Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Sven Hoppe / dpa
After the complaint of a man abused by a Catholic priest, the district court in Traunstein issued a statement from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
"The defendants have the opportunity to indicate their willingness to defend themselves within two weeks, after which they have four weeks or one month to respond to the complaint," said court spokeswoman Andrea Titz.
The man's civil lawsuit, a so-called declaratory lawsuit, was filed in the summer.
It is directed not only against Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, but also against his successor in the office of Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter.
The lawsuit was also served on the Archdiocese at the beginning of the week, as its spokesman Christoph Kappes confirmed.
He said "that we are not commenting on an ongoing legal proceeding."
Written preliminary proceedings initiated
A so-called declaratory action is not about criminal prosecution, but the church's guilt in cases of abuse could possibly be determined.
The fact that the court has now initiated written preliminary proceedings means "no substantive assessment of the chances of success of the lawsuit by the court," emphasized justice spokeswoman Titz.
"So whether the asserted claim for a declaratory judgment exists despite the statute of limitations for any claims for damages or compensation for pain and suffering is only the subject of the further proceedings."
The Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Correctiv research center and the "Zeit" had previously reported on it.
According to reports, Benedict XVI.
according to the statement of claim, he had »knowledge of all circumstances« during his time as Archbishop of Munich-Freising.
He said he "at least accepted the fact that this priest is a repeat offender".
The background is the case of the priest Peter H., who was released from clerical status in the summer.
H. initially worked in the diocese of Essen and was then transferred to Munich after allegations of child abuse to receive treatment there.
The 38-year-old plaintiff accuses Benedict XVI.
According to the reports, H. used H. in community work with children and young people despite knowing better.
The emeritus pope admitted the priest to his diocese in Munich and Freising, although H. was known to have a pedophile record.
In Bavaria, the priest then committed further acts of abuse.
A report by a law firm commissioned by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising and presented in January came to the conclusion that cases of sexual abuse in the diocese had not been dealt with appropriately for decades.
The experts also accuse the Pope Emeritus of misconduct in several cases, including the case of H.
The admission of the priest in Bavaria was decided at a meeting on January 15, 1980, in which Benedict also took part.
In his statement to the Munich experts, he initially stated that he had not been present at the meeting in question, but corrected this after the report was published and explained it as an "editorial error".
Benedikt finally wrote a letter in which he apologized to the victims of sexual abuse, but he always firmly rejected concrete allegations of cover-up.
In the meeting of January 15, 1980, no decision was made about a “pastoral assignment” for Priest H., according to the Pope Emeritus.
Benedict neither knew that H. had been an abuser nor that he would be used again in pastoral care, according to a statement from his team of advisors.
His lawyer Carsten Brennecke described further allegations against Benedict as "malicious speculation".