Perhaps the most incendiary issue Benedict faced on becoming pope was the continued fallout of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, as well as accusations of a cover-up effort by the administration of the church.
When Benedict became pope in 2005, the Catholic Church was in the midst of a very public account with his history of sexual abuse – a crisis of which he was very well informed. In 2001, John Paul II authorized the CDF to centralize all surveys in allegations of abuse, taking that power away from local dioceses after it became clear they often fail to take action against predatory priests. As head of the CDF, then Cardinal Ratzinger worked on implementing new procedures for reporting and punishing clergy accused of sexual abuse.
As Pope, Benedict XVI repeatedly spoke out against the Church’s legacy of child sexual abuse, apologized to victims and defrocked hundreds convicted priests. However, for many, his Shares fell short, in part because he failed to publicize the Vatican’s investigations into the abuse charges – a lack of transparency which allowed dioceses to keep these accusations secret from parishioners and law enforcement.
“In all the history of the Church, no one knew more but did no less to protect children than Benedict,” said the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). in a press release. statement in 2013, in response to the pope emeritus’ public appeal claim that he did not engage in a “cover-up” of clerical abuse. “As head of the CDF, thousands of cases of predatory priests flowed through his office. Did he choose to warn the families or call the police about just one of these dangerous clerics? No. That, by definition, is a cover.
Rumors of corruption and secret cabals within the Holy See also plagued Benedict XVI’s tenure as pope, culminating in the “A cotton swab” scandal in 2012.
On February 10, 2013, Benoît shocked the world by announcing his resignation of the papacy. “After having examined my conscience several times before God, I have come to the certainty that my forces, due to an advanced age, are no longer adapted to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry”, he declared in his statement.
His decision to retire was later dramatized in the 2019 film The two popesin which Benedict was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance.
As pope emeritus, Benedict made a conscious effort to stay out of the public eye. He apparently hated being known by such a lofty title after his resignation and asked others to simply call him “Father Benedict”. He did, however, make public appearances at events of theological significance, such as the Canonization Mass of Pope John XIII and Pope John Paul II on April 27, 2014.
On September 4, 2020, at the age of 93, four months and 19 days, Benoît became the oldest pope in history.