Ex-pope breaks silence, denies cover up
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, left, greets Pope Francis during a March meeting at the Vatican gardens.
September 24th, 2013
02:05 PM ET

Ex-pope breaks silence, denies cover up

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(CNN) - Retired Pope Benedict XVI says he never tried to cover up the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, breaking his post-retirement silence to address one of the greatest threats to his legacy as a church leader.

In a lengthy letter published in La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper, the former pope answered theological and moral arguments from Piergiorgio Odifreddi, an Italian atheist and mathematician who had written about Benedict in 2011.

Earlier this month, La Repubblica also published a letter to its atheist editor from Pope Francis, Benedict's successor.

Since his retirement on February 28, Benedict has mostly stayed out of the public eye, living in a converted monastery behind St. Peter's Basilica and keeping his promise to steer clear - at least publicly - of church business.

Benedict's new letter, coming on the heels of Francis' blockbuster interview published last week, makes for a remarkable week for papal communication. Most modern popes have been fairly inaccessible - to the media, at least.

MORE ON CNN: Pope Francis: Church can't 'interfere' with gays

In Benedict's letter, published Tuesday, the former pope said: "As far as you mentioning the moral abuse of minors by priests, I can only, as you know, acknowledge it with profound consternation. But I never tried to cover up these things."

Benedict, who now has the title "pope emeritus," also said that even though sociologists have determined that the percentage of priests accused of abusing minors is not markedly higher than other professions, that's "not reassuring" for the church.

Critics answer that it's the not just the crimes but the coverups that made the church's response to sexual abuse so scandalous.

"Over a clerical career that lasted more than six decades, we can’t think of a single child-molesting bishop, priest, nun, brother or seminarian that Benedict ever exposed," said Barbara Dorris of the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Before he was elected pope, Benedict, formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which assumed responsibility for handling priest abuse cases late in his career.

As pope, he issued revised guidelines in 2010 making it easier to remove abusive priests from the ministry, apologized for the "shame" the scandal brought on the church and met with victims, including in the United States in 2008.

Critics like SNAP dismissed those moves as too little, too late.

In the United States alone, nearly 17,000 people have come forward with abuse claims, and the church has paid $2.6 billion in settlements, therapy bills, lawyers' fees and expenses related to removing priests from the ministry, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

MORE ON CNN: Can Pope Francis make his vision a reality?

In Tuesday's letter, and on past occasions, Benedict has decried the "filth" of sexual abuse in the church. But, the emeritus pope said, it is not "specific to Catholicism." He also chided Odifreddi for neglecting the good the church has done.

"If you do not remain silent about evil in the Church, we must not, however, be silenced even by the great shining path of goodness and purity, which Christian faith has traced through the centuries," Benedict said.

Pope Francis said in April, in one of his first statements as pope, that the church must take "decisive action" regarding cases of child sexual abuse and protecting children.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Crime • Media • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope Francis • Rape • Sex abuse • Vatican

soundoff (2,421 Responses)
  1. Jesus Loves You

    Jesus loves all of you... please heed to His call... repent from your sins, believe He died on the cross in your behalf and He rose again from the dead. Yes, he is knocking on the door of your heart. Please listen to Him. Evolution is a lie and is already proven by genetics. All humans on planet earth as proven by the DNA even way back in 1987 came from one male and one female. Until now, DNA studies still point to this conclusion that we all came from one man and one female.

    The bible is proven true and correct through the years through archaeology and science but science cannot explain many things as what happened to this crippled woman with twisted spine. She was suffering for 19 years until one day Jesus visited her while she fell from the wheelchair for 8 hours and nobody could have helped her. With Jesus' helping her standing up, she was miraculously healed. Jesus is still making miracles, but the greatest miracle that could happen to a person is when he or she accepts Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior, the miracle of new birth, being born into the family of God.

    Check the story of this woman in http://www.prayerconnect.net/magazine/issue-5-shaken/miracle-working-god .

    September 28, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • wewe


      September 28, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • sam stone

      jesus is waiting for you. what are you doing down here? go meet him, show some initiative

      September 28, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • doobzz

      She must have been very, very special. Jeebyss answered her prayers, but when the children at Sandy Hook prayed to be safe from the bad man with the gun, Jeebyss said, "Nope." They must have been bad children.

      September 28, 2013 at 11:03 am |
      • snotrunningdownhisnose

        wow. good point

        September 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
      • Jesus Loves You

        That is why we need Jesus, we will never know when our lives will be over. Man got separated from the Holy Holy Holy God because of sin. Man has his own free will.

