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On 8 February 2022, a > a personal letter from Benedict XVI was published along with a  > document analyzing the facts of the matter. In his letter, the Pope Emeritus commented on allegations made following the publication of the Munich abuse report. In their analysis of the facts, legal advisors to Benedict XVI refuted false allegations and explained how an error had been made in the drafting of the testimony for the law firm.

Papst em. Benedikt XVI trägt Brille und ist mit Kopf gesenkt zu sehen.

Benedict XVI’s Letter

The Pope Emeritus responded to the publication of the Munich report in the form of a personal letter, in which he provided his own commentary on the matter. Benedict XVI’s letter was published on 8 February 2022 in Rome. We present the full text below. 

Benedictus XVI
Papa emeritus

Vatican City,6
February 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Following the presentation of the report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising on 20 January last, I feel the need to address a personal word to all of you. Even though I served as Archbishop of Munich and Freising for a little less than five years, I continue to feel very much a part of the Archdiocese of Munich and to consider it home.

I would like first to offer a word of heartfelt thanks. In these days marked by examination of conscience and reflection, I was able to experience greater friendship and support, and signs of trust, than I could ever have imagined. I would like to thank in particular the small group of friends who selflessly compiled on my behalf my 82-page testimony for the Munich law firm, which I would have been unable to write by myself. In addition to responding to the questions posed by the law firm, this also demanded reading and analyzing almost 8,000 pages of documents in digital format. These assistants then helped me to study and analyze the almost 2,000 pages of expert opinions. The results will be published subsequently as an appendix to my letter.

Amid the massive work of those days – the development of my position – an oversight occurred regarding my participation in the chancery meeting of 15 January 1980. This error, which regrettably was verified, was not intentionally willed and I hope may be excused. I then arranged for Archbishop Gänswein to make it known in the press statement of 24 January last. In no way does it detract from the care and diligence that, for those friends, were and continue to be an evident and absolute imperative. To me it proved deeply hurtful that this oversight was used to cast doubt on my truthfulness, and even to label me a liar. At the same time, I have been greatly moved by the varied expressions of trust, the heartfelt testimonies and the moving letters of encouragement sent to me by so many persons. I am particularly grateful for the confidence, support and prayer that Pope Francis personally expressed to me. Lastly, I would thank the little family in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, whose communion of life in times of joy and sorrow has given me the interior serenity that supports me.

Now, to these words of thanks, there must necessarily also follow a confession. I am increasingly struck by the fact that day after day the Church begins the celebration of Holy Mass – in which the Lord gives us his word and his very self – with the confession of our sins and a petition for forgiveness. We publicly implore the living God to forgive [the sins we have committed through] our fault, through our most grievous fault. It is clear to me that 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.

In all my meetings, especially during my many Apostolic Journeys, with victims of sexual abuse by priests, I have seen at first hand the effects of a most grievous fault. And I have come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grievous fault whenever we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decisiveness and responsibility, as too often happened and continues to happen. As in those meetings, once again I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness. I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. 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.

I have come increasingly to appreciate the repugnance and fear that Christ felt on the Mount of Olives when he saw all the dreadful things that he would have to endure inwardly. Sadly, the fact that in those moments the disciples were asleep represents a situation that, today too, continues to take place, and for which I too feel called to answer. And so, I can only pray to the Lord and ask all the angels and saints, and you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life. Even though, as I look back on my long life, I can have great reason for fear and trembling, I am nonetheless of good cheer, for I trust firmly that the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and brother who himself has already suffered for my shortcomings, and is thus also my advocate, my “Paraclete”. In light of the hour of judgement, the grace of being a Christian becomes all the more clear to me. It grants me knowledge, and indeed friendship, with the judge of my life, and thus allows me to pass confidently through the dark door of death. In this regard, I am constantly reminded of what John tells us at the beginning of the Apocalypse: he sees the Son of Man in all his grandeur and falls at his feet as though dead. Yet He, placing his right hand on him, says to him: “Do not be afraid! It is I...” (cf. Rev 1:12-17).

Dear friends, with these sentiments I bless you all.

Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI’s advisors commented on the allegations and accusations made against the Pope Emeritus in a statement of their own, explaining that there had been an error in the drafting of the testimony provided to the Munich law firm. The advisors’ statement was likewise published on 8 February 2022. We present the full text below.

Analysis of the facts by the collaborators of Benedict XVI

Prof. Dr. Stefan Mückl - Rome (Canon Law)
Prof. em. Dr. Dr. Mag. Helmuth Pree - "Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität" of Munich (Canon Law)
Dr. Stefan Korta - Buchloe (Church Law)​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​Lawyer Dr. Carsten Brennecke - Cologne (Right to freedom of expression)

In the report on abuses in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising it is stated that:

was present at the meeting of the Ordinariate on January 15, 1980, in which Priest X. was discussed. And it is claimed that Cardinal Ratzinger had employed this priest in pastoral activity, even though he was aware of the abuses committed by him, and thus would have covered up his sexual abuses.

This does not correspond to the truth, according to our verifications:

Joseph Ratzinger was neither aware that Priest X. was an abuser, nor that he was included in pastoral activity.

The records show that at the meeting of the Ordinariate on January 15, 1980, it was not decided to engage Priest X. in pastoral activity.

The records also show that the meeting in question did not discuss the fact that the priest had committed sexual abuse.

It was exclusively a question of the accommodation of the young Priest X. in Munich because he had to undergo therapy there. This request was complied with. During the meeting the reason for the therapy was not mentioned.

