A German law firm has investigated the former pope’s mishandling of sex abuse allegations

The investigation into church leaders’ mishandling of sexual abuse cases over the past eight decades was led by German firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, a small firm known for conducting internal investigations.

Last week, the firm released the results of its long-awaited report, which totaled 1,900 pages. He identified hundreds of victims and accused Pope Benedict XVI of mishandling four sexual abuse cases.

Westpfahl Spilker, who is based in Munich, was engaged by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising in February 2020 to assess the actions of local church officials in their handling of allegations of sexual abuse against clergy between 1945 and 2019 .

The firm reviewed charges against 261 people and found that sexual misconduct charges were proven in 65 cases and at least plausible in 146 cases. Based on his review of church records and interviews with witnesses, he estimates that there were 235 alleged perpetrators and 497 victims of sexual abuse.

Joseph Ratzinger served as Archbishop of Munich and Freising between 1977 and 1982 and later became Pope Benedict XVI. Lawyers concluded he failed to act appropriately in four sexual abuse cases after being told.

Westpfahl Spilker is known for his expertise in internal investigations, a specialty he says stems from the experience of Marion Westpfahl, one of the firm’s founders, who previously served as a prosecutor and criminal judge.

“Our law firm has benefited from this experience and expertise for decades, particularly in internal investigations,” the firm’s website states. “That’s why we have been and still are involved in important and highly visible internal investigations, usually in a leading role.”

The firm did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to the investigation of officials in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, Westpfahl Spilker also conducted investigations focused on the handling of allegations of sexual abuse by the Diocese of Aachen and the Archdiocese of Cologne over the past two years.

Westpfahl Spilker currently employs eight lawyers. The German firm was founded in 1992 by four lawyers. Two of them, Westpfahl and Ulrich Wastl, are still partners in the firm. (The partner of the third name, hc Karl-Heinz Spilker, died in 2011.)

Wespfahl and Wastl, along with Martin Pusch, were co-authors of the report.

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