guilty of these crimes is no higher than in other comparable professional categories.

“In any event, one must not stubbornly present this deviance as if it were a nastiness specific to Catholicism.”

His comments were a direct response to points made in Prof Odifreddi’s 2011 book Dear Pope, I’m Writing to You, which in turn was a response to Benedict’s Introduction to Christianity.

Benedict also responds to several other criticisms made by the Italian, including whether theology can be considered a science, and what can be known about Jesus as an historical figure.

Prof Odifreddi said he appreciated the tone of his dialogue with Benedict, and that, while they might disagree on almost everything, they at least had one aim in common: “The search for the truth, with a capital ‘T’.”

7 Responses to Ex-Pope Benedict denies abuse cover-up

  1. Sylvia says:

    It’s true that the “deviance” of child sexual abuse is not unique to Roman Catholic priests, however, I cringe every time I hear a bishop, or priest – or in this case former Pope – rationalize or minimize the sexual abuse scandal in the Church by pointing fingers outward. Roman Catholic priests and the Church should set the moral standard, not capitulate to what can only be described as evil. In truth, if what Benedict says is fact, it is a scandal in and of itself that the numbers of clerical sexual predators “is not higher than” than numbers in other professions.

    As soon as member of the clergy, regardless of “rank,” start pointing fingers to minimize the scope of the scandal, I turn off. We don’t need excuses and rationalization that, true or false, everyone else does it.

    • 1 abandonded sheep says:

      Sylvia, every time I come across some member of the Clergy, from Priest to Pope, saying in effect, they are no worse than anybody else, I enjoy a sardonic laugh!
      These are the same ones who, under other circumstances, from the Pulpit, tell us how we should live our lives. At least they used to do that!
      Now they just plain do not give us anymore than a faint sprinkling of the Good News !
      Are they comparing themselves to used car dealers, coal miners, or people in the sex trades?

    • Lina says:

      Rev. Joseph Ratzinger, former pope is still not a help in this clergy abuse crises. What he stated is an insult to all clergy abuse victims and all those who support them to achieve justice.

      Something good might come out from this former Pope breaking his silence. Victims who were debating if they should proceed and use the court system may do so now. By the words of this ex-Pope, he was not part of the cover-ups. He must have forgotten that big part of his life when he was “Perfect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” for many years.

      Anyway, Rev. Joseph Ratzinger’s letter did absolutely nothing to restore his reputation or credibility.
      Then again if the letter came via a personal mystical experience….well whatever helps him make it through the night.

  2. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    I agree Sylvia. My point has always been that if the catholic church is the “one true church of God”, it should know better.
    I find it very lame to say that the church’s priests, bishops, and cardinals are at no greater risk of paedophilia than the general populace.
    They teach, and preach, that they know better!

    Start practising what you preach! Mike.

  3. JG says:

    To think that “a pope” can make a comment such as this, from above(on this same page!)…:
    “according to sociological research, the percentage of priests guilty of these crimes is no higher than in other comparable professional categories.”
    …really has nothing extraordinary in itself and shouldn’t be given any “intelligent” credibility much less any old belief of this “Mr Dressup’s” “infallibility!..
    After all this is only 50% of a pope and I’m sure we don’t need any “sociological research” to confirm that 50% of the truth is also 50% of a lie…50% right is 50% wrong…
    Was he lying when he claimed he would retire to a quiet life of prayers and meditation or was that only a 50% possibility?…
    He calls paedophilia a “deviance…nastiness”!!!
    Back on your knees, Benny!
    You still don’t get 50% of your 50% deviant way of thinking: 25% of nothing!…
    There is no acceptable “percentage” of abuse of children:100% wrong…100% sin…100%shame…for the abuser and for making excuses for them! That’s the only place you get a 100% score!…for failure!
    Study that!..Publish that!
    This rant is “nasty’…abusing children is “criminal”!
    Meditation time has expired on this subject! It is time for action, by the other 50% pope…??


  4. Michel Bertrand says:

    He says what he says but does not pronounce one bit on what to do and how to help those hurt by their responsibles. Aknowledge, understand, empathise and systemically change what needs to be changed. Root them out and defrock the criminals. Zero tolerance. Other organizations do it as they should too.

  5. Cyril North says:

    Whether there are just as many paedophiles in other walks of life as among the catholic clergy does not make one iota of difference to the fact that there is widespread evidence of this activity on the part of a notable number of clerics, world-wide, continuing to this day and often shuffled around by bishops who display no leadership qualities at all. This was going on, left, right and centre, during Ratzinger’s watch, plus he failed to take action against Maciel, because the then-pope was protecting the guy.
    This same church is straightaway jumping on honest priests, such as Flannery in Ireland, who dare to point out that not everybody agrees with its teachings. This mind-control on the part of the institutional church is is stark contrast with its lack of concern for innocent victims of sexual abusers.

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