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

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(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.

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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.

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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. Billy da kid

    The Clintons have the poor covered with their foundation.

    September 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
  2. Bookworm

    Simple cells first appeared on Earth nearly 4 billion years ago. “We had insects 400 million years ago, dinosaurs 300 million years ago and flowering plants 130 million years ago,” lead researcher Andrew Rushby, of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.”Anatomically modern humans have only been around for the last 200,000 years — so you can see it takes a really long time for intelligent life to develop.”

    No No No, there must be some error here. CHRIST and his dad made the entire UNIVERSE and all of the trillions of stars and planetary systems and any other life that has arisen out there.

    Why did he show up almost 200,000 years after Humans arose and choose to show himself to desert nomads in the Bronze Age? Well that's his choice isn't it, he is a GOD afterall 🙂

    hee hee 🙂

    Sorry, but I hate stupidity.

    September 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • Alien

      I don't think most Humans are very good at understanding time or math. Million rhymes with Billion so most people think they are similar. But you really did hit the nail on the head...no matter which way you slice, RELIGION IS JUST POOR MATH 🙁

      September 24, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
      • AE

        My religion didn't teach me that.

        September 24, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
      • Billy da kid

        Too bad da gubmint diverse Beast has the powers of a god. Their math skills ain't so hot either.

        September 24, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
      • bozikhan

        Sorry, Mr. Ex- Pop most us don't buy what you are saying!

        September 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • AE

      “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover…. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

      Robert Jastrow (Astronomer, physicist)

      September 24, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
      • Susan


        "...what I or anyone would call supernatural forces..."

        umm, you mean because your (our) tiny brain can't understand something, so a god did it? GROW UP. Gravity was once magic, dark energy, dark matter, neutrinos, photons.....HELLO??!!

        September 24, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
        • AE

          He has some good writings on why science and theology are not enemies.

          September 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
        • Doris

          and not just any god Susan, but the one that conveniently looks like us and who made this place that seems to fit us perfectly. the huge leap from the beginning of this universe to the Abrahamic God.

          September 24, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          I'm sure there are things we will never understand, but God will have to introduce itself first before it can be useful in any explanation.

          September 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
        • Billy da kid

          The only way for you to know about the second death is to be told.

          September 24, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
        • Doris

          And Billy the Kid thinks he can do the telling? lol. If the troll can't recognize that it's impossible for his source information to be "objective" then, well, we have to accept that it may very well stay in a cave forever.

          September 24, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Billy da kid

      Bronze knuckles are harder than the tinkling brass type.

      September 24, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • i know but

      these guys discuss why you'll need a softer approach


      September 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
      • Billy da kid

        Closets but no cigars??

        September 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
      • Susan

        That video should be required viewing for all theists.

        September 24, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
        • Billy da kid

          Here come da mob!!

          September 24, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
      • Billy da kid

        Why did they record that?? I listened to about a 1/2 hr of it. Sounds like a pity party of men that could talk themselves into anything. Not intellectually stimulating. How 'bout askin' em to drop acid with Alexander "Sasha" Theodore Shulgin and record THAT??

        September 24, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  3. YeahItsMe72

    I think he's just perplexed why this hasn't gone away as easily as his time as a Nazi.

    September 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • bill

      Give the guy a break. He was growing up in Germany when it was required you serve with the Nazi Youth program. Real intelligent comment, you ignorant moron.

      September 24, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
      • bob

        There were a lot of Germans who didn't. Any one of them would have made a better pope.

        September 24, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
      • displacedmic

        not a personal judgement against the guy- you do what you have to do to survive I suppose...but from a PR perspective maybe a former Hitler Youth isn't the best choice for pope?

        September 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
        • Joey Navis


          September 24, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • JJ

      No, he's just perplexed why the RCC has lost its right to rape children and now people seem to have a problem with it now since they've gotten away with it and other horrific crimes for the past 2000 years.

      September 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  4. Haha

    Why doesn't the ex-Pope talk about how the Catholic church steals and sells kids under the guise of adoption all over the world through its "Catholic Charities" organization? We Christians are suppose to be doing God's work and striving for perfection, and while that atheist is an annoying hypocrite–it still isn't time for the Catholic Church to start patting itself on the back, the problems that have been worked on so far are the tip of the iceberg, and there is still plenty of pentence to do.

    September 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • Anon

      Oh, bull. How many atheists have you ever heard about that perpretrated such crimes on children and covered it up? Before you call them hypocrites, which I am almost sure you don't know the meaning of, examine your own behavior.

