Wait for abuse report before casting blame, says lawyer

Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in November 2021 (CNS/Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation)

A canon lawyer has cast doubts on accusations against retired Pope Benedict XVI over possible negligence as Germans await publication of a report on how leaders of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising handled cases of historical abuse. Source: The Tablet.

Helmuth Pree, a retired university professor, wrote in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit that the presumption of innocence must also apply to a pope. The German Catholic news agency KNA reported he was responding to media coverage about information said to be in the abuse report, due out on Thursday.

Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, headed the Munich Archdiocese from 1977 to 1981.

Professor Pree expressed surprise at the media coverage of the case in early January. He criticised the assessments canon law professors Norbert Lüdecke and Bernhard Anuth had given in a joint interview. The two Church law experts said Archbishop Ratzinger violated his duty in 1980 by not informing the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after the archdiocese took in a priest who had committed abuse in the Diocese of Essen.

Professor Pree wrote that it had not been established to this day whether such an obligation to inform the Vatican actually existed. The corresponding administrative regulation of 1962 was a “secret decree” that was never properly announced.

Professor Pree added: “There is no evidence whatsoever that the instruction was known in Munich.” For this reason, it needs to be explained why Cardinal Ratzinger, of all people, could have known about it in 1980.

He said that to arrive at a possibly more comprehensive and objective assessment, the public should wait for the findings of the report on abuse by a Munich law firm.


Wait for abuse report before casting blame, says lawyer (CNS via The Tablet)

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