The advisers insisted that Benedict was not “aware of sexual abuse committed or suspicion of sexual abuse committed by priests” in any of the cases mentioned in the report.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s longtime personal secretary, told EWTN in February that the pope emeritus “is being accused of something that contradicts 25 years of his work” in making the Church more transparent and effective at dealing with sexual abuse.
After leaving the Munich Archdiocese in 1982, the future pope served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). In 2001, Pope John Paul II entrusted the CDF with investigating allegations of clerical abuse worldwide.
Gänswein said in February that Benedict encountered “internal resistance” at the Vatican as he sought to take decisive action against abusers but was able to overcome it with the Polish pope’s support.
“He did not only play a decisive role, he was the decisive figure, the decisive man; the one who not only suggested transparency, but also took concrete steps towards transparency. One can say, he is the ‘father of transparency,’ and thus he also managed to convince Pope John Paul II,” he said.
Sexual abuse is, Pope Francis said in the Nov. 22 interview, “a ‘new’ problem in its manifestation, but eternal in that it has always existed. In the pagan world they commonly used children for pleasure,” he said, going on to express his deep worry about the scourge of child pornography.
“The Church takes responsibility for its own sin, and we go forward, sinners, trusting in the mercy of God. When I travel, I generally receive a delegation of victims of abuse,” he noted.
On the topic of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis was asked about the apparent lack of transparency when it comes to accusations against bishops, compared with the handling of accusations against priests. The pope called for “equal transparency” going forward, adding that “if there is less transparency, it is a mistake.”
In the America interview, Pope Francis also discussed the role of bishops, why women cannot be ordained priests, racism, polarization, the Vatican-China deal, and whether he has any regrets from his time as pope.
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.