        Jesus provided the Way to God, He sacrificed Himself to be the Only Way. You be with God you can have your questions answered but you deny the Only Way and you will be in hell you can not get your questions answered when you're there.

        God through His infinite wisdom knows what is going on, that's why He gave us His Words the Bible to guide us in our earthly life. We need Him. You deny Him , the Way and His Words then you will end up living your whole life questioning God and playing god and even deny His existence even though you know and you know He exists. Act now, before it is too late for you.

        September 29, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  2. lol??

    occurs 14 times in 14 verses in the KJV

    How come the socie kommie killer pwogwessive mommies don't like that word. Their feigned prudishness appears to be a cover-up.

    September 28, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • Apple Bush

      We're not going to change who we are just because some whore shakes her ass.

      September 28, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      So tell me who're you?

      September 28, 2013 at 8:01 am |
  3. Ungodly Discipline

    I want to take your foot with your toes curled beneath and cram your foot in my mouth like a Dodger Dog, but God said no in the Bible.

    September 28, 2013 at 12:13 am |
  4. Warning


    September 28, 2013 at 12:05 am |
    • Patty O'Grill

      This lassie has her leprechaun hat on too tight!

      September 28, 2013 at 5:17 am |
  5. Apple Bush

    My mother hurled the bowl at his head. It connected and blood and spaghetti painted the wall like modern art. He was still; he was unconscious.

    “I have to go to work,” she said and was gone as she wiped a tear, hoping I didn’t see.

    He came to in a few minutes, muttered something about killing someone and then staggered out the front door. The screen door slamming with a comforting thud.

    I called my best friend and asked him to come over as if nothing had just happened. He was on his way. I cleaned up the mess.

    September 28, 2013 at 12:01 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Part II

      After I finished cleaning up, an Angel appeared to me and said unto me..."missed a spot."

      September 28, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • Apple Bush

      I know what you are thinking. AB, what the fuck does this shit have to do with anything? I know you are thinking that because I am a Psychic.

      September 28, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • lol??

      Nobody I know, except me, would eat spaghetti for breakfast so the lady must be a lady of the night, on the night shift. So that's the origin of the FSM (Flyin' Spaghetti Monster)?? Wild tale.

      September 28, 2013 at 12:40 am |
  6. lol??

    "What’s Wrong With “Publish or Perish”?"


    Notice how the author is drenched, immersed, and drowning in the socie dialogue from the commies at the Frankfurt School, courtesy of Bloom. Oh well, if Darwin feels good don't expect any hopey changey. Just pay up!! Shamanism can be quite compet*iive it appears. They oughta measure it!!

    September 27, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
  7. Apple Bush

    I was broken but now I am healed.

    I was blind but now I see the light.

    I was a fool but now I am wise.

    I was a Christian but now I am atheist.

    September 27, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • HeavenScent

      Did prayer change all that ?

      September 27, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        No actually, it was this soap for my psoriasis. Smells terrible but it will get the god off quick.

        September 27, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
        • HeavenScent

          Are we ready for the Gospel according to Bill O'Reilly on 60 Minutes on Sunday ?

          September 28, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  8. Dyslexic doG

    This is one of the most perfect descriptions of the Christian mindset:

    “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!'

    - Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

    September 27, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • Apple Bush


      September 27, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  9. Meredith S.

    I can't help it if I'm lucky

    September 27, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG


      September 27, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
      • wewe

        zimmy or u may call me bobby
        u may call me anything
        no matter what u say
        u r gonna have to
        serve somebody

        September 28, 2013 at 1:23 am |
        • wewe

          Someone's got it in for me, they're planting stories in the press
          Whoever it is I wish they'd cut it out quick but when they will I can only guess
          They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy
          She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me
          I can't help it if I'm lucky.

          People see me all the time and they just can't remember how to act
          Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts
          Even you yesterday you had to ask me where it was at
          I couldn't believe after all these years you didn't know even me better than that
          Sweet lady.

          Idiot wind blowing every time your move your mouth
          Blowing down the backroads heading south
          Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth
          You're an idiot babe
          It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe

          I ran into the fortune-teller who said beware of lightning that might strike
          I haven't known peace and quit for so long I can't remember what it's like
          There's a lone soldier on the cross smoke pouring out of a boxcar door
          You didn't know it you didn't think it could be done in the final end he won the wars
          After losing every battle.

