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In a report following the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Associated Press has revealed that the first pope to step down willingly in six hundred years accomplished more in the pursuit of justice for sexual abuse victims than anyone who came before him in the church.

The AP explained that both as a cardinal in charge of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany rammed through “revolutionary changes” to Vatican law that enabled the defrocking of sexual predators exposed by the church, and personally expelled hundreds of clerics.

Later as Pope Benedict XVI, he became the first pope to meet with survivors of sexual abuse and even reversed a controversial case under Pope John Paul II with the eventual prosecution of Rev. Marcial Maciel.

Juan Vaca, one of Maciel’s victims said “More than the hurt that I received from Maciel’s abuse, later on, stronger was the hurt and the abuse of power from the Catholic Church: the secrecy, ignoring my complaints,” according to the AP. Ratzinger succeeded in bringing him to testify on April 2, 2005, the day Pope John Paul II died.

His successor Pope Francis said of Benedict, “He was the courageous man who helped so many,” lauding his “courage” in prosecuting Maciel. He noted that the then-cardinal “had all the documentation in hand” years before but was thwarted by more powerful figures in the John Paul II Papacy.

In his meditations for an important procession for Holy Week, Ratzinger wrote,

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“How much filth there is in the church, especially among those who, in the priesthood, are supposed to belong totally to him (Christ).”

In the decade of Pope Benedict XVI’s reign, the Vatican, under the gaze of “God’s Rottweiler,” heard 3,400 cases, defrocked 848 priests, and sentenced another 2,572 to sanctions.

At least 400 of the dismissals occurred in the last two years of Benedict’s reign. NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli in Rome reported,

“If confirmed, the number of nearly 400 marks a sharp increase over the 170 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided details on the number of defrocked priests.”

“Before that, the Vatican only revealed the number of alleged cases of sexual abuse it had received.”