Ex-pope Benedict denies covering up sexual abuse

VATICAN CITY Tue Sep 24, 2013 12:18pm EDT

Former Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square, at the Vatican in this file phot taken October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

Former Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square, at the Vatican in this file phot taken October 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito


Air strikes in Gaza

Our latest photos from the scene.   Slideshow 

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Former Pope Benedict has denied that he tried to cover up sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests, in his first direct published comments since he stepped down.

The comments - which a victims' group rejected - were made in an 11-page letter to Italian author and mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi, who had written a book about the problems facing the Roman Catholic Church before the pope resigned in February.

"As far as you mentioning the moral abuse of minors by priests, I can only, as you know, acknowledge it with profound consternation. But I never tried to cover up these things," said Benedict, who now has the title Emeritus Pope.

Excerpts of the letter were published in the Rome newspaper La Repubblica on Tuesday with the former pope's permission.

It was believed to be the first time Benedict has responded to the sexual abuse accusations in the first person, although the Vatican has always said he did much to put an end to sexual abuse of minors by priests and never tried to cover it up.

It was also the first time since Benedict resigned on February 28 that anything precise that he has written or said was published, although some people who have visited him in the Vatican house where he is living in retirement have indirectly reported to outsiders some of his comments to them.

Victims groups have accused Benedict of not doing enough to stop the abuse of children by priests while he was pope and before when he was head of the Vatican's doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), rejected his assertion.

"In the Church's entire history, no one knew more but did less to protect kids than Benedict," SNAP said in statement.

"As head of CDF, thousands of cases of predator priests crossed his desk. Did he choose to warn families or call police about even one of those dangerous clerics? No. That, by definition, is a cover up," the SNAP statement said.

Victims' groups say there is much still to be discovered about how the Church behaved in the past and want more bishops who were aware of abuse to be held responsible.

The Catholic Church's crisis came to light in Boston in 2002 when media began reporting how cases of abuse were systematically covered up and abusive priests were shuttled from parish to parish instead of being defrocked and handed over to civil authorities.

Since then, the Catholic Church in many countries has set up new guidelines to deal with cases of past abuse, prevent new cases, report abuse to police, and stop potential abusers from entering the priesthood in the first place.

The rest of the letter from Benedict to Odifreddi referred to other aspects of the author's book, called "Dear Pope, I Am Writing You", such as the conflict between good and evil.

(Editing by Alison Williams and Angus MacSwan)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (6)
hawkeye19 wrote:
And the Muslims deny being a religion of hate and murder.

Sep 24, 2013 11:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Physician wrote:
As a Catholic physician who has met many who have been sexually abused by priests, I believe it is tragic that Pope Benedict XVI lacks insight into the great harm that he has done to victims and their families, by continuing the policies of secrecy and denial that have been part of the Vatican strategy for centuries. When known as Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict was head of the office that dealt with clergy sex abuse cases for 24 years and then became Pope in 2005. He did nothing of any consequence to make any sexual predator clergy accountable.

Jesus was very clear on the importance of protecting the innocence of children. The Popes have not been good shepherds for centuries. Even the beloved Pope John XXIII increased the secrecy on clergy sexual abuse by signing a document in 1962 called CRIMEN SOLICITATIONIS, before calling the Second Vatican Council. Ratzinger reinforced the secrecy in 2001.

There have been many suicides around the world of those who gave up hope that their stories of being sexually abused by a priest, brother, nun, bishop, archbishop, or cardinal would be believed, because of the secrecy and denial of the truth by the church. More than 19 American bishops have been sexual abusers, according to www.bishopaccountability.org. Even Pope Francis has been known to have protected a notorious sexual predator priest, Fr Grassi, in South America. Corruption is from the top down due to wrong, self-serving, protective policies
to protect the sexual predators, with no thought of protecting the innocent victims.

I believe that diplomatic immunity needs to be taken away from the Roman Catholic Church so that all documents in the Vatican on clergy sexual abuse can be given to the police and lawyers for investigation. Jesus said that only the truth will set us free. Sexual predator clergy and complicit hierarchy must be made accountable to civil law. Clergy sexual abuse of innocent children and vulnerable adults is a worldwide tragedy. It is the betrayal of trust by an institution that falsely prides itself on standing in the place of Jesus on earth.

As a cradle Catholic, I believe that there are many good things in the Roman Catholic Church, but there are bad things as well that must be seen for what they are and be corrected.

Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Sep 24, 2013 2:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
timlennon wrote:
I was raped and molested by a priest around my 13th birthday. The bishop knew my abuser had molested others however he assigned him to my parish and elementary school where he abused many young boys.

The hierarchy of the church continues to hid and cover up for priests who commit sex crimes against children.

Sep 24, 2013 2:46pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.