          I woke up on the roadside daydreaming about the way things sometimes are
          Visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head and are making me see stars
          You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies
          One day you'll be in the ditch, flies buzzing around your eyes
          Blood on your saddle.

          Idiot wind blowing through the flowers on your tomb
          Blowing through the curtains in your room
          Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth
          You're an idiot babe
          It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

          It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart
          You tamed the lion in my cage but it just wasn't enough to change my heart

          Now everything's a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped

          What's good is bad what's bad is good you'll find out when you reach the top

          You're on the bottom.

          I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways had finally made you blind
          I can't remember your face anymore, your mouth has changed your eyes don't look
          Into mine
          The priest wore black on the seventh day and sat stone faced while the
          Building burned
          I waited for you on the running boards, near the cypress trees while the
          Springtime turned
          Slowly into autumn.

          Idiot wind blowing like a circle around my skull
          From the Grand Coulee Dam to Capitol
          Idiot wind blowing every time you move you teeth
          You're an idiot babe.
          It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

          I can't feel you anymore, I can't even touch the books you've read
          Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishing I was somebody else instead
          Down the highway down the tracks down the road to ecstasy
          I followed you beneath the stars hounded by your memory
          And all you raging glory.

          I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I'm finally free
          I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me
          You'll never know the hurt I suffered not the pain I raise above
          And I'll never know the same about you your holiness or your kind of love
          And it makes me feel so sorry.

          Idiot wind blowing through the buttons of our coats
          Blowing through the letters that we wrote
          Idiot wind blowing through the dust upon our shelves
          We're idiots babe
          It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves.

          our prophet of modernity

          September 28, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  10. In Santa we trust

    SoC, The model may be wrong in that the growth rate is not correct, but your money is still growing. There is no doubt that there is global warming – it may not be as dire as those projections but many experts feel we may have passed a tipping point with the continued and increasing use of fossil fuels and the depletion of forests.

    September 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  11. Dan Dennett - Breaking the Spell


    September 27, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
  12. SoC is a moron

    You won't believe the evidence that is presented to you....instead of looking for evidence AGAINST it, look at the evidence FOR it...my gosh, you're quite stupid. Bet you don't think that the Holocaust happened either, amiright?

    What possible reason would anyone have to fake this stuff? Are you really that dim??

    Your posts say "yes".

    September 27, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    September 27, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • Austin

      Topher, is that me?

      September 27, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
      • Austin


        September 27, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
        • Topher

          Austin, is that me?

          September 27, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
        • Nope


          September 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      actions cause change; prayer wastes valuable time.

      September 27, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
      • Nope


        September 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • AE

      Prayer does work. It can give an atheist evidence for God.

      September 27, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
      • Nope


        September 27, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
      • You're a liar

        September 27, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • Nope


      September 27, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
      • Dippy

        It is "Nope" not "nope".

        September 27, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      "For 27 years I prayed every day of my life for God to heal my son's mental illness," Pastor Rick Warren said.

      Need any more proof that prayer doesn't work?

      September 27, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Observer

      The bible says God torturously killed every child on the face of the earth.

      Tough luck, kids.

      September 28, 2013 at 12:09 am |
      • fred

        Still twisting the truth of God at all hours I see. Is you hope that you start to believe your nonsense or others fall away from the love God has shown them?

        September 28, 2013 at 12:22 am |
        • Observer


          You're still PRETENDING the Bible doesn't say what it says. Read it sometime.

          How many children survived the Great Flood? Oooooops!

          September 28, 2013 at 12:29 am |
        • Observer


          "Is you hope that you start to believe your nonsense or others fall away from the love God has shown them?"

          Neither. My hope is that hypocritical Christians CHOOSE the Golden Rule rather than CHOOSING verses to hurt others.

          September 28, 2013 at 12:34 am |
        • fred

          You cannot claim the Bible is a lie then use that lie to support what you claim.

          Most non believers on this site claim the flood never happened or could have happened (including you). If that is the case no animals were harmed in the production of the flood story, thus no children were harmed in the flood story.

          Now, if it is just a made up bunch of nonsense as you suggest then treat it like a fable and take the life lesson from it. Lesson; Obedience and worship of God brings security and protection that lifts you to safety above the death that results from mocking God and mocking those that worship God.

          September 28, 2013 at 12:48 am |
        • Observer


          Still STUMPED? Ever read a Bible?

          According to the Bible, how many children survived the Great Flood?

          The question isn't that tough. Most children in Sunday school would know the answer. Why are you stumped?

