Home Feature Former Pope Benedict XVI dies at 95 years old.

Former Pope Benedict XVI dies at 95 years old.

by Yucatan Times
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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, considered one of the most brilliant theological minds of the 20th century and whose papacy was tainted by multiple scandals and accusations, has died. Here is a summary of the events

(Vatican – TYT) – Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope Emeritus, who had chosen to resign from the Petrine ministry in 2013, died this Saturday, December 31, at 9:34 a.m., at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican. He was 95 years old. On Thursday, January 5, at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis will preside over the funeral rite.

“It is with regret that I announce that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away today at 9:34 a.m. at the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery. Further information will be provided as soon as possible.” (SIC) reads the press release from the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, released this morning.

Benedict received the “Anointing of the Sick” last Wednesday at the end of Mass in the Monastery and in the presence of the Memores Domini, who had been assisting him daily for years. Before his death, Pope emeritus asked that everything be marked by simplicity, a quality with which he lived.

Deteriorating conditions

For several days, the Pope emeritus’ health condition worsened due to his advanced age, as the Press Office reported updating the situation’s evolution.

Pope Francis publicly shared the news about the worsening health condition of his predecessor at the end of the last general audience of the year, last December 28. He invited to pray for the Pope emeritus, “very ill,” so that the Lord may comfort him and sustain him “in this witness of love for the Church.” 

Scandals and accusations 

Benedict XVI, considered one of the most brilliant theological minds of the 20th century, was, as a young man, a brilliant progressive theological advisor during the Second Vatican Council. However, his native Germany was particularly critical of the conservative turns that Joseph Ratzinger took throughout his life because of his approach and elevation to ecclesiastical power. First as a cardinal, then as prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Faith (ex-holy office), and later as pontiff.

Recently, he was accused of having covered up for four pedophile priests when he was archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982. For the first time in the recent history of the Church, a pope was directly accused of the worst infamy: the cover-up of criminal pedophile priests. The former “Holy Inquisitor” was seated in the chair of the accused.

At 94 years of age, an extensive investigation of more than a thousand pages on clerical pederasty abuses committed between 1945 and 2019 in the diocese of Munich, at least 497 victims of abuse by 235 religious victimizers, are recorded. In addition, Ratzinger was singled out as “allegedly responsible” for several errors, omissions, and inaction in handling pederasty cases that occurred during his tenure as pastor. That is according to the published report commissioned by the archdiocese to a team of lawyers from the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), which was presented on Thursday, January 20, 2022.

The accusations against him are not new. “Der Spiegel” more than 12 years ago attributed responsibility for at least four cases of predatory priests. However, the WSW report incriminated him with solid evidence that Pope emeritus had to rectify part of his legal defense.

Benedict XVI’s defenders refute these accusations because, they say, the fight against pederasty was the hallmark of his pontificate. Like no other pontiff, he imposed so-called “zero tolerance,” toughened sanctions, modified canons, and issued new laws criminalizing child abuse. 

However, despite everything, he was not severe. In the dramatic cases of the Mexican Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, and the Archbishop of Washington, Theodor McCarrick, having robust evidence of their predatory behavior, he only imposed them to retire, to lead “a life of prayer and penance,” which of course neither comply. Benedict XVI should have proceeded with canonical or even non-ecclesiastical legal judgments.

In an interview with Peter Seewald, Ratzinger stated that the Church did not respond to these allegations earlier because they were “hidden.” In that interview, he said: “Only since 2000 do we have concrete evidence,” contrasting against various testimonies of victims who filed complaints since the 1990s. Nevertheless, there are concise examples, such as the convincing testimony of José Barba, who, on behalf of eight ex-legionaries, filed a formal complaint on October 17, 1998, which was ratified and presented in Latin text according to the pontifical protocol on February 9, 1999, by Dr. Martha Wevan, an Austrian canonist. 

In an interview with the Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui, Barba affirmed: “We have been victims not only of Maciel but also of Ratzinger and the Vatican system that prefers that eight innocent men suffer than that thousands of Catholics lose their faith.”

The Pope Emeritus’ secretary, Georg Gänswein, repeatedly denied that Ratzinger knew of a dossier with a list of abuse victims of the Legionaries of Christ religious order. Recently, however, Anglo-German filmmaker Christoph Röhl claimed to have files and hard evidence that Ratzinger knew about the abuses since the 1990s. He filmed the 2018 award-winning film “Defender of the Faith” about Benedict XVI’s resignation as pontiff.

Ratzinger’s pontificate reflected an exhausted clerical system laden with a rhetoric of apologies, shames, regrets, and requests for forgiveness that turned out to only be words to the wind.

The abuse scandals in Mexico, Boston, Ireland, Australia, Canada, France, and Germany, among many others, revealed an amoral and criminal face of a decadent Church and a severe crisis of credibility in a system whose rigidity and inflexibility seem to be leading Catholicism to a dead end. 

The history of abuse and criminal behavior within the Catholic Church continues.

The Yucatan Times

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