1 of 4 | Retired Pope Benedict XVI's letter was a response to an independent report last month that faulted him in the handling of four abuse cases in the Munich archdiocese during his five-year tenure as archbishop. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI asked for forgiveness on Tuesday, days after a report faulted him for his handling of multiple reports of child sex abuse during the 1970s and '80s. But he did not apologize or claim specific responsibility.
Many years before he became pope of the Catholic Church, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he led Germany's Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982 before moving to the Vatican as head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was elected pope in 2005.
An independent German report last month faulted him in the handling of four abuse cases in the archdiocese during his five-year tenure as archbishop. Specifically, the report said, he'd failed to act to prevent child sex abuse in each of those cases.
In his letter on Tuesday, Pope Benedict acknowledged faults in his handling of the incidents.
"We publicly implore the living God to forgive our fault, our most grievous fault," he said, according to the Vatican. "The words 'most grievous' do not apply each day and to every person in the same way. Yet every day they do cause me to question if today, too, I should speak of a most grievous fault. And they tell me with consolation that however great my fault may be today, the Lord forgives me, if I sincerely allow myself to be examined by him, and am really prepared to change."
The report last month said that German investigators found nearly 500 cases of documented abuse at the Munich archdiocese between 1945 and 2019. Pope Benedict had led the archdiocese as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger between 1977 and 1982. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI
"I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church," he added, according to the National Catholic Reporter. "All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate.
"Each individual case of sexual abuse is appalling and irreparable. The victims of sexual abuse have my deepest sympathy, and I feel great sorrow for each individual case."
Accompanying Benedict's response was an 82-page analysis by his legal team, which said the German report last month mischaracterized some of his actions when he led the Munich archdiocese.
The analysis said that, at the time, Ratzinger transferred one priest who'd been accused of sexual misconduct for treatment and said he was not aware that he was an abuser. It also notes that the reason for the priest's treatment was never specified at a key meeting of church officials in 1980.
Benedict initially said he did not attend the 1980 meeting, but later clarified that he had.
The German investigation said that in one of the abuse cases, he also accepted a priest back into the Munich archdiocese after he'd been criminally convicted of sexual abuse.
The report said that investigators found nearly 500 cases of documented abuse at the Munich archdiocese between 1945 and 2019.