          September 28, 2013 at 12:52 am |
        • fred

          " My hope is that hypocritical Christians CHOOSE the Golden Rule rather than CHOOSING verses to hurt others."

          =>Ok, we are on the same page with that and I too would hope for the same.
          =>Jesus singled out the religious leaders of his day for the same problem so you are in good company.

          September 28, 2013 at 12:53 am |
        • fred

          Ok, so if the flood story is a real event no one outside of Noah's family was saved. But, we can never take anything out of context so remember that the Bible is a story about God redeeming (saving) a people for himself. God is showing us that the plan of creation involves the salvation of souls into eternal life with God and death for all other souls. The Bible is not as complicated as we would to think.
          Creation and the Bible is about eternal souls that are in the image of God. You bring up physical bodies of children killed yet the Hebrew word used in the flood story is that they were blotted out not "killed". Many theologians believe this flood was symbolic of a religious cleansing ceremony of the Hebrew yet the effect is the same. In the End of Days the old is washed away and God creates a new heaven and earth. God will wipe away every tear thus the harmful negative illusions of this life are meaningless.
          Not to diminish death for non believers something very negative about death vs life eternal with Chirst frightens me. I think eternal separation from God is very bad because it is something none of us have ever experienced. Even the atheists on this site benefit from the presence of God restraining evil. Now, in the flood story all the people were wicked that were washed away. Innocence or incapacity to be wicked as in the case of children is discussed in the Bible and Jesus says do not hurt them or block them from Gods presence. If you think Jesus would kill or bring suffering to innocence that would not be in Christ's nature.

          September 28, 2013 at 1:15 am |
        • Observer


          "Innocence or incapacity to be wicked as in the case of children is discussed in the Bible"

          You nor any other Christian can give any explanation of what sins the children, babies and fetuses commited to be worthy of a terrible death.

          Instead, you start mindlessly yelling "nonsense" when I stated what the Bible says happened. You need to read more of the Bible so you don't spout off before thinking.

          September 28, 2013 at 1:46 am |
        • fred

          Actually you are speaking of the mercy of God. Those infants did not have time or opportunity to sin (including rejecting God). Given their genetics and socio economic background (wickedness that became worse continuing to reach greater wickedness until God had it with them) they would have been worse than their parents. By the mercy of God they were saved from deserving judgment.

          September 28, 2013 at 1:53 am |
        • Observer


          Not all Christians believe as you do that there either is no such thing as "free will" or else it is not given to everyone..

          September 28, 2013 at 1:58 am |
        • fred

          That is why the Bible must be taken as a whole. Their are verses that speak to age of accountability and some that speak to God preventing some from rejecting him and some like in Exodus where God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Accountability in the Bible is based upon what you were given (to whom much is given much is expected)

          September 28, 2013 at 2:18 am |
        • Dippy

          There, not their. How old are you, Fred?

          September 28, 2013 at 2:21 am |
        • fred

          Ouch, I am typing their instead of there. Time to Go.
          Have a great weekend !

          September 28, 2013 at 2:23 am |
  14. Lionly Lamb

    I am God Fearing... And you are..? I am Christian Loving... And are you..? I believe in Evolution... Do you..? Therefore, I am
    a God fearing Christian loving Evolutionist who just happens to be a male humanoid... And you are..?

    September 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • HeavenScent

      Why is it you fear a loving god again

      September 27, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
      • sam stone

        because he knows that his god is anything but loving (or, butt loving).

        September 28, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  15. EnjaySea

    Is there such a thing as a conservative who hasn't been brainwashed by both the Christian church and the Koch brothers?

    They're probably out there.

    September 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • bostontola

      I get the point and it's valid, but most conservatives I know are not religious nuts.

      September 27, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
  16. bostontola

    The scientists scandalized by the global warming data shines a light on the superiority of the scientific method. This isn't the first or last scandal unfortunately. It does show how quickly scientists recognize and correct these issues. That is very unlike religion that cloaks and perpetuates unethical behavior.

    September 27, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  17. Austin

    Topher, is that me?

    September 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Topher

      This joke wasn't funny a year ago. Why is it still going on? Comedy is hard, isn't it?

      September 27, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
      • Austin

        Topher, is that me?

        September 27, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
      • sam stone

        stil a coward, are ya gopher?

        got someone else to take your punishment

        too bad you haven't the testicular fort-i-tude to stand up like a man

        good for you

        looks like your god prefers slaves anyway

        September 28, 2013 at 9:00 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.