A German television program has accused Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI of covering up for and meeting with a pedophile priest.
– The case of priest “H.”
Since 2010 it’s been public knowledge that in 1980 Benedict allowed a suspected cleric abuser, known in the media only as “H.”, to continue in the active ministry in the Munich-Freising archdiocese of which Benedict was then archbishop on the condition that H. undergo therapy.
The pedophile priest would go on to serve in Munich-Freising for decades, even despite receiving a suspended sentence in 1986 for child abuse.
In 1982, the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had left the archdiocese to become Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
H. was eventually defrocked in 2010.
– Ratzinger’s role as Prefect of the CDF and a chance meeting in 2000
That brief coincidence of H. and Ratzinger in Munich-Freising was where the allegations sat until German television programme Frontal21 and research centre CORRECTIV accused Ratzinger of having more contact with H. than previously thought, as KNA reports.
The new links uncovered between H. and Ratzinger are twofold.
The first, that from 2001 as the maximum authority in the Church in terms of stripping pedophile priests from the ministry, Ratzinger, then Prefect of the CDF, should have taken action against H. far sooner than did Ratzinger’s successor, Cardinal William Levada.
The second new connection between H. and Ratzinger centres on Ratzinger’s old friend from his seminary days, former Munich auxiliary bishop Heinrich von Soden Fraunhofen.
Von Soden was charged with keeping tabs on priest H. between 1993 and 2000, when Von Soden lived in Engelsberg and H. was performing pastoral duties – with restrictions – in the neighbouring village of Garching an der Alz.
Frontal21 and CORRECTIV speculated on the contact Von Soden and Ratzinger may have had about H. in those years when the former Munich auxiliary was meant to be supervising the pedophile priest.
But the smoking gun for the investigative journalists was a meeting between Von Soden and Ratzinger in 2000 in Engelsberg, as Von Soden was dying and in which Ratzinger may or may not have also had contact with H.
– Pope Emeritus denies the allegations
Though the new TV program speculated on Ratzinger’s watch over H. from the CDF, his contact with Von Soden about the pedophile priest and the alleged coincidental meeting between the cardinal and the abuser, the show offered no definitive proof of any of the new allegations against the Pope Emeritus.
For its part, the Munich archdiocese admitted grave mistakes in the case of abuser H., but after a search of its archives that same archdiocese declared that there was no evidence that Ratzinger had been directly involved in H.’s case during the former’s brief five-year term in Munich-Freising (1977-1982).
The Pope Emeritus, too, broke his silence from his monastery in the Vatican to deny the new media reports in declarations to newspaper Die Tagespost.
– Shadows of suspicion
Though now at the end of a long ecclesiastical career, the Pope Emeritus can’t seem to shake the suspicions that have accompanied him over many years that he was negligent, or at best indecisive, on the matter of clergy sex abuse.
Last November, a German documentary blamed him directly for the Church’s “dramatic loss of moral authority” on child abuse.
That followed allegations in October that the Pope Emeritus covered up the sex assaults of “very gay” and “horny” Vatican prelate during his term as pontiff from 2005 to 2013.