      September 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Alien

      Christianity is 100% lies for brain dead people who want to tell themselves that death is not the end.
      I'm going to check back with your little water world in another 2000 years (sighs)

      September 24, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Yahweh

      Agreed. You can level all sorts of accusations against an atheist but pretty sure hypocrite isn't one of them. I, too, don't think you know what it means. Pity, since it applies to nearly EVERY Christian I've ever met.

      September 24, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Popepourri – sometimes there just aren't enough popes.

      September 24, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • Yahweh

      Can agree on the annoying part though. I'd be annoyed if I held a completely indefensible position and people suddenly had free access to continuously challenge me on it. Of course, that's on you. It takes character and strength to admit you've been brainwashed and to break free from the familial and societal constraints of organized religion. It's not easy but seems like nothing worthwhile is.

      September 24, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  5. Lyndia

    2.6 BILLION dollars is a lot of money to be paid out for the abuses of these priests. 17,000 are a lot of people to have been abused by these freaks. We really don't know how many abuses have occurred within this organization and ANYBODY that has covered for these pedophiles, should be in jail and not in some high position within the church.

    September 24, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • JJ

      This pedophile infested cult got off lite for only 2.6B. The pedophile supporters/parishioners should have to cough up another $5B just to get started. I find them all disgusting and repulsive.

      September 24, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  6. cosmicwarriorz

    Michael Jackson should have made a saint by the new pope.

    September 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • Bill

      Michael Jackson IS a saint compared to most of the Catholic leadership...

      September 24, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Walt

      What? As a reward for sharing those boys?

      September 24, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  7. Angel

    Q. How do you spell DELUSIONAL?

    A. "...we must not, however, be silenced even by the great shining path of goodness and purity, which Christian faith has traced through the centuries..."

    September 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
  8. Johnjon

    he should just keep his yap shut.................. his decision to leave was the best of is sad, sorry papacy.

    September 24, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • Rinsewind

      Hear! Hear!

      September 24, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  9. Bill

    Who cares about Pope Child Molester XV?

    September 24, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
  10. Sdgman

    Yeah... Not buying it. Other professions didnt systematically cover up the abuses...that is the sole legacy of the church.

    September 24, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  11. Roch Johnson

    During the reign of Pope John Paul II he assigned him the responsible for researching the child abuse scandal during the World Children Congress. At the end of the Congress, he had done NOTHING.

    September 24, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  12. Huh?

    I thought this guy was supposed to disappear. The new guy seems as normal as theses fella's get. Legalize priest getting married. Send this guy off to a monastery that makes beer and you may have something.....

    September 24, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Dippy

      Fellas, not fella's.

      September 24, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  13. Jonkey

    Rumor has it that the reason he retired so abruptly was because the Vatican was being blackmailed about some s3xual abuse issue in his past.

    September 24, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Yahweh

      Not sure about that but I agree that SOMETHING most likely caused his retirement. You don't just break hundreds of years of history because you're "tired". I'm sure it's one more skeleton to get stuffed in the closet with the rest.

      September 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  14. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    They seem to keep missing the point. It's not just that the abuse is wrong .. or the cover-up is wrong .. and lying about it for decades is wrong ..... it's that they claim to be an organization directly founded by jesus, guided directly by god and is the moral authority of humankind for the entire planet! If anything renders your claim as a moral authority with a direct line to a god, this would be it!!

    September 24, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
  15. Veritas

    The Trojan horse in the church.

    September 24, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  16. jespo

    If this animal is going to break anything it shouldn't be silence, it should be his neck.

    September 24, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Tim

      Calling another human being an animal is the work of a bigot. But to call a such a saintly man such? What barbarism there is today?

      September 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
      • jespo

        The man is a hat-eful bigot and liar, the past head of an organization responsible for sheilding thousands of child ra-pists for centuries. He deserves public condemnation for his silence and the silence of all its members. Anyone who cannot see this is as culpable because your refusal to demand answers and justice perpetuated the horrors.

        September 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
      • noillusion

        Calling a human being an animal, is disrespecting of the animal.

        September 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • Justin

      That's cute. Break the papal neck. Would you feel powerful then?

      September 24, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
      • jespo

        Powerful...no. And I never said I wanted to harm him, unless of course your special talent is to make things up out of thin air. Would I like to see him off himself in misery, alone, scared, and in ag-ony.....yes, just like the millions of people his church has mur-dered and tor-tured for centuries. Unless, of course, you make believe that never happened.....

