Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has distanced himself from the Katholischen Integrierten Gemeinde (Catholic Integrated Community or KIG) with which he had reportedly maintained some relationship for decades, after allegations of intrusive behaviour and untoward interference in the lives – spiritual and personal – of several former members.
Joseph Ratzinger gave initial approval to the group during his 1977-1982 tenure as Archbishop of Munich and Freising.
On the basis of a 2019 interim report obtained by Herder Korrespondenz, the periodical reports that a Visitation – an official fact-finding mission – conducted by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising found, among other things: “The [KIG] community assembly decided whether and when a married couple was allowed or should have children. This was done in the interest of the community [and] sometimes so far postponed that it ultimately came to childlessness[.]” The community also reportedly had significant say in where couples would live, and pressured couples regarding other major life decisions as well.
Herder quotes the Pope emeritus as saying he was “unaware” of the behaviours and practices of KIG leadership with respect to rank-and-file membership.
“As Archbishop of Munich and Freising,” Benedict is quoted as saying in the Herder piece, “I saw the IG (KIG – ed.) – the theological orientation of which depends on the exegetical work of Professors [Fr. Gerhard] Lohfink and [layman Rudolph] Pesch – as having the proper and official task to accompany [the community] according to orthodoxy. To what extent a consistent implementation of the theological specifications was ultimately realised in the concrete, everyday life of the IG is difficult to judge,” he said.
Benedict said it took him some time to become aware that “even terrible distortions of faith were possible in the course of trying to do everyday things to shape life integrally by faith.” He is further quoted as saying, “My information in this area remained poor,” and said he “deeply regret[s] that the impression could arise, that all activities of the community were approved by the Archbishop.” Benedict further stated that his action as a pastor was entirely aimed at seeing that the KIG order itself according to the demands of the Catholic faith, fully and completely expressed and lived.
“Obviously,” Benedict is further quoted as saying, “I was not informed regarding the inner workings of the IG or even deceived, which I regret.” The article in Herder Korrespondenz, however, cites documents purporting to show a long-standing relationship with the group. Herder Korrespondenz quotes Benedict XVI as calling claims he gave special treatment to the KIG group when he was Prefect of the CDF or Pope “false and fictitious”.
Meanwhile, the Catholic News Agency reports that the KIG website has apparently been taken down, but once carried a statement from KIG leadership calling the accusations in the interim report “completely groundless” and – citing the same Herder Korrespondenz report – quoted a member of the group as saying the KIG have decided to cease all official institutional activity. Herder reports the group is studying avenues by which to reconstitute and continue its work.