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.

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. Jay

    If I met that Jesus right now I would kick his ass for being so stupid.

    September 25, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
  2. Apple Bush

    The last year and half have been the most challenging (horrible?) of my life. Did I turn to
    God? No. My wife cheated on me. Did I turn to God? No. My Grandmother passed away. Did I turn to God? No. My Brother in Law passed away. Did I turn to God? No. My Grandfather passed away. Did I turn to God? No. My mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Did I turn to God? No. I lost my day gig that paid the bills. Did I turn to God? No. My Aunt passed away. Did I turn to God? No.

    You know why I didn’t turn to God? There is not one. Shit happens. No gods are watching or caring.

    September 25, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      If I knew your address I'd send you $50.

      September 25, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        LOL thx!

        September 26, 2013 at 12:38 am |
      • h oo


        September 26, 2013 at 3:04 am |
    • Circle

      Oh, waaaah. Life happens. You get what you give.

      September 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        IF that is true Circle, and there is no reason to think that it is, I can certainly do more for others. I admit I am selfish with my time.

        September 26, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • Topher

      Dude! I'm sorry to hear about all that. I had no idea.

      September 25, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Hey, you deal with it and move on. Sometimes with meds. thanks T.

        September 26, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • S-3B Viking


      Knew something was up...had no idea so much was. I had asked Akira about you months ago.

      I'm sorry for the repeti tion of loss. Of course, words are completely inadequate.

      I applaud you for your courage to face life head on. I wish you well, my friend.


      September 25, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Thanks that is nice of you. Yes I was in a dark place for a while needless to say. But my point is there is no one to bail you out. You have yourself to depend on and nobody else.

        September 26, 2013 at 12:41 am |
        • Meredith S.


          September 26, 2013 at 2:52 am |
  3. Apple Bush

    Why do Christians / creationists insist that something can’t come from nothing? We have no idea what triggered the big bang “behind the curtain”. Maybe we smashed into another universe. So many possibilities. No need for a god.

    September 25, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • Topher

      Well, because if you have nothing, how can it become something?

      September 25, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
      • sam stone

        why do you feel we came out of nothing?

        it is amusing that someone can believe the tripe you do

        i no longer wish to try to reason with you.

        you are beyond reason

        you are faithfu

        you are a coward

        i am here to ridicule you and your inbred little compatriots

        because you are ridiculous

        September 26, 2013 at 4:31 am |
    • Trickster

      Yet they want people to believe God just crated something out of nothing because...well...it's GOD.

      September 25, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
      • Topher

        Yeah, but that at least makes sense. If there is a God, then He certainly would be able to do that.

        September 25, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
        • sam stone

          nothing about what you say makes sense, gopher

          September 26, 2013 at 4:20 am |
        • Joey

          It actually makes less sense if you would actually think about it for more that 2 seconds.

          September 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  4. Apple Bush

    It has recently been discovered that our universe resides in the toilet bowl of one Mr. Curtis Jeffery. His “big bang” seemed normal based on his enormous size relative to us. Our entire expanding universe is just a used condom Mr. Grody Pants is blowing up because he thinks it’s funny. Good one “God”. I wish we pooped galaxies instead of shit. That would be awesome and it would answer some questions about black matter.

    September 25, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  5. findmeinfloridaagain

    Reblogged this on Find Me in Florida Again. .

    September 25, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  6. Ungodly Discipline

    Christians, you cannot argue that IF there were a god and it was the god you are always carrying on about, then that god is wicked; diabolical in fact. We were born in the wrong universe.

    When you are born, you have already sinned. Nice game god plays at. Now you can spend the rest of your life kissing a god’s ass so you don’t burn for eternity. No one asked you. You didn’t do anything and you were given no say in the matter.

    Your god, if it existed, would be a cosmic tyrant. A god that delights in pain and torture.

    Love me or suffer? No thanks. I will suffer.

    September 25, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Yes, I think the Bible makes it clear that God is an immoral cosmic dictator.

      September 25, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
      • Tony

        Doesn't your wife demand that you love or she'll leave you?

        September 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
        • Ungodly Discipline

          What does my wife have to do with anything?

          September 25, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
        • St. Pete

          Thou shall love The Lord God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.

          The love for your wife comes next.

          September 25, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
        • Ungodly Discipline

          I don't see what that has to do with this conversation.

          September 25, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
        • fintastic

          God is only your imagination......... your wife? not so much.

          September 26, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Tony

      Love me or suffer?

      –You suffer because you fail to love and obey God. Suffering is a consequence of your own disobedience.

      September 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
      • Ungodly Discipline

        Exactly. Which is wrong. Morally wrong, ethically wrong. No freedom, no choices, just love or else. Not my kind of leader.

        September 25, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Perfect for North Korea though.

          September 25, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
        • St. Pete

          Suffering is your choice. If you break laws you face consequences of disobedience, you don't argue against the law of the land how can you with the creator of the universe?

          September 25, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
        • Ungodly Discipline

          St. Pete, you think a god that saddles you with original sin before you are even born is to be praised? He is an asshole! Blood sacrifice? Please. Join us in the 21st.

