Minister accuses church of blocking child sex abuse investigation

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger on Tuesday accused the Catholic Church of failing to cooperate with officials in the investigation of alleged child sexual abuse at Jesuit schools in the 1970s and 1980s.

Minister accuses church of blocking child sex abuse investigation
Photo: DPA

The member of the Free Democrats told broadcaster ARD that she did not have the impression that church leaders were working constructively with law enforcement. Meanwhile the abuse scandal uncovered at Berlin’s prestigious Canisius school last month continues to grow, with around 50 former students claiming they were sexually abused.

Lawyers for victims have said more than 120 people across the country have since come forward with allegations of abuse by up to 12 different priests and teachers at other Catholic institutions too.

“It is unfortunately so far not obvious that they have shown an active interest in real, wholehearted, and complete clarification,” she said.

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger also criticised the Catholic Church’s tendency to give internal investigations priority over state legal proceedings.

“Child abuse is an official criminal offence,” she told ARD. “So others can’t decide whether this crime will be looked into or not.”

The minister said the clergy’s attitudes toward the subject were outdated and suggested that state prosecutors be immediately activated in the growing number of cases.

But Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger also said she feared many of these may have passed their statute of limitation after decades of silence.

“The worst part is that what happens to young people can destroy their entire lives,” she said.

The minister’s comments came one day after Robert Zollitsch, the head of the German Bishop’s Conference (DBK), made a formal apology to the victims of the widespread child abuse at Catholic schools and said there would be consequences.

The group meets this week and will discuss their “guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse of children by clergy” and “discuss possible changes,” Zollitsch said.

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