Rome- In a public spat between members of the Catholic hierarchy, Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka accused German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of “defaming and tarnishing” the reputation of retired Pope Benedict XVI.
The 78-year-old’s comments are part of ongoing fallout surrounding Benedict XVI’s response to a German report that blamed his handling of clergy abuse cases as Archbishop of Munich and Freising in the 1970s and 1980.
Duka, the Archbishop of Prague, issued a statement Feb. 8 defending Benedict’s actions as archbishop, saying “even a layman” with a degree in theology should be able to understand that at the time, Benedict had “no jurisdiction and no means to deal with the case” of a notorious priest who was transferred to the Archdiocese of Munich from Essen, Germany.
German investigators blamed Benedict for mishandling the case, since he was present at a 1980 meeting that discussed this priest’s transfer. The retired Pope’s legal team maintains that he was unaware of the allegations.
Benedict, former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, led the Archdiocese of Munich from 1977 to 1982 before being named head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and then being elected pope in 2005.
Marx, who has led the Archdiocese of Munich since 2008, commissioned the independent report nearly two years ago, with a charge for investigators to examine the archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases between 1945 and 2019.
The final report faulted Benedict for handling four cases as head of the archdiocese and Marx for handling two cases.
In his statement, Duka called on Marx and the Archdiocese of Munich to “take responsibility” for damaging Benedict XVI’s reputation with the investigation and publication of the report.
Marx previously said the report’s findings represented a “disaster” for the church, but he did not directly address its findings on Benedict. Last month, however, the president of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Batzing of Limburg, called on Benedict XVI to apologize directly to victims of abuse.
Yet despite Duka’s pointed criticism of Marx, the Czech cardinal has long faced criticism in his own archdiocese for his alleged mishandling of abuse cases.
In 2019, Duka was the subject of a criminal complaint and accused of covering up abuse within his own Dominican order. He has also infuriated abuse survivors with his past claims that only 10% of abuse accusations against priests have been proven to be true.
The Czech cardinal’s strong words in defense of Benedict also drew sharp criticism from survivors of clergy abuse in his country.
“Archbishop Duka, your rhetoric is callous, suspicious and callous,” survivor group Someone Believes You wrote in a statement. “You don’t build bridges, you destroy healing efforts.”