        September 24, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Manuel J.

      A real man would join the military, IF he felt he was so tough. But wait.... You're NOTHING!!!

      September 24, 2013 at 7:48 pm |

        Apparently, Pippa Middleton will be getting married sometime in 2014 , but she has not decided on a date for her wedding yet....

        September 24, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
      • jespo

        And what is a real man to you? If you mean joining the military made you someone because you were nothing without being told how to be a man, I'm glad that worked out for you you manly man man...but I feel sorry for your lack of self worth and direction before signing your life away to a government that throws soldiers away like used rags and doesn't respect them like they should. The military didn't make you anything you weren't already, sparky, they just used you. Maybe, just maybe, you're not the man you think you are either. By the way, when an argument turns into a personal attack it's a clear sign you've won your argument because the other guy has no argument left. I'm done with you.

        September 24, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
  17. Lionly Lamb

    Cannabis Whats The Harm (Episode1) (BBC)


    September 24, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • Colorado Cannabis

      How did you get that on here? I live in the Colorado, USA. We legalized Marijuana smoking and sales last year. Currently position and smoking are legal. This coming January 6, 2014 legal Marijuana retail stores open. It should be interesting. I can't wait.

      September 24, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  18. Age of Reason

    ..why is that there are ABSOLUTELY no physical description of "Jesus Christ"? None, zip, nada!

    In his magnum opus, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" , Sir Edward Gibbon (a vehement anti-christian and apostate Roman Catholic) stated that....."the Romans were good book-keepers, as they mentioned famines, civil wars, marches by the Roman emperors, but the greatest story ever told (sic the birth of this JESUS CHRIST), they mention........... NOTHING!
    ........there is absolutely no historical evidence that this Jesus guy existed, and if he did, NOTHING is known about him!

    September 24, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • xnmt

      The idea that Jesus didn't exist as a historical figure is almost universally rejected by historians, whether atheist or not. There is plenty of historical evidence and consideration that provides induction to that point, including but not limited to biblical and extra-biblical sources and the Embarrassment Criterion, and it shows great ignorance for you to suggest otherwise.

      September 24, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • carolineredbrook

      The Jewish Roman historian and others mention Jesus.

      September 24, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
      • Age of Reason

        ..."jesus" was mentioned by 2nd and 3rd party authors, none of whom knew "jesus"! And JESUS who?.....the carpenter, plumber, chariot driver, preacher??? "Jesus" was a common name at the time and, actually Jesus Christ literally means OUT OF THE TRIBE OF JESSE! That's like saying out of General Motors, a car assembler!

        September 24, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
      • Age of Reason

        Sir Edward Gibbon (one of the most prolific writers of all time) was an expert on Vulgar Latin, classic Greek and ancient antiquities!
        No one alive or dead can match his knowledge (not even the phoney "expert" Prof. Bart Ehrman (Did Jesus Exist?)), so as he stated this jesus guy did NOT exist, therefore, he did NOT exist! Any thing more clearer than this?

        September 24, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
        • Justin

          I don't know if you realize this or not, but you are writing under the moniker "Age of Reason."

          This must be some mistake. You are displaying neither age nor reason.

          September 24, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  19. Red

    The ex-pope needed Sundays off for the last season of Breaking Bad

    September 24, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  20. Osprey

    How can you support an organization that have poor children from poor families save their last pennies, nickels and dimes in a little box to give to the church to be given to other poor people when the church is the richest (by far) business in the world?
    The church has vast land ownings all over the world (yes, all of the Catholic churches belong to the pope), priceless art, gold out the wazoo and, none of it goes to the poor, starving people of the world.
    Now, THAT is the sin of sins!

    September 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • xnmt

      On the contrary, Catholic charities distribute enormous sums to the poor. The grandeur of Church structures and so forth is meant to glorify God. It is meant as a sign of wonder and respect, and in fact anyone who wants is able to go and enjoy it. It's unreasonable to demand that every single penny go to charity.

      September 24, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • Justin

      The Catholic Church is by far and away the most charitable organization in the world.

      September 24, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
      • Larry B.

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Next joke, please.

        September 24, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
        • Alfred Temple

          Can you name an organization that gives more to charity than the Catholic Church?

          September 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
      • JCS

        Yes, they give more penis to little boys than any other organization.

        September 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Over the centuries, the Church has proven itself to have an agenda that puts it far outside the definition of charitable organization.

        September 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
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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.