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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

(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. Bootyfunk

    i'm pretty sure both these guys pray to St. Touchy-Feely, patron saint of child molesters.

    September 28, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      And I should know being the resident child molester on these blogs. Child molesting is all I ever dream about.

      September 29, 2013 at 6:20 am |
  2. Alias

    If there is only one all powerful god and we are all descendents of Noah's family, where did all these other religions come from?

    September 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • bostontola

      Where did all these races come from?

      September 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      Bible Fun Fact:

      did you know Noah sentenced one of his sons to slavery because walked in and saw dad's junk? that's right, if your dad passes out drunk with his nuts hanging out and you walk into the room and see them - a fitting punishment is slavery.

      Amen.

      September 28, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        And I should know because incest and molestation are the secrets I freely expose about myself on these blogs and none of you are smart enough to notice me doing it.

        September 29, 2013 at 6:33 am |
        • lippy

          none "is" u idiot

          September 29, 2013 at 7:03 am |
        • Mirosal

          His grammar is correct. One does not say "you is" in ANY sentence. "None of you" is also a plural, therefore the correct tense is "are" not "is". Please finish that 3rd year of sixth grade before posting again.

          September 29, 2013 at 7:07 am |
        • stanky weed patch

          U r an idiot. None means no one. no one of u r going to hello? Booty, beat it punk. U r not our grammar cop. Doedoe, don't pull that garbage with me, u fool

          September 29, 2013 at 9:24 am |
        • Webby

          "None is" and "none are" is tricky - I usually go to great lengths to avoid it altogether. I'll say "nobody is going..." or something.

          UK English treats some group nouns differently too. They say, "The class are going on a field trip" or "The family are having a celebration."

          September 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
        • Webby

          * Yoiks! A mess of a first sentence there!

          Fix it as you will - either infer "The usage of "none is" and "none are" is tricky – or – "none is" and "none are" are tricky.

          September 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
        • Dippy

          Is the word "none" singular or plural?

          September 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
        • stanky weed patch

          What ignorant morons

          September 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  3. bostontola

    Who values life more, group A believes they have an eternal afterlife of love and joy, or group B that believes this life is it?

    September 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • common sense

      Depends if you want to choose life or death.

      September 28, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Sara

      I've met people advantaged by each view. Some who believe in eternal life find it enriches their view of the present by tying it in to a greater story. Others, unfortunately, devalue life because they focus on eternity, despite the fact you can only live in the present, not eternity. On the flip side, many who believe life is finite thrive on that belief and work to accomplish what can be done in their short lives. Others find this depressing and a reason to give up. It seems to be, at least in part, related to how empowered you feel and how likely you believe you are to experience happiness here and now. But I think there's more to it than that, that fundamental differences in how we view time mix with our past experiences and expectations. It's not necessarily the case that one size fits all, though that would be easier.

      September 29, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • lol??

      The go-for-the-gusto mob crowd doesn't care who they step on and crush.

      September 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • lol??

      That's why the pwogwessive mob crowd insisted the USA republic "evolve" into a demobocracy, crushing the "kings of the castles" for group thrills and s*ex.

      September 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • lol??

      That's how you got:

      Dan 7:19 Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;"

      September 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  4. bostontola

    Why do some people believe in conspiracy theories? There are lots of reasons that some people deny smoking leads to lung cancer, or that man has landed on the moon and returned. Many have a hard time dealing with a complex world where unpredictable things happen so they construct rationalizations to explain things. They adhere to these conspiracy ideas even when they conflict with evidence and scientific data. Very similar to religions and belief in their gods.

    September 28, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      I was watching H2 the other day & thought what is it with all these wild conspiracy theories.

      September 28, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • lol??

      Yeah, it's just mob standard business practices.

      September 29, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  5. snotrunningdownhisnose

    prove it.

    some quores attributed to him:
    The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.

    By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

    Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

    Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

    When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.

    It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.

    In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.

    Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.

    i'm dying here doedoe

    September 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
  6. snotrunningdownhisnose

    as soon as you prove it it to me, i'll start believing. til then, i'll stick with FSM

    September 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Alias

      R amen

      September 28, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  7. Alias

    In the beginning, an all knowing, all seeing, loving, caring, god (aka the lord) made the heavens, earth, hell and the rules.
    Then he made a dirt man in his image, and a rib woman so the dirt man could have s.e.x.. He let them live in a magical garden.
    I don't know why god had to make billions and billions of stars for one garden, but I guess it didn't hurt anything.
    Anyway, the rib woman convinced the dirt man dirt man to eat fruit and make the lord angry.
    I guess it happened because the lord didn't make his rib woman perfect enough. You'd think the lord would have seen it coming.....
    Back to the story, the lord decided to hold that mistake against everyone who would ever be born. After all, that is just the loving and just god he is.
    Apparently the lord didn't like the rules he made, and didn't want to send us all to the hell he made for us, so he decided to make a loop hole in his rule.
    So that he could judge us the way he wanted to when we die, the lord got a married virgin pregnant.
    That allowed him to suffer and forgive us all for the "sin" he gave us, even though we didn't do it.

    get it now?

    September 28, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • snotrunningdownhisnose

      dig it

      September 28, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      If you don't believe in original, I have experiment for you. Put 4 or 5 preschoolers in a room, give them each one toy. You can even let them pick which one they want. Observe for 20 minutes.

      September 28, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
      • Alias

        Typical christian reasoning. Your children are aggressive little things, so I must be a louse parent too.

        September 28, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
        • Alias

          A christian pointed out that children have to learn how to interact.
          I see the light now!
          The bible is perfect!
          Jesus is the correct god to worship!
          We all deserve an eternity in HELL because of what Adam did thousands of years ago!