It was therefore not decided at the meeting to engage the abuser in pastoral work.

In the abuse report of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising it is stated that:

With regard to his presence at the meeting of the Ordinariate on January 15, 1980, Benedict XVI would have knowingly perjured himself, would have lied.

This is not true, in fact:

The affirmation contained in Benedict XVI's memoir that he did not take part in the meeting of the Ordinariate on January 15, 1980 is indeed incorrect. And yet Benedict XVI did not lie or knowingly make a false statement:

In drafting the memoir, Benedict XVI was supported by a group of collaborators. It consisted of the lawyer Dr. Carsten Brennecke (Cologne) and the collaborators for ecclesiastical law: Prof. Dr. Stefan Mückl (Rome), who at the behest of Benedict XVI examined the documents, Prof. Dr. Helmuth Pree and Dr. Stefan Korta. The collaborators were called in because Benedict XVI could not analyze the mass of issues on his own in a short period of time and because the law firm in charge of the expert report asked questions that referred to canon law, so that a framework in canon law was necessary for the answer. Only Prof. Mückl was allowed to view the documents electronically, and he was not allowed to store, print or photocopy any documents. No other collaborators were allowed to view the documents. After Prof. Mückl had examined the digital documents (8,000 pages) and analyzed them, a further processing step was carried out by Dr. Korta, who inadvertently made a transcription error. Dr. Korta mistakenly noted that Joseph Ratzinger was not present at the meeting of the Ordinariate on January 15, 1980. The collaborators missed this erroneous entry of an absence that had not occurred. They relied on the false indication erroneously inserted by failing to expressly ask Benedict XVI if he had been present at that meeting. On the basis of the erroneous transcription of the minutes, it was assumed instead that Joseph Ratzinger had not been present. Benedict XVI, due to the great haste with which he had to verify his memory in a few days, given the time limits imposed by the experts, did not notice the error, but trusted the alleged transcription of his absence.

One cannot impute this transcription error to Benedict XVI as a conscious false statement or "lie".

Moreover, it would have made no sense for Benedict to intentionally deny his presence at the meeting: in fact, the minutes of the meeting report statements made by Joseph Ratzinger. The presence of Joseph Ratzinger was therefore evident. Moreover, in 2010 several press articles report - without later denial - the presence of Cardinal Ratzinger at the meeting. Similarly, a biography of Benedict XVI published in 2020 states: "As a bishop, during a meeting of the Ordinariate in 1980, he had only agreed that the priest in question could come to Munich to undergo psychotherapy" (Peter Seewald,Benedikt XVI., Droemer Verlag 2020, p. 938).

The report argues that:

The expert report also charges Benedict XVI with misbehavior in three other cases. In fact, even in these cases he would have known that the priests were abusers.

This does not correspond to the truth, according to our verifications, in fact:

In none of the cases analyzed by the expert report was Joseph Ratzinger aware of sexual abuse committed or suspicion of sexual abuse committed by priests. The expert report provides no evidence to the contrary.

Regarding the case of the Priest X. that was publicly discussed in the meeting of the Ordinariate in 1980 regarding the accommodation to be given to him for therapy, the same expert - in the press conference of 20.01.2022 on the occasion of the presentation of the abuse report - stated that there is no evidence that Joseph Ratzinger was aware of it. To the subsequent question of a journalist whether the experts were able to prove that Joseph Ratzinger had been aware that Priest X. had committed sexual abuse, the expert clearly stated that there is no evidence that Joseph Ratzinger had knowledge. Only in the subjective opinion of the expert witnesses would it be "more likely".

The press conference is available at the following link: https://vimeo.com/668314410

At minute 2:03:46 the journalist's question can be found: "My question also still refers to the case of Priest X. Can the law firm prove that Cardinal Ratzinger was then aware that Priest X. was an abuser? What does 'most likely' mean in this context?" [...]

An expert responds, "[...] More likely means that we assume it with a higher probability. [...]".

The expert report contains no evidence for an allegation of misconduct or conspiracy in any cover- up.

As an archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of acts of abuse.

The report alleges that:

In his memoir, Benedict XVI allegedly downplayed acts of exhibitionism. As evidence for this assertion the following indication contained in the memoir is reported: "Parish priest X. was noted as an exhibitionist, but not as an abuser in the proper sense".

This does not correspond to the truth, in fact:

In his memoir Benedict XVI did not minimize the exhibitionist behavior, but expressly condemned it. The phrase used as alleged evidence of minimizing exhibitionism is taken out of context.

In the memoir, in fact, Benedict XVI says with the utmost clarity that abuses, including exhibitionism, are "terrible", "sinful", "morally reprehensible" and "irreparable". In the canonical evaluation of the event, inserted into the memoir by us the collaborators and expressed according to our judgment, there was only a desire to recall that according to the canon law then in force, exhibitionism was not a crime in the restricted sense, because the relevant penal norm did not include in the case in point behavior of that type.

Thus, the memoir of Benedict XVI did not minimize exhibitionism, but clearly and explicitly condemned it.

This fact-check was drafted by the collaborators in German. Should there be any linguistic discrepancies in the course of translation, the German version shall prevail.


Prof. Dr. Stefan Mückl - Rome (Canon Law)
Prof. em. Dr. Dr. Mag. Helmuth Pree - "Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität" of Munich (Canon Law)
Dr. Stefan Korta - Buchloe (Church Law)
​​​​​​​Lawyer Dr. Carsten Brennecke - Cologne (Right to freedom of expression)