Oster has led the Passau diocese since 2014. The 56-year-old bishop’s diocese includes Marktl, the village where Benedict XVI was born in 1927, and the Bavarian Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting, a place close to Benedict XVI’s heart.
Critics had also objected to what they saw as the legalistic tone of Benedict’s statement to investigators. Oster acknowledged that the text had “more the character of a legal defense than of the usual Ratzinger level of language and spirituality.”
Addressing the correction about Benedict’s presence at the 1980 meeting, Oster said that the 94-year-old pope emeritus had “entrusted himself to collaborators who committed a capital error on a decisive point.”
The Passau bishop suggested that the pope emeritus wanted to appear “as irreproachable as possible” — an attempt “that today can work little or not at all, especially after our current learning experiences in the matter of abuse.”
“We were and are all too much a part of a system — and so was Archbishop Ratzinger at the time,” he wrote. “And in this system, for too long, there was indeed almost no interest in the concrete fate of people affected by abuse and hardly any knowledge of their stories.”
The prelate said that the other three cases which Ratzinger allegedly mishandled showed “in my estimation, evidence of a customary way of dealing with these issues and the people involved at the time, and ‘customary’ does not mean that today they can be considered good.”
Oster underlined that he did not see any evidence that “Benedict XVI wanted to cover up.” At the same time, he added, “this still does not take into account the consequences that some omissions nevertheless had for the victim.”
Oster, therefore, expected Benedict XVI to return to the report, considering that he had seen “well in advance that we all had, and have, a huge need to learn concerning those affected [by abuse] in our Church.”
Indeed, Benedict “was one of the first to recognize this in Rome — and as a cardinal he helped very many in a decisive position to see it better — through concrete, effective measures and many conversations with those affected and a harsh judgment of the perpetrators.”
Oster said that Benedict achieved this “against no small opposition in the Vatican.”
But today, the bishop said, the “outrage about the alleged ‘lie’ [about the 1980 meeting] now falls back fully on the 94-year-old and is supposed to discredit his entire life’s work.”
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Oster recalled that he had met with Benedict XVI several times since he was appointed bishop of Passau and appreciated the retired pope’s clarity, honesty, and humility. He suggested that the fury against Benedict XVI might be because the pope emeritus generates discomfort.
He asked whether some wanted to discredit “a certain figure or conception of the Church with Benedict, because one wants a completely different Church than the one for which he stands.”
He concluded: “And does one really do justice to the person, the human being, when one pronounces such a quick overall moral judgment about his life in the spirit of a stirred-up public opinion and a dominant moral vision? Or is the whole thing simply another example in the unstoppable game of media outrage culture, which has become commonplace in the meantime, followed by the next one the day after tomorrow?”