Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and former Archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger came under pressure because of the abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Munich. He is accused of not having done anything about the misconduct at the time. After the publication of a report incriminating him, he issued an official apology. And I want to examine it for its sincerity, and – those who know me and my book Sorry Not Sorry: The Art of the Non-Apology (in German) – will be little surprised that Ratzinger’s supposed apology is peppered with phrases that cannot be considered apologies.
First of all, he admits that he had been present after all at an ordinariate meeting on January 15, 1980, in which abuses in the archdiocese had been discussed. To this he says:
That the oversight was exploited to cast doubt on my truthfulness, even to portray me as a liar, affected me deeply.
He uses two artifices here mentioned in the book, namely the 12th Artifice: It happened, and the Other Others take advantage of it, as well as the 13th Artifice: It happened, but I am the real victim.
He emphasizes the latter by thanking all those who have offered him support. The same support in difficult times that he withheld from the victims of abuse at the time.
All the more moving for me are the many voices of trust, heartfelt testimonies and touching letters of encouragement that have reached me from very many people. I am especially grateful for the trust, support and prayers expressed to me personally by Pope Francis. Finally, I would like to thank the small family at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, whose presence in joyful and difficult times gives me that inner cohesion that sustains me.
In the following paragraph, he somehow forgives himself by bringing God into play, who would forgive after all. He does not ask the victims of abuse for forgiveness, but the invisible friend in heaven.
We ask the living God before the public for forgiveness for our guilt, yes, for our great and exceeding great guilt. I realize that the word “exceeding great” does not mean every day, every individual in the same way. But it asks me every day if I do not also have to speak of excessive guilt today. And it comfortingly tells me that no matter how great my guilt is today, the Lord forgives me if I honestly let Him see through me and so am truly willing to change my self.
He could probably not refuse him and above all no one can verify that. How unpleasant it would be if the victims of abuse themselves did not grant forgiveness, especially since there is a lot involved in forgiving. Namely the phases, as the American behavioral scientist David P. Boyd, for example, has recorded in seven successive steps. He sees this as the art of a public apology in seven steps:
As in these encounters, I can only express once again my deep shame, my great pain and my sincere request for apology to all victims of sexual abuse. I have borne great responsibility in the Catholic Church. My pain is all the greater for the offenses and errors that occurred during my terms of office and in the places concerned.
Here, too, the already mentioned 13th Artifice: It happened, but I am the actual victim comes into play, in that he speaks above all about his pain, and not about that of the victim. And the 22nd Artifice: It happened, but I am also only a human being can be recognized, in that he, by bearing the responsibility, in which the mistake happened to him, points in a direction, which could somehow happen to every human being, which he is also.
Then comes a paragraph where he once again shows his disgust towards his critics, not the perpetrators, by equating himself with Jesus. And he himself does not see himself in a position to change anything, he calls on the faithful to do something practical: to pray for him.
More and more I understand the disgust and fear that overtook Christ on the Mount of Olives when he saw all the terrible things that he was now to overcome from within. That at the same time the disciples could sleep is, unfortunately, the situation that exists anew today and in which I also feel addressed. So I can only ask the Lord and all the angels and saints and you, dear sisters and brothers, to pray for me to God our Lord.
In conclusion, he shows us in a certain way how little he cares. To be able to do anything now, e.g. a reform, he is too close to death for that:
I will soon stand before the final judge of my life.
In the concluding sentences, he just throws more smoke grenades, pointing to the Lord as his judge – and not us pesky sheeple – and bringing yet another Bible quote unrelated to the matter at hand.