If you suspected there was more to the story behind the historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, there may be emerging evidence to support that suspicion.
The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) reported on Thursday that Pope Benedict became the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years in order to avoid criminal prosecution for concealing knowledge of “documented crimes of child torture, trafficking and genocide,” connected to the Roman Catholic Church.
The ITCCS report cites a letter from Rev. Kevin Annett to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, written a week before the pope officially resigned.
The letter states, in part:
“On behalf of our Tribunal and people of conscience everywhere, and of the millions of victims of church abuse, I am making an appeal to you regarding your upcoming meeting with Joseph Ratzinger, who will retire soon as Pope Benedict, the Pontiff of the Church of Rome.
Our understanding is that, in the wake of pressure to have him resign his office because of his proven complicity in concealing child trafficking in his church and other crimes against humanity, Joseph Ratzinger is seeking the assistance of the Italian government in securing protection and immunity from legal prosecution.”
According to the letter, Benedict’s resignation is said to be part of an arrangement with the Italian government to avoid the arrest of a sitting pope.
The Roman Catholic Church has a shadowy history of sexual abuse between members of the clergy and children. Church officials have not always been forthright in admitting to sex crimes within the church, but there is evidence to suggest that the problem is widespread and well known among high-ranking church members.
The Los Angeles Times reports, “Documents from the late 1980s show that Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and another archdiocese official discussed strategies to keep police from discovering that children were being sexually abused by priests.”
In 2012, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard launched an investigation into child sexual abuse allegations involving Catholic clergy and children, in both public and private settings.
If Benedict is indeed resigning to avoid criminal prosecution for knowledge of sex abuse and other wrongdoing with children in the church, and he was part of a cover-up for the crimes, it would send shockwaves throughout the Christian world.
Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI and leader of the world's estimated 1.18 billion Catholics on April 19, 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II.
The pope will have his final audience on Feb. 27, 2013.