          September 28, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Alias,

          If that one is outside your realm of understanding, just watch or read some news.

          September 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
        • lol??

          alas sayz,
          ".........................We all deserve an eternity in HELL because of what Adam did thousands of years ago!"

          Not exactly slick. You will get what you deserve for what you did and do. Just be perfect from day one and you can pass the test.

          September 29, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  8. Bootyfunk

    modern ethics > biblical morals

    September 28, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • common sense

      Without the Bible there is no ethics.

      September 28, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
      • Alias

        Really?
        How about all those other religions with the same basic moral code?
        Confucious was preaching the gplden rule 1000 thousand years before jesus.

        September 28, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
        • common sense

          There were no other religions teaching the gplden rule 1000 years before Jesus.

          September 28, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
        • Alias

          some quores attributed to him:
          The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.

          By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

          Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

          Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

          When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.

          It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.

          In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.

          Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.

          September 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
        • lol??

          alias, you better fix wiki on spelling and update his obit cuz they say, "Confucius (551–479 BC)".

          September 29, 2013 at 9:09 am |
      • Alias

        What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.
        Confucius

        Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/confucius_2.html#o5LDGAqdL7zV7Xcw.99

        September 28, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  9. Bob

    fred has a really hard time understanding his own Christian book of nasty AKA the bible, so it's time to refresh his memory on the awful content of his book of horrors AKA the bible:

    Numbers 31:17-18
    17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
    18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

    Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

    Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

    Leviticus 25
    44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
    45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
    46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

    Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

    Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

    And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

    So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
    Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    September 28, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      I think you could use some new material Bob. You never know, if you'd spend some more time in the word, it could have the desired effect.

      September 28, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
      • sam stone

        As could you, Robbie. But, you have never considered the possibility that you could be wrong. So, you are doing a heck of a job portraying a parrot. The things is, Robbie, parrots don't think about what they are saying, they just say it.

        September 28, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Hey Sam, I hope you are doing well. I think I'm thoughtful, but who knows my thoughts could all be vanity and pride.

          September 28, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
      • Susan

        Robert Brown, the being that should present some new material, instead of the outdated and extremely violent and vicious stuff, is your fictional deity. But because he doesn't exist, we are stuck with the old, mostly wrong and obsolete stuff (all of it man-made).

        September 28, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  10. Age of Reson

    ..."jesus" never existed, so DO NOT believe in him!

    September 28, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Age of Reason

      However Jesus of Nazareth does exist and sits at the right hand of God

      September 28, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
      • Tony

        Bullsht. Evidence please or I reject your myth.

        September 28, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
        • Tony

          Part of the missing evidence is re that person's divinity. And in any case, any god would have to realize that tales will get warped over 2K years, so if your goddy can't do some modern show an' tell time, it's not reasonable for us to believe in him.

          So, out with the proof or hush up. Your choice.

          September 28, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
        • M MURDOCH

          o no. tony is gonna reject christ! boo hoo!

          October 5, 2013 at 4:51 am |
      • Topher

        Austin, is that me?

        September 28, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
  11. Bootyfunk

    it's a little known fact, but popes keep a little boy under their robes at all times, even in public.

    September 28, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • M MURDOCH

      your momma, dm. u brave, lying, degenerate, stanky weed patch! u r some scholar!

      October 5, 2013 at 4:40 am |
  12. midwest rail

    The link below is provided for those who wish to see an all too common response from the church.

    September 28, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  13. midwest rail

    http://docu*ments.latimes.com/los-angeles-archdiocese-priest-abuse-files/

    September 28, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  14. Rusty Yates

    Is this delusion? Outright lying? Propaganda? Alzheimer's?

    September 28, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  15. Reality # 2

    Now for the truth:

    Only for the new visitors to this blog:

    "Ratzinger's 2001 letter De delictis gravioribus clarified the confidentiality of internal church investigations, as defined in the 1962 docu-ment Crimen Sollicitationis, into accusations made against priests of certain crimes, including s-exual a-buse. This became a target of controversy during the se-x abuse scandal.[43] As a Cardinal, Ratzinger had been for twenty years the man in charge of enforcing the docu-ment.[44] While bishops hold the secrecy pertained only internally, and did not preclude investigation by civil law enforcement, the letter was often seen as promoting a cover-up.[45] Later, as pope, he was accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys in Texas, but sought and obtained diplomatic immunity from prosecution.[46]"

    September 28, 2013 at 8:01 am |
  16. Kebos

    The ex-Pope can say all he wants. It won't help. He knows what he did. He can now add "mass liar" to his list of personal attributes, although we already knew that.

    September 28, 2013 at 5:19 am |
  17. mike

    Atheists have never posted one single rebuke of that virus, sambo stone.

    September 28, 2013 at 3:13 am |
  18. wewe

    thy kingdom come
    thy will be done
    on earth as it is in heaven

    September 28, 2013 at 1:13 am |
    • The Hollow Men - V

      Here we go round the prickly pear
      Prickly pear prickly pear
      Here we go round the prickly pear
      At five o'clock in the morning.
      Between the idea
      And the reality
      Between the motion
      And the act
      Falls the Shadow
      For Thine is the Kingdom
      Between the conception
      And the creation
      Between the emotion
      And the response
      Falls the Shadow
      Life is very long
      Between the desire
      And the spasm
      Between the potency
      And the existence
      Between the essence
      And the descent
      Falls the Shadow
      For Thine is the Kingdom
      For Thine is
      Life is
      For Thine is the
      This is the way the world ends
      This is the way the world ends
      This is the way the world ends
      Not with a bang but a whimper.

      September 28, 2013 at 8:10 am |
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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.