Lawyers who drew up the report said Benedict categorically denied any wrongdoing. The report also faulted the current archbishop, an important ally of Pope Francis.
The archdiocese commissioned the report from law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl nearly two years ago, with a mandate to look into abuse between 1945 and 2019 and whether church officials handled allegations correctly.
“In a total of four cases, we came to the conclusion that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct,” said one of the reports’ authors, Martin Pusch, referring to Benedict’s name before he was made Pope. He added that the former pope had “strictly” denied responsibility in response to the accusations.
Benedict, now aged 94, has been living in the Vatican since resigning as pontiff in 2013.
The archdiocese and the law firm said that top church officials had been informed of the results ahead of its publication.
However, in a statement to NBC News, the Vatican said the report’s “contents are presently unknown.”
“In coming days, following its publication, the Holy See will be able to give it a careful and detailed examination,” Matteo Bruni, the director of the Vatican Press Office, said in a statement to NBC News. “In reiterating shame and remorse for abuses committed by clerics against minors, the Holy See expresses its closeness to all victims and reaffirms the efforts undertaken to protect minors and ensure safe environments for them.
Munich’s current archbishop, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, declined an invitation to attend the presentation on Thursday, according to the report’s authors.
Last year, Marx offered to resign over the church’s “catastrophic” mishandling of clergy sexual abuse cases, saying that the scandals had brought the church to “a dead end.”
Francis rejected the offer but added that a process of reform was necessary and that every bishop must take responsibility for the “catastrophe” of the abuse crisis.
A church-commissioned report concluded in 2018 at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014. More than half of the victims were 13 or younger, and nearly a third served as altar boys.
Ratzinger served in Munich from 1977 to 1982 before becoming the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later becoming Pope Benedict XVI.
Claudio Lavanga reported from Rome, AK Pohlers reported from London.
Claudio Lavanga is Rome-based producer and correspondent for NBC News.
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