An LA priest on the Benedict that he knows

I am writing in response to a Jan. 20 news article on from Catholic News Agency titled “Benedict XVI, Cardinal Marx faulted in Munich abuse report.” It is no secret that the pope emeritus continues to be begrudged by some in the Church, but tarnishing the Ratzinger name does not serve the truth or justice well.

The report accuses then Cardinal-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of covering up the abhorrent sexual abuse of four priests. There would be no problem in charging Cardinal Ratzinger with cover-up if this happened over the past two decades or so. 

However, the fact is that at the time these events happened, it was the praxis across the ecclesiastical and civil boards to transfer such perpetrators because their heinous acts were deemed as a serious deficiency in their moral character. Today, and not then, we know that this is much more complicated, and inflicts grave and lifelong damage on innocent victims.

I have known Pope Ratzinger since he was the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, long before he was elected pope. We worked together on several sensitive cases involving Church law and theology. I found him to be a humble and very approachable man, a great and gracious listener with an extraordinary way of grasping an issue. 

Despite his timid personality, he could be very determined and persistent. He insisted that the cases of priests charged with sexual abuse of minors be turned over to his congregation for study, evaluation, and adjudication. He did everything possible to bring to justice errant priests, no matter who the accused priest might be.

It seems to me that this Munich abuse does three things wrong: 1) It fails to evaluate action in its historical context; 2) It rushes to fault then-Cardinal Ratzinger with such haste that it fails radically to be just to Pope Benedict; 3) It diminishes, if not completely ignores, his valiant efforts to confront and address the sexual abuse of minors by priests.

My understanding is that truth and justice go hand-in-hand. This would involve not only reporting events in a professional and accurate way but also evaluating them within their historical context, otherwise the report’s author is reinterpreting history and doing a great injustice to the object of the report.

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