Archbishop Georg Gänswein, secretary of Benedict XVI says ignorance contributes to the bias often leveled against Pope Benedict XVI.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, longtime personal secretary of Benedict XVI, gave a lengthy interview to EWTN, spelling out the specifics of the now famous error in Benedict’s 82-page testimony for the Munich report on sexual abuse.
While the bulk of the archbishop’s conversation, which aired February 14, surrounds the details of the preparation of Benedict’s testimony, he also responds to the journalist’s speculations about the timing of the report.
He noted how the 8,000 pages of digitalized archives required an assistant, especially given the challenge of working on a digital platform for the 94-year-old Pontiff Emeritus. Furthermore, travel to Munich to access the archives directly was also not possible for Benedict.
In regard to the timing of the report, the archbishop noted that the person and work of Benedict XVI are an obstacle to certain objectives that the German synodal path aims to achieve. The archbishop’s speculation comes in the context of votes in Germany to change Church teaching on sexuality, the ordination of women, and other issues.
In the interview, the secretary of Benedict XVI considers it possible to speculate on the timing of the publication of the Munich report – on January 20 – which came after two delays, and that of the German synodal path – from February 3 to 5.
In regard to how the Munich report, the secretarial error, and Benedict’s letter have been received by the press, Archbishop Gänswein denounced some of his compatriots for a “great bias” combined with an “ignorance” of the facts.
He warned against “abuse of abuse,” lamenting that when the horror and tragedy of sexual abuse is co-opted by political aims, the victims are re-manipulated.
Speaking of certain reports in Germany, he said:
I can observe a great, sometimes even immoderate bias against his person, paired with a no less immoderate ignorance of the facts. Either you don’t know them, or you don’t want to take them seriously, because it might not correspond to the narrative that’s been created. And it’s obvious that against this man — be it Cardinal Ratzinger as prefect, be it Pope Benedict XVI — certain things that simply are not true are kept alive … So what I perceive again and again, is ignorance on the one hand, and an excessive over evaluation of one’s own opinion on the other, and that is something that has nothing to do with truthful coverage.
“Father of transparency”
Since 1996, when he began working as a staff member at the CDF, Archbishop Gänswein has worked closely with Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. Over these many years, he said, Ratzinger’s attitude toward abuse hasn’t changed.
He was convinced that from the very beginning, that there’s a need for transparency, a need for clarity, that we must call things by their proper name, and that we mustn’t cover anything up. And he did this together with John Paul II, trying to let actions follow his convictions. In other words, what must the Vatican, what must the Church do, in order to actually reach this goal? There was a mindset change, which of course had to be followed by a change on a legal level.
John Paul II changed the CDF into a “court,” giving it the competence to handle these issues. As Gänswein noted, Pope Francis has continued this line. In fact, just two days after this interview aired, Pope Francis published another change to the CDF, dividing it into two sections, such that one section focuses on doctrine and the other on discipline, that is, the handling of abuse cases and other crimes.
Benedict XVI was “the decisive figure, the decisive man, the one who not only suggested transparency, he also took concrete steps toward transparency,” Gänswein said.
Benedict XVI must go down in history as the “father of transparency” in the Catholic Church on abuse, his secretary said.
“I am convinced that once these storms have passed and some of the things he was accused of simply ‘rot off’ – to put it crudely – one will see that the clarity of his thought, the clarity of his work, the things he did, shine brightly and are a great treasure for the Church.”
As he has commented to other news outlets, Archbishop Gänswein reiterated to EWTN that Francis has expressed his full support to Benedict.
Pope Francis “speaks as a shepherd, as a brother” and “expressed once again his complete trust, his full support and also his prayers,” he said, in reference to a letter the Pope sent the Emeritus.
The letter is a private one, the archbishop said, and shouldn’t be published, but it can be spoken of.
For his part, Benedict XVI sent his letter to Pope Francis before it was published.