Pope Benedict XVI revelations are a chance to overhaul a rotten system

As a survivor of sexual violence at the hands of two Jesuit priests in Berlin when I was a young teenager in the 1970s, I, like many victims, have long remained silent. I made a commitment to end this silence 12 years ago. I had thought I was alone. But there were many of us.

After learning in 2010 that my perpetrators were transferred to different churches, giving them opportunities to hurt more children, I knew I had to speak out. I was petrified to realize that I wasn’t alone. At my school alone, 60 other victims came forward with their stories, and together we founded the victims’ initiative “Eckiger Tisch,” of which I am still the managing director and spokesperson.
In the Catholic world, Germany’s national branch is one of the richest and most powerful. Yet, despite its vast financial wealth, survivors of this abuse, including myself, have received only a symbolic financial recognition for the horrors we have been through. Most of the perpetrators, meanwhile, were allowed to continue with their lives with no real consequences.

The magnitude of sexual violence brought to light by Eckiger Tisch and others in 2010 triggered the first of several church abuse scandals in Germany in recent years. In numerous schools and other institutions of the Catholic Church, hundreds of victims came forward in a short amount of time. Subsequent inquiries found that protectors of the perpetrators silenced victims and ignored their allegations. A pattern of cover-up tactics was revealed.
It’s a pattern I recognize in the latest revelations about the former Pope Benedict XVI. Between 1977 and 1982, he was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising. During Ratzinger’s time there, he oversaw the clerics in the archdiocese, including those accused of sexual abuse. It took a legal, independent review to shine a light on the culture of cover-up and protection for perpetrators, which Ratzinger failed to address. Only two years later, Ratzinger left Munich to go to Rome as chief guardian of the faith, where he was also responsible for dealing with abuse cases for 25 years.

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