German Catholic Church apologises over child sex abuse

Blanche Robertson
September 26, 2018

"Sexual abuse is a persistent problem and not a historical problem" in the Catholic Church, said Harald Dressing, a professor at the Mannheim Institute of Psychology, who coordinated the research commissioned by the Bishops' Conference.

On a recent visit to Ireland, while the issue of sexual abuse dominated the agenda, the pope was accused of failing to address victims' concerns adequately.

The Catholic Church has been struggling with sex abuse by its clergy for a long time. The Post reported that "evidence of widespread abuse and its cover-up [within the church] has been found in every jurisdiction that has launched an investigation".

"The dangers are far from being exorcised", Overbeck added. "We must fear that there is and could still be sexual abuse among us".

The report's release coincided with an acknowledgement by Pope Francis that people were being driven away from the church by the many abuse scandals and cover-ups, including most recently in the U.S. and Chile.

An advance copy of the 356-page report was shared with The Washington Post by Die Zeit, a German weekly. Indulekha Joseph, one of the leaders of the Kerala Catholic Church Reformation movement, alleged it was an attempt to silence the voices of protest against any form of unjust activities within the church.

He has however announced a Vatican meeting of national Church leaders on the protection of minors, for February 2019. But the church has so far taken few meaningful steps to improve transparency or hold accountable the higher-ups who protect abusers.

Matthias Katsch, chairman of a German victims' group, told CNN that the report uncovered the "absolute bare minimum" of documented cases, which were voluntarily reported by parishes.

Some victims say reports such as the one out of Germany have lost their ability to shock but still heighten anger about the broader pattern of church neglect. "People realize this isn't a local problem - it is a global problem of the Catholic Church". Francis has spoken of an "erosion" of faith in the country.

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She made a decision to come forward after "assessing her memories" and consulting with her lawyer, the magazine said. Blasey Ford is scheduled to testify regarding her allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported the findings earlier this month after the report was leaked.

Deutsche Welle, Germany's public worldwide broadcaster, advised that the church will "need to face up to the discussion about topics like changes in sexual morality, or the abolition of celibacy".

Joerg Schuh of the Berlin-based Tauwetter centre for victims of sexual abuse told AFP TV that "the Catholic Church has a global problem". The report details the cases of 3,677 children, the majority of whom are male, who were sexually abused between 1946 and 2014.

The brother of former Pope Benedict XVI, Georg Ratzinger, who led the choir school from 1964 to 1994, said he was not aware of sexual abuse and rejected claims he did too little to shed light on the tragedy. Of those surveyed, 1 in 5 said they had attempted suicide. In an effort to hide the high percentage of homosexuals in the episcopacy and the priesthood, Church leaders will often blame the problem on "clericalism", while LGBT supporters will misrepresent it as a "pedophilia" problem even though "less than four percent" of abusive priests are truly pedophiles.

Christian Pfeiffer, a criminologist tasked with carrying out the study in 2011, said the church had made itself "untrustworthy" by not allowing full access to its archives.

"I have to say very clearly that sexual abuse is a crime".

The study found that more than half of the victims had been younger than 13 the first time they were abused, and that 83% of attacks were planned, taking place most commonly in the private or service flats of those carrying out the abuse.

In the 1990s, several reports were submitted to the Vatican by senior members of women's religious orders asserting that sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops, including rape, is a serious problem, especially in Africa and other parts of the developing world.

"Whatever the church reports is a fraction of the actual number - a small fraction", she added.

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