          September 25, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
        • sam stone

          perhaps tony or saint pete can explain how free will is consistent with an omniscient god

          September 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
        • sam stone

          Also, St Pete, we are not arguing with the creator of the universe, we are arguing with you about your view of god as an iron age pr1ck

          if you learn to tell the difference, you won't come off as such a snivelling coward

          September 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
      • sam stone

        tony: you paint god as a vindictive, petty pr1ck. is that what god is to you?

        September 25, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        And in reality land, if a spouse did this to his partner he'd be considered abusive. Ah but you don't live in reality to see how abusive your imaginary friend is.

        September 26, 2013 at 3:50 am |
  7. George Beverly Shea

    I'm sick and tired of all these ex Popes coming out with statements about what the current Pope is doing. They should all just be quiet and enjoy their retirement.

    September 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Roger that

      I know what you mean. The last pope that resigned/retired never would shut up. That was pope Gregory XII in 1415.

      September 25, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
      • Billy


        September 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
      • JJ

        Touche` LOL.

        September 25, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  8. OKfine

    I think you have been down this road before, you have said the laws an rules of the church trump the rules of the state. As A deist/atheist I obey the laws that govern the country but feel absolutely no duty to follow the rules of any religion that you as a member of the RCC are compelled to follow or risk exclusion. You voluntarily put this added burden on yourself, you could always leave the church as so many are now doing. Some guy posts about breaking the chains but I think you need the crutch that supposed redemption gives you.

    September 25, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • OKfine

      Missed the reply feature, meant for BD below.

      September 25, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  9. Word on the street

    The 9th consecutive article about the pope which is coming out next week is going to be a doozy.

    September 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  10. Apple Bush

    Snails function in the same space and within the same natural laws as we do, but their universe looks nothing like ours to them, even though it is the same one. That could be happening to us even now. In fact, it seems likely.

    September 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Yep, but on how many scales?

      September 25, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Depends on how much the snail practices.

        September 25, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  11. Lionly Lamb

    Jim Stafford – Wildwood Weed


    September 25, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      LL: You know I am on your side here but these video's do get a little redundant after awhile. Go out and buy a gram, sit back and smoke it. Stop living in fear and learn to relax...maybe, you'll come back a non-believer after you've had time to clear the mind and know some true peace.

      September 25, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
      • Dippy

        Videos, not video's.

        September 25, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
        • Dippy

          But you're right about Lame Lion's spam. Quite annoying.

          September 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Yes yes yes...whatever would we do without you???

          September 25, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
      • sam stone

        LL is too afraid of the po po to smoke a doob

        too bad, so sad

        September 25, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          I think it might actually do him good, maybe bring him to a new reality and help him form coherent, rational thoughts. 🙂

          September 26, 2013 at 3:55 am |
        • sam stone

          that's asking an awful lot of a plant

          that would be like topher/gopher not to be such a snivelling, irrational coward

          won't happen

          it is not in his nature

          September 26, 2013 at 4:08 am |
  12. Ares

    Does it really matter, he did, he didn't, he wouldn't get "in trouble" anyway.

    September 25, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  13. Lionly Lamb

    Scientific Research and Real Facts about the Cannabinoids in Cannabis


    September 25, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  14. Lionly Lamb

    Scientific Research and Real Facts about the Cannabinoids in Cannabis


    September 25, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  15. Alter Boy

    Then why does my butt still hurt????

    September 25, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Learn to spell

      September 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
      • Alias

        Typical christian.

        Blame the boy with the sore butt and not the priest who made it sore.

        September 25, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
        • Darwin The Nut Case

          Atheists love butts as far as i know, you are very supportive of LGBT.

          September 25, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
        • m murdoch

          better than talking out of a nutty butt

          September 25, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
        • Alias

          Just beacuse your 'church' is anti gay, that does not mean everyone else takes the opposite view.
          Your locic really stinks.
          Hiwever, I am for equal right and equal responsibilities for everyone.

          September 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          NutCase: You seem pretty obsessed with the practices in other people's bedrooms (there is no evidence supporting your claims about gays being peds). Should we be worried that you're a risk to children? Or perhaps your blow up doll turned you down again?

          September 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
        • Darwin The Nut Case

          I wouldn't leave a small kid alone with you or atheists like you. You have a deviant lifestyle that is not recommended. When you don't consider the fact that gay pedophiles exist that's when people like you are dangerous.

          September 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          NutCase: That's nice but many of us are parents and are guaranteed to raise better children than you ever could hope to. We raise them to think for themselves and we don't brainwash them (like you do...that is child abuse). As for your kick about gays...ignorance is bliss...once again hetero's are also peds.

          September 26, 2013 at 4:03 am |
      • OKfine

        BD is a catholic not a christian, he can't even obey the basic golden rule, treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. Strange that he uses a lot of christian apologetics to defend the RCC.

        September 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          Catholics are christians. I presume you are protestant in which case your sect split from their sect. So if anyone gets to keep the label christians, they probably have more of a claim than you.

          September 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
        • OKfine

          You misunderstood my point, I know that catholics are a christian cult, I was referring to the fact that BD does not follow the teachings of christ that disqualifies him from claiming to be a christian.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          OKfine doesn't like my Gaeliic

          September 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
        • Gary

          Protestantism is based on a protest against the Catholic Church for drifting away from the teachings of Jesus Christ. They didn't split or change their name.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
        • OKfine

          BD no need to be so specific I do not like anything about you, I thought you had that figured out by now

          September 25, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          You'd probably like me fine if you knew me. Most people find me to be a compassionate listener, trustworthy, loyal and brave. Post your check list for what makes a good Christian and we'll start measuring people by it.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
        • OKfine

          Interesting that you come across in your posts as pompous and arrogant in your posts an often ridicule others that do not comport to your standards. Now if it was just myself that think you are a dork you may be justified in the portrayal you have of your self. My check list is quite simple for a self proclaimed christian like you, do onto others as you would have them do onto you. That nonsense does not apply to a heathen such as I am.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Well despite the definition you give of Christianity being in error I have another problem with it, which seems common to atheism. You posit a two tiered system. Under your rules, I as a Christian must meet some standard but you do not. I thought atheism was about equality? I like the Christian viewpoint better, that we are all sinners in the eyes of our creator and only redeemed by his grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          We are all sinners, but on the basis of what sins? God's grace will take care of everything if you were once a serial rapist as much as if you were a chronic liar. In either case you are condemned for what you are – a sinner – not for what you did. Once forgiven, as a forgiven sinner, you would be a saint in either case. I can see how that would appeal to you, Bill. Can you see how unlikely it might seem to some of us?

          September 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
        • OKfine

          This is the problem I see with your view, you have shown you want to force your values on others that do not believe in your and the churches values/dogma. You simply can't leave others to believe or not believe as they see fit. My view is that the world would be better without any organized religions and you and I will never agree.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          I agree with Bill. He shouldn't have to act like a Christian just because he professes to be one. After all, he has nothing supernatural to help him behave as he ought. There was no resurrection, there is no holy spirit, and thus, there are no "true Christians" for him to be a part of their number.

          We can't expect Bill to act like something he's not.

          September 25, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
        • sam stone

          "OKfine doesn't like my Gaeliic"

          Billy Boy has a gay lick?

          Perhaps he should move to Vatican City.

          I think his people do well there

          September 25, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
      • sam stone

        Learn to think, Billy Boy

        Are you another one of those folks who found jeebus at the bottom of a bottle?

        Did you just switch one drug for another, like our can squishing friend Austin?

        September 25, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  16. Bwaaaaahahahahahahahahha

    No really.......Bwaaaaahahahahahahahhahaahahahah!!!!!!11

    September 25, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  17. Meohmy

    I thought he said we would never hear from him again? So is he or is he not still infallible?

    September 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  18. Rick Warren's Dead Son

    Let's ask the little boy under the ex-pope's skirt if he thinks the ex-pope covered it up!

    September 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Circle

      You're an asshole.

      September 25, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
      • Alias

        You support an organization that protects criminals, and you are calling someone else names?

        September 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
        • Darwin The Nut Case

          Atheists are also supportive of gays as far as i know, you are not any better than those gay pedophiles you're accusing.

          September 25, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
        • Alias

          Gay pedophiles? You mean priests?

          September 25, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          The irony of a liberal atheist gay supporter thinking it is a slur to call priests gay.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Pedophilia has little to do with sexual orientation. Hetero's can be as guilty of this as LGBT can. Peds tend to have a preference for children opposed to normal adult relationships.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Pedophilia has as little to do with orientation as it does profession.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Bill: Yes, I would think that peds would be seeking out employment where they would have easy access to children.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          I think the sociological data supports that. Pedo's are opportunistic and they objectify their victims. It's a double tragedy that when abuse occurs, not only are innocent lives sometimes irreparably damaged but that the very instiitutions and organizations who allowed access tot he children are impugned with the criminals. That shame and guilt by association is what almost universally drives the cover ups. Thus, the pedophile creates more than just his/her direct victim.

          September 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
        • Darwin The Nut Case

          Denying the fact that there are pedophiles among gays is a nonsense.

          September 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          NutCase: No-one denied it. We merely stated facts that are based in reality (something you are clueless about). Peds are sick minded people and regardless of their sexual orientation, they will commit the act if given the chance.
          How's that 10th year of grade 3 working out for you? Did they finally increase your IQ from a -101 to a +1?

          September 26, 2013 at 4:06 am |
  19. Reality # 2

    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 coverup.[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 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  20. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    God decides to kill Moses because his son had not yet been circumcised. Luckily for Moses, his Egyptian wife Zipporah "took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he [God] let him go." This story shows the importance of penises to God, and his hatred of foreskins... 4:24-26

    September 25, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Circle

      So the priests tell me.

      September 25, 2013 at